there ain't anybody left to impress
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Today is Beck Day at Said the Gramophone. Beck Hansen is fascinating: he seems to have a knack for all the finest opposites in music - coolness, sincerity, eclecticism, dedication. He's done the lo-fiest of lo-fi, novelty hipster pop, zinging pleather soul, sample-knit hip-hop, angst-ridden folk... and all of it with what seems like a genuine love, an unquenchable desire to explore. He has not yet produced a masterpiece, but I nevertheless cling to the hope that his day will come. I cling and cling and cling...

In the meantime, though, he's released eight albums of gutsy ambition, from the static-and-cement of A Western to the patchwork of Odelay, the Prince routines on Midnite Vultures, and the tragic, mediocre Sea Change. Add to this countless b-sides, robot dance moves, and a penchant for surprising me - yes, if Beck was on the ballot in a Canadian political leadership race, I'd join the party in question, vote, and then follow through at the general election, NDP or not. Beck would support the CBC, wouldn't he?


Beck - "I Get Lonesome". I referred to this track yesterday, and then felt like sharing it today. This song is just so painfully dead, so rotted through from a "lonesome" ache that there's only a husk left; dry bark. The drum thumps and thumps, something standing in for a heartbeat. You can hear the way the singer's already hit a dead-end, that he's "a slab / stiff as a stick on a board": there's an awful irony to the "I get lonesome" of the chorus, the way it implies he's still changing, still getting lonesome, not already locked into this grey chipboard casket. I was once in a play where a character threw himself in front of a train to the tune of those closing "ooh-oohs." This is taken from 1994's One Foot in the Grave; it's Beck in his early mode, tangled and hoarse, long before he moonwalked at the Grammies. A steal from K Records for $12 USD.

Beck - "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime". It's my most anticipated movie of the year, the one that bloggers and critics alike are hailing as a masterpiece, but yes, I have yet to see it. My date with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is Wednesday night, and I'd rather like to skip the intervening moments (have them erased?) and jump straight into the opening credits. To help me along, then, is Beck's new song, recorded with Jon Brion for the film. A cover of the 1980 hit by the Korgis, Beck's wearing his troubadour hat - he murmurs sadly, sincerely, over small sighs of strings and a Brion signature organ (see Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love). An electric guitar weaves in and out of the scattered drum hits, but it's Beck's voice that pulls us in, like Leonard Cohen's velvet croon. Listening to something like this, it becomes easy to imagine the role Beck will play fifteen years from now, evolving into a deep-voiced hipster emeritus, an Elvis Costello, David Byrne, Tom Waits. (For more Kaufmania, today's Tangmonkey Link-o-the-Day, the incomparable Being Charlie Kaufman.)

Posted by Sean at March 23, 2004 2:21 AM

I was reading in an interview with Gondry somewhere that he had been talking to Jon Brion about how he really wanted that Korgis' song in the film, but he couldn't remember the title of it or the band, so he sang a few lines to Brion, who then promptly opened a file on his computer, where he had already - completely independantly of Gondry - done his own arrangement of the song.

It seems that Gondry had similar serendipitous moments with other cast/crew, which pretty much sums up why the film is going to be amazing. He managed to make something deeply personal without being a Gallo-like misanthrope and shutting people out.

If you don't own it already then buy the Gondry DVD - you don't just get all of his music videos, which are all original and interesting and often vastly better than the song (see Lucas with the Lid off), but also you get a beautiful little short film and a documentary about Gondry as well as assorted ads and experiments.

I really believe/hope that Gondry's going to be a major director.

Posted by Kieran at March 23, 2004 7:29 AM

My roommate's got the Gondry DVD, so I definitely agree with you on the genius of some of his work. So effortlessly mulitfoliate, beautiful and strange. I do hope your insights prove founded!

Posted by Sean at March 23, 2004 9:27 AM

Eternal Sunshine is fantastic, as is the Beck track on the soundtrack.

I've long been of the opinion, that beck, when good, is fantastic - but when he's not, tend to just get bored by the posturing/ 'experimentation'.

I hated Mutations, loved Midnight Vultures, loved half of Sea Change, and hated the other half... so.... I guess I couldn't realy call myself a real fan, except to say that he's at his best when funky. Always has been.

Posted by Keith at March 23, 2004 10:40 AM

oh no! the eternal sunshine song cuts off, is this only a problem for me? i'm dying to hear the whole thing. just saw the movie last night and i had no idea beck sang this song.

Posted by leo at March 23, 2004 11:17 AM

Whole thing plays through for me just fine.

Posted by Keith at March 23, 2004 12:36 PM

Is the Beck cover of the Korgis no longer available for listening? The link was broken when I clicked it. Thanks...

Posted by Hudson at April 10, 2004 5:29 PM

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about said the gramophone
This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

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"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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