Beck’s back! He’s not been gone that long by his standards – it’s three years since Morning Phase, which came SIX years after Modern Guilt – but it’s always good to have him around again. Dear Life is the lead single from new album Colors which is out next month. It’s unmistakably Beck. Which is a good thing. Obviously.
Someone recently described Beck as ‘our generation’s David Bowie’. There might be something in that. They’re both renowned for being innovative, pushing boundaries and borrowing from different genres, but Bowie, as well as being a legend, was a pop musician at heart; Beck still feels like he belongs to the underground.
In a recent Rolling Stone interview Beck talked about Bowie’s influence; “He’s always been kind of a guidepost or gravitational force for me. He’s someone that you set course to or measure what you’re doing against”. He also talked about playing Hunky Dory for years from the age of 12 and the jazzy piano and glam-rock stomping beat on Dear Life sound a lot like Oh! You Pretty Things from that album.
The lyrics are simultaneously celebratory and fatalistic:
Dear life I’m holding on, dear life I’m holding on,
How long must I wait, before the thrill is gone
He’s a man who’s happy with what he’s got – but for how long? A pessimist in a good mood, despite himself. It’s an upbeat tune with a sad undercurrent. Deliberately or not, as well as referencing the LP that introduced him to his idol, Beck’s first release since Bowie’s death last year also has an element of melancholy to it.
Beck’s singles don’t necessarily signpost what the subsequent album will sound like. Who knows what to expect from Colors? Probably you can find out online somewhere, but I’m not gonna look; I’d rather wait and see. No spoilers here my friends!
So, Beck’s back. He’s been around for a long time now, plotting his own course, like David Bowie before him. It’s 20 years since I saw him on the UK Odelay tour and that still goes down as one of the greatest gigs I’ve ever been to. He’s been doing consistently amazing stuff in the decades since and I hope he carries on for decades to come. He’s our generation’s Beck.