Odelay, more than almost any record of the last five years save OK Computer, really worked. Fully formed; varied without being schizophrenic; funny but not jokey; it was a start-to-rnish success. Beck, like the Beastie Boys, is a great collaborator, pushing and pulling against the influences around him and coming out with something more than what was thrown in.
For a guy who’s often criticized as being the leader of the ’90s irony sweepstakes, Beck’s turned around and delivered an album that’s tuneful, sometimes even pretty, and wickedly never out of character. There’s not a dud to be found among the album’s 12 songs. There’s a weird clarity to most of Mutations, the flip-side of Odelay’s fantastic mess. And it’s surprisingly never disappointing. For the first time in a studio, Beck had a brilliant band to fill the role of his loops and samples, and he rose to the challenge. It’s a tricky balance, but it works because the songs are up to the players, and the players are most assuredly up to the songs. It is – surprise, surprise – a real collaboration, and if Odelay didn’t prove Beck isn’t a one-trick pony, Mutations pretty much settles the issue.