Beck: Guerolito

B

Beck

Album: Guerolito
Label: Interscope

Beck took a partially deserved drubbing for Guero, the first album of his career that seemed self-consciously concerned about learning from his own past. But had Guero been released free of context and expectations—listeners' and Beck's alike—it would have worked better: It doesn't have Odelay's stem-to-stern strength, but it does feature several hard-drive-fried songs—"E-Pro," "Que Onda Guero," and especially "Hell Yes"—that could only be dismissed by the most dismissive.

The album wasn't exactly begging for a track-by-track remix, and potentially suspect motives can't be ignored: Is Guerolito searching for a hit version from a disc that didn't yield one? Is Beck trying to recapture some underground credibility via remixers? Or, worst of all, is it just a hastily assembled year-end stocking-stuffer? (Hey, Britney Spears released one in 2005.) Improbably, Guerolito appears to be none of those nefarious things; instead, it's a surprisingly cohesive rethink that manages several times to outshine its source material.

The clearest case of someone else's vision besting Beck's is "Ghettochip Malfunction," a remix (by virtually unknown indie-rap group 8Bit) of the already-pretty-great "Hell Yes" that dirties and weirds up the original in a way that Beck circa Mellow Gold might've. French duo Air gives a little goth polish to "Missing," and Mario C brings similarly ominous weight to his remix of "Earthquake Weather," here called "Terremoto Tempo." On the other end of the spectrum, Homelife adds flippant spark to "E-Pro" via a passel of live instruments—strings and banjo contribute to a rushingly strange new background. Of course, some experiments were destined for less-exciting results: Beastie Boy AdRock doesn't do much for "Black Tambourine" by trying to bass it up, and the indie-hop weirdoes in Subtle nearly crush "Farewell Ride" under dark weight and new vocals. Still, Guerolito fares far better than it might've: Instead of sub-par versions of its older brother's songs, it's an illuminating adjunct.

More Music Review