One of Beck’s first “albums” ever, which is saying a lot considering the preponderance (I felt like using a big word there) of material he recorded way back in the day. This here’s a collection of 19 songs entirely consisting of the Beckster on acoustic drums and vocals, with only the occasional banjo, harmonica, or stomping to accompany the basics.
If your first thought is to think that that sounds like early Dylan, that’s because it really does resemble early Dylan! But really it’s more like a long Woody Guthrie play – every song sounds like it comes from a traditional, spiritual, or fucking old-timey melody, with maybe two exceptions (“Fume” and “Mexico”). So it really runs the gamut of what you might hear from some “rural America 1910-1960” compilation (should such compilations be made in these wacky times). There’s blues, folk, stompity, banjo frailing…I think that’s it? And all with Beck’s not-that-young-sounding, tired tenor for all of it. The songs mostly have titles and subjects of the old times, too, like “Ace of Spades” and “When the Water Will Take Back the Land” and “Whiskey Be Your Lover,” but he mixes it up by throwing in joke songs with joke titles like “Don’t Shit Me Mama” or “Cut In Half Blues.”
And there’s NOTHING here that would ever turn up on anything big-label. The closest is “Hollow Log,” which would show up later on “One Foot in the Grave” and is pretty boring. “Cut In Half Blues” would later be turned into a cacophonic twangy backwards weird-o song on “Stereopathic Soulmanure,” but here it’s a typical fake blues about how his baby just likes to cut people in half. Hee! I think it’s funny. Actually, there’s a lot of humor here, probably more than there is seriousness. I love this kind of stuff – it’s like the past by way of the present – and I think I want my old blues filtered through the New York anti-folk scene and I don’t really care that it’s kinda boring, so fuck yeah hey hey.
Plus, on here is the epic “Mexico,” a sordid tale of theft and travel and working at McDonald’s! It’s the first time Beck manages to be hilarious AND fucking sad! Realistically, it turned out better than what I told him to record – a holocaust musical titled “Starship Auchwitz.” I’m still working on adapting it into a novel, though, so don’t click away!
Oh also, apparently these songs were originally a gift to his mom, which makes me just a fantastic person for bootlegging them, but anyway, he DOES realize that track one is called “Fume” and is blatantly about inhaling nitrous, right? I mean, he says “we got a can of nitrous” in the first verse, so it’s not like he’s hiding it. I think his mom may have been a weetle concerned! Or maybe she was turned on by it; I sure am.