Get local news delivered straight to your phone
We can't make City Paper without you
Yes, you are that old. Twelve years ago, Beck was a hip-hop-addled folkie with a flukey novelty hit, and while Odelay hardly rejected the garbage-culture samples and stream-of-consciousness lyrics that had launched his mainstream career two years earlier with “Loser,” this time around, the Moonlighting sax solos and Mantronix samples sounded like a manifesto. Or maybe the idea was just to try to get lyrics like “Flashdance ass-pants” on the radio. Whatever Beck’s motivations, Odelay was the first successful album to declare all of pop culture fair game, that turntable scratches and distorted-cassette shrieks dovetailed as nicely with bossa nova as they did with hard rock. Yeah, you could argue that Beck’s new pollution basically made the world safe for Linkin Park, but Odelay got us a four- or five-year reprieve before all alternative rock sounded like Nickelback. So raise a glass to “Where It’s At,” with its snaky groove and minute-and-a-half-long freakout, “Hotwax” and “High 5 (Rock the Catskills),” with their Dr. Dre tributes, and “Jack-Ass” and “Ramshackle,” which hinted at what the mature artist would sound like on 2002’s Sea Change (until he came back to Odelay’s sound three years later with Guero, a move only slightly less depressing than Beck’s apparently unironic embrace of Scientology). There are 19 extra tracks on this reissue, and it’s hard to recommend them. You get a couple of decent B-sides (“Clock” and “Deadweight”) and some intriguing demo versions, but mostly, I guess, you’re supposed to marvel at the variety—a mariachi version of “Jack-Ass” (which also resurfaces in an orchestrated, Sea Change–sounding version called “Strange Invitation”), a Quincy-punk remix of “Devil’s Haircut” (“American Wasteland”), and an absolutely pointless Aphex Twin remix of the same song (“Richard’s Hairpiece”), which suggests that things could have ended up a lot worse than a music world ruled by Daughtry and Fall Out Boy after all. Or you can try to enjoy the liner notes by Thurston Moore, or the fact that Dave Eggers uses the booklet to interview a bunch of teenagers about whether they know who Beck is (Hey! Guess what! Not really!). That’s not bricolage, it’s wackiness, and that was the problem with “Loser,” too—was Beck just a hipster doofus who got really lucky with the right producers? Odelay seemingly settled that question for good; too bad its reissue brings it up again.