Beck – Sea Change

Break-ups suck. Everyone knows it, but it’s rather common to deride them and avoid admitting just how awful they are. Why that is, and in large part why they’re so life-wrenching, is that they’re not something to be taken seriously. They’re something young people go through, not like death or losing your home. Never mind that they feel like losing someone to death and that they can involve sudden homelessness, it’s just not a big deal. Need time off work to do with a loved one’s death? You’ve got it. Time off work to deal with a break up? Riiiiiight, yeah, not happening. But try this fun experiment: have someone you love die and go through a break up in a short period of time. See which one think about more. I’ve tried this before and I can tell you the answer – it’s the person you formerly spent half your life around. The body you will never explore again, the secrets you told in vain, the feeling that you weren’t alone that you’ll now have to face every morning. It’s heart-piercingly brutal; you’ve had your guts ripped out and you’re supposed to do what? Drink a bottle of wine and go to work the next day as if nothing happened, that’s what. Ha. Ha ha. That’s rich. Plus you’re now whiny and emo for caring. At one of the most dramatic instances in your life you’re instructed not to get dramatic.

Be prepared for a sea of annoying platitudes. Plenty of fish in the sea! Everything happens for a reason! He didn’t deserve you anyway! The world will go on spinning with you and your million and one regrets, and no, you will not get over it. Like death, nobody completely gets over anybody unless they suffer severe head trauma. And don’t try doing it on purpose; you’ll end up with Wernicke’s Aphasia and stop forming syntactically meaningful sentences. It’d be unfortunate.

This is a break-up album, and if there’s one good thing about break-ups, it’s that they’re particularly well suited to music. There’s approximately eighty million break-up albums out there, and at least a few of them are good. The good ones tap into specific emotional aspects of the whole ordeal. “You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine” does sexualized anger. “Blood on the Tracks” is mournful. Most good DCFC songs are about nostalgia and regret. This is a good break-up album. It focuses on one of my favourite aspects of the break-up: the resignation to the fact of the world’s continued turning. It’s a joke, and you know it, but you don’t feel like laughing. Gotta get through it; gotta go to work the next morning, can’t bore your friends all day, can’t spend the three necessary hours to phrase that email (and you’ll just sound desperate anyway). Nothing to be done. Christ, even the song titles! “Paper Tiger”? “Guess I’m Doing Fine”? “Lost Cause”? “Already Dead”? “All In Your Mind”? GAH! Here are a few lyrics on that fun times theme:

“It’s only lies that I’m living / It’s only tears that I cry / It’s only you that I’m losing / Guess I’m doing fine” or “Yellow roses in the graveyard / Got no time to watch them grow” from “Guess I’m Doing Fine.

“We don’t have to worry / Life goes where it does” from “Round the Bend.”

“I’ve seen the end of the day come too soon / Not a lot to say, not a lot to do / You played the game, you owe nothing to yourself” from “End of the Day”

“It’s all in your mind / It’s all in your mind / It’s all in your mind.”

“But I know you’re going to try / To live without love / But that’s not living, that’s just time / Going by” from bonus track “Ship in a Bottle.”

Yep, someone feels dead inside – the other theme here. Trying to pick your head up and finding it barely possible, but feeling even worse for being able to do so at all.

Musically? It’s sort of like “Mutations” with constant sadness. Mostly acoustic guitar-led, slow songs, with some embellishment but it’s certainly not “lush.” There are some strings, but they tend to be experimental (on “Paper Tiger,” which has fantastic lyrics all around) or backgroundy (“Round the Bend”). The only real dramatics are on “Lonesome Tears,” but what the fuck did you expect – it’s called “Lonesome Tears.” If you can get past it you can handle the string section being dramatic for five minutes and thirty-six seconds. Vocally, Beck’s progreria of the heart has also aged his voice about twenty years, so he sounds much more like a sad old man, but who better to sing things, innit?

The accessible songs are “Golden Age” and “Lost Cause.” The best songs are “Guess I’m Doing Fine” and “End of the Day.” The only stumble is “Sunday Sun,” which sounds vaguely faux-Indian, enough to ruin the mood. And the coda of “Little One” goes on for far too long – almost as long as the song itself, for no reason.

Resignation! Dead insideness! Lack of catharsis! I haven’t had a relationship end in a long time, but in those inevitable sad times…

This is a lovely album.

9/10

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