Like its creator’s freewheeling songwriting process, ODELAY is a monument to wondrously precise pastiche. It’s a glowing junkyard of musical styles, absurdist images, distorted samples, postmodern anti-emotions, you name it. Over the course of his three previous albums, Beck tinkered with more traditions and aesthetic approaches than an average cultural-studies professor sees in a career: hip-hop beats, acoustic folk-blues, indie-punk guitar squalls, DIY production, commercial smash! ODELAY accounts for all those things, too, but it also furthers the seamless, rump-shaking sheen of its collage nature, turning process into possible meaning.
On one hand, the thematic darkness that hangs over most of these songs exposes Beck for the creative doomsayer he is–just another sullen young man with a gift of the native tongues. On the other, the life-affirming irreverence with which he drops harebrained couplets, monologues and call-and-response chants based on designer-jeans brands betrays the glowing confidence of someone in love with all the places the creative process can take you. Grooving all the while, Beck seems like the loving creator of a ’90s version of the electric Dylan frenzy. And ODELAY seems sorta like his BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME.