So does anybody recall the last really great Beck album? I’m trying to figure that out. I’d probably venture a guess that it was The Information. That was the point where sadsack Beck and weirdo fun Beck came together and made a great sounding album with Nigel Godrich. The pseudo raps and fun samples were mixed with Godrich technical bliss and the results were, at least for a time, pretty astounding.
But then it became this game of who would Beck make his next album with. Turns out it was Danger Mouse. Then he decided he could do it on his own, which from Modern Guilt on his music took on this vacuum-sealed quality where freshness was trapped in an insipid void of clunky party tunes and “boy, I’m kind of sad these days..let’s dance” fat-free pop music. Beck did drop a couple of interesting 12 inch singles in 2013, before the Sea Change retread Morning Phase. Then in 2017 Beck dropped Colors. That album was a generic pop rock album that lacked any of Beck’s interesting song structures or catchy melodies or fun wordplay. The songs just sort of exited the speakers and stayed motionless in the air.
Now we have Hyperspace, co-produced by Pharrell Williams. I think it says a lot about an album when the first single was released seven months prior to the album dropping. A scramble to fix it? Looking for a hook folks can grab onto? I don’t know, but Hyperspace sounds like more of the same flavorless pop Beck’s been shilling for awhile now.
What’s sad about this whole thing is that there are little moments here and there where you can hear the greatness that used to be. Something like “Stratosphere” feels like it could’ve been from the Sea Change days with its delicate, space-y vibe. “Chemical” is a downbeat electronic ballad that has a bit of Tame Impala vibe, complete with acoustic guitars and vocal embellishments. Interesting production pushes it up a notch. “Dark Places” has a mixture of retro synth and modern beats that has the Air vibes of Beck’s underrated Mutations.
But then from there it gets very same-y. The overused modern production values, the “whoas” and “hey ohs” get in the way of actual songwriting. “Uneventful Days” goes for this retro-futuristic vibe, but it doesn’t go anywhere. “Die Waiting” survives on a wavering synth line and subtle acoustics before it turns into a Neptunes b-side. “Everlasting Nothing” toys with the bluesy vibes Beck used to mess with back in old days, before he found autotune. Unfortunately this closing track doesn’t go anywhere or do anything.
I’m sure there’s folks that’ll find something to love about this album. If Colors was your jam you’ll dig what’s happening here. To my ears, it sounds like Beck settling.
6.9 out of 10