Before all the bleepy 21st century funk of Beck’s recent output, there came an album that far surpasses everything else he has ever done, with the possible exception of 1998’s ‘Mutations’. ‘Sea Change’ is Beck in classic songwriter mode and it is one of those records you simply must not cherry pick from. You need to start at the start and end at the end, wallowing massively in the melancholic soundscapes that come your way.
‘Guess I’m Doing Fine’ sounds like it might collapse at any moment, under the weight of its woes but the near funereal pace makes for a strangely captivating piece of music, even if Pitchfork did suggest on the album’s release that “he mostly just sounds constipated.” When things do pick up, admittedly only marginally, such as on ‘Lost Cause’ and ‘Sunday Sun’, the shuffling wonky-folk sound of ‘Mutations’ puts in an appearance but that’s as much respite as you’ll get.
People often say that sad albums can often serves two purposes. Firstly, they can act as a tonic and produce a strangely euphoric sensation. Alternatively, and more frequently, they can allow you a deeply satisfying period of wallowing. ‘Sea Change’ can certainly do both, although don’t wallow in it for too long as, I can assure you, it can be hard to come out the other side.