It’s unclear what Danger Mouse adds to Beck’s new album, Modern Guilt. It all sounds terribly Beckish. And that’s not really a bad thing, it’s just that Beck and the Dust Brothers did the same thing, nearly the exact same thing, only a tiny bit better, on 2005’s Guero. Then again, this is kind of what Beck does. He teams up with some well known producer, spits out a studio album that is good, but forgettable, makes gobs of cash, garners critical acclaim from the indies and the corporate guys alike and then does it all over again a few years later.
So here’s what’s good about Modern Guilt: It’s got dance beats backed by lyrics that are actually introspective—it’s no Sea Change, don’t get carried away, but it’s not bubble gum either. Danger Mouse does a hell of a job adding piano and funky guitar riffs and the songs have fun names, such as “Gamma Ray,” “Chemtrails” and “Profanity Prayers.”
On the other hand, the spaced out, futuristic, overly harmonized thing is exactly the kind of sound that ordinary, everyday people associate with Scientology, a religion that Beck grew up in. So it’s got that creepy culty vibe to it, even though it doesn’t mean to. But the worst thing about Modern Guilt is that it’s mediocrity is so reminiscent of what Beck does best that though it would probably be a great album in anyone else’s hands, it just makes his back catalog sound better and his most recent releases sound flat.