Track Review: Beck – Dear Life

By Kieran Cannon (@kiercannon)

Regular listeners will have learned by now to expect the unexpected when Beck announces new music. The Los Angeles multi-instrumentalist has roots in folk and blues but over the years has served up a bewildering array of styles, incorporating everything from lo-fi to country to hip hop in his extensive back catalogue. His latest offering, Dear Life, arrives hot off the heels of a long-awaited announcement confirming the release date of Colors, his first full-length LP since 2014. Due to be released October 13th on Capitol Records, this record signals yet another departure from the laid-back folk rock of Morning Phase towards a more pop driven style, influenced in no small measure by Prince and LSD-era Beatles. Check out the music video below, featuring a bizarre montage of psychedelic-drenched clips narrated by lyrics.

The fourth single to be released from the upcoming album, Dear Life follows the precedent set by the others and ushers in a new era of poppy, upbeat Beck – with a twist. While the rest of the album is set to be packed with euphoric summer anthems, such as the uptempo scratchy-guitar driven Dreams, this latest single hides an existential cry for help behind funky piano melodies and layers of psychedelia. If the rest of the album is outburst of happiness, an expression of contentment with his marriage then this particular number serves as a counterbalance. “Dear life, I’m holding on / How long must I wait / Before the thrill is gone” the chorus rings out, a cynical rebuke to the relentless optimism displayed so far: surely it is only a matter of time until the roof caves in around him?

Until recently, Beck was seemingly no wiser to the planned release date of Colors than anyone else; however, he has developed a coherent vision about what lines the new material will tread – “it’s not retro and not modern“. Despite this and the undoubtedly catchy piano/drum combination, it seems to lack the cutting edge of tracks from comparable albums such as Midnite Vultures. Most of his output merits repeated listening to uncover moments of sharp wit, clever turns of phrase or passages sung with tongue planted firmly in cheek but the renowned wordsmith appears to be going down the route of straightforward, face value pop with his most recent offering. Whether he can effectively pull this off throughout the course of the whole album remains to be seen.

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