Life has been relatively easy for Beck Hansen. Ever since his major-label debut in 1994, he has continually reinvented himself, and he's met praise around each corner for his attempts to do so. But last year's Guero, a reunion with the Dust Brothers, did not meet its anticipated level of success. Sure, it was another solid album from one of music's more inventive minds, but it wasn't anything special. After rather light acclaim and mediocre record sales, Interscope decided to give it one more try.
But Guerolito (or, more appropriately, Guero-lite) plays more like a gimmick than a remix album. With the same track order as the original, the album stumbles between loosely interpreted tracks by different artists, and each song here only leaves you nostalgic for the original. A quick look at the tracklist and the remixers commissioned for the project will guide you directly to where you want to go. As expected, tracks by Adrock, El-P and Diplo are some of the album's best. Sadly, that's not saying much. Most of the mixes are empty, with samples and grooves meshing with the original vocals as well as a drunken hillbilly at a Manhattan wedding reception.
Islands' remix of "Qué Onda Guero" is the perfect example of Guerolito's shortcomings. Its simple electronic humming under Beck's Latin-esque vocal styling is a complete disconnect. The last-ditch effort to spice the mix up by slowing down the chorus is overplayed and unoriginal. It proves to be far more interesting when the remixers pay more attention to simpler beats and rhythms than to tweaking every knob on the mixing board. Adrock's version of "Black Tambourine" is possibly Guerolito's best performance, its rhythmic vocals playing off dub beats and simple old-school keyboard grooves. Guerolito is thick with '80s electronic sounds, which is more a credit to Beck's retro Atari style or the overly exhausted trends of the last few years. Either way, it lends little to the originals. The album does offer one original track, "Clap Hands," a total throwaway due to its striking resemblance to M.I.A.'s "Galang."
We've seen many sides of Beck, and it's inevitable that one side will be more approachable than others. With recent ventures into his softer side showing more commercial success (1998's Mutations and 2002's Sea Change it's looking more and more like things are changing for Beck. The funkier sound that he started his career with is not what listeners are gravitating toward. Guero was a solid album with not-so-solid recognition, but putting out a remix album is not going to make us look at it differently. The Dust Brothers did a good job with original. It just wasn't what the people wanted.
Prefix review: Beck [Hell Yes EP] by Theo Schell-Lambert