Beck’s “Sea Change” is an album that I only return to under extreme instances of heartbreak, despair, and loneliness. It’s the album you put on after a break up, where Beck plays the role of a friend that has been through the same temporary agony, providing a cathartic release and a shoulder to cry on. The record revolves around Beck’s break up with his girlfriend and fiancée of nine years, Leigh Limon. As a result, introspection and melancholy litter the album, making it perfect for a rainy day on the bus, or a long drive to nowhere and back to clear your thoughts. Songs such as “Guess I’m Doing Fine,” “Lonesome Tears,” and “The Golden Age,” do wallow in the pain of heartbreak and loneliness but in the thick of such anguish comes a realization that seasons change, and though today may not be the day, sooner or later all will be fine, and a golden age lies “Round The Bend.”
Upon listening to the album again through a more neutral perspective, I can appreciate the music from a whole different standpoint. The songs are all much more straightforward then Beck’s previous albums, consisting mainly of incredibly deep, and personal acoustic tracks favoring live instrumentation over samples and rhythm. The production of the sixth member of Radiohead, Nigel Godrich, and Beck’s studio musicians add a much needed depth, rounding out the simple acoustic songs providing emotional string arrangements on songs like “Paper Tiger,” “Lonsome Tears,” and “Round The Bend,” and strange decaying electronics on the last bits of “End Of The Day.” As musically interesting as Nigel Godrich and company makes “Sea Change,” the elements that make this album great are still Beck’s heart-on-his-sleeve style lyrics, and his brutally honest and sincere emotional output. “Sea Change” will always stand out as Beck’s most personal record, and it will continue to be one that I turn to in times of heartbreak, but I’m finished with those days for now. So I’ll catch you later, “Sea Change” era Beck.
Beck & The Flaming Lips
Whenever I was asked the question, “What disbanded act would you kill to see live?” At The Drive-In always ranked high up in the stratosphere. Now that Coachella has released their ridiculously talent packed line-up and At The Drive-In has surprisingly appeared among the artists performing, I guess I have to think of a new answer altogether. I got into At The Drive-In around grade 12 when my teenage angst was reaching its peak and the raw energy of this band educated me in the proper way to put on a live show; balls out, strained vocal chords, and spastic dance moves were among the essential lessons. I used to have a blast playing the introduction of “Arc Arsenal” with my cousins in our newly renovated basement, tearing shit up, and doing drum dives at the end of sets. After my initial infatuation with At The Drive-In, I learned of their break-up and slowly started getting into The Mars Volta, and Sparta (the two bands that resulted in the indefinite (?) hiatus of At The Drive-In) and realized that the elements that made At The Drive-In so unique, the raw punk energy, mixed with experimental musings, and complex lyrical content, split into two separate camps. Sparta, the Jim Ward led band, had all the raw punk energy, along with more conventional song writing structures that I loved about At The Drive-In, while The Mars Volta was something totally in its own class. Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez Lopez pushed the envelopes of their creativity making epic Latin inspired progressive rock that scared the shit out of me and excited me at the same time. Although Sparta and The Mars Volta were both exceptional bands, At The Drive-In, through the constant push and pull dynamic within the band, produced an energy that was unparalleled by either Sparta or The Mars Volta.
“This Station Is Non-Operational” doesn’t play like a best of, or an essentials collection, instead, it maps out the trajectory of a non-stop record/tour/record band that was in it 100% for the passion. If you search any of their live performances you will be blown away by the sheer amount of energy they put in to each one of their shows. The first eleven tracks of the album outline what At The Drive-In were best known for, shifting dynamics, intelligent lyrics, and as I’ve been stressing, hardcore energy by the fucking brick load. The rest of the tracks highlight the creative tension, and growing pains of a band that wanted to move in two separate directions. These tracks include covers of The Smiths, and Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, along with dub remixes, and failed electronic experimentations. The result is unrewarding, but very insightful at the same time. On the one hand, I would have liked the album to consist of more songs along the lines of the first eleven, but on the other hand, the latter half of the album sheds light on why they broke up in the first place. The question that remains is, now that this station is apparently operational, will the conflicting creative elements of Sparta and the Mars Volta come together again, finding a peaceful middle ground and do what At The Drive-In does best? I guess only time will tell.
"THIS STATION IS… NOW… OPERATIONAL"