Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Beck: Odelay [DGC, 1996]
Hipsters are wary of "Loser." It was a "novelty," they fret; frat boys liked it. So one reason they swear by this entry pass for denizens of the Club Club is that except for a touch of hip hop retro there's nothing so easy to swallow here. Not quite forbidding, it embeds its lyricism in soundscape, and only prolonged, well-intentioned exposure will enable outsiders to get inside its skilled flow and ramshackle sonic architecture. Worth the effort, absolutely. But for me, its unpretentious aural array, which shares an aesthetic with contemporary hip hop from Tricky to Wu-Tang, doesn't evoke any more specifically than its lyrics do. What's more, I doubt it signifies for anybody else either--except in the personal-to-arbitrary unreadability of its individual sound choices. When fragmentation is your cultural condition, heroism means trying to make it sing. A-