Posted by on October 25, 2016 . .

Odelay was the album that broke the back of Beck’s critics and (in my opinion) cemented Beck as a defining force of music in the 90’s. With a vinyl reissue of Odelay just around the corner, I’m quite excited to pre-order my own personal copy.

Before Beck’s Odelay had even hit the shelves in 1996, music critics had anticipated a flop and labelled the 25 year old Beck Hansen a ‘one hit wonder’. To explain why the music press had unfairly pigeonholed Beck we need to step back to 1993, which is when Beck first got our attention with the hit single ‘Loser’. ‘Loser’ with the bilingual chorus “Soy un perdedor, I'm a loser baby so why don't you kill me?” which is declared proudly and repeatedly throughout the song, became an anthem for the generation mourning the loss of Kurt Cobain.

01. Devil’s Haircut

02. Hotwax

03. Lord Only Knows

04. The New Pollution

05. Derelict

06. Novacane

07. Jack-Ass

08. Where It’s At

09. Minus

10. Sissyneck

11. Readymade

12. High 5 (Rock The Catskills)

13. Ramshackle


Blending folk/country with hip-hop beats, ‘Loser’ was an unexpected chart success, and it might surprise you to know that only 500 copies of the original 12” single were pressed. The single, later featured on Beck’s LP Mellow Gold (an album of mainly folk and psychedelia tunes), which perhaps confused many fans who were expected more ‘Loser-esque’ style tracks. ‘Loser’ not only launched Beck onto the world stage but paved the way for his ground breaking album Odelay.  Odelay fuses alt-rock, folk, jazz, blues and country to hip-hop textures and rhythms.

Perhaps the single most important decision Beck made whilst creating Odelay, was to hire hip-hop producers The Dust Brothers - E.Z. Mike (Mike Simpson) and King Gizmo (John King). It was The Dust Brothers’ sample heavy work on the Beastie Boys – ‘Pauls Boutique’ that led Beck to recruit the duo for his next album.

Above; The Dust Brothers

Odelay opens with the hit single ‘Devil’s Haircut’ that borrows the main riff from the song ‘I Can Only Give You Everything’ by Them, a Belfast R&B band led by a young Van Morrison in 1965. With Beck’s often uninterpretable and bizarre lyrics, such as “Temperature's dropping at the rotten oasis, stealing kisses from the leprous faces” and "A devil's haircut in my mind", are used to conjure a feeling and a sense of confusion, this song can only be the Blues.

‘Devil’s Haircut’ not only sets the scene for the remaining 12 tracks, it jolts the listener to attention and prepares them for what is coming; a musical assault on the senses. ‘Hotwax’ follows with distorted harmonica, banjo and slide guitar, ‘Lord only Knows’ mashes country rock, with fuzz box guitar and hip-hop beats. Other standout tracks that deserve a mention are ‘The New Pollution’ which uses The Beatles’ Tax Man’ bass line and the long forgotten sax refrain from Joe Thomas’ ‘Venus’, as well as ‘Where it’s at’ which includes the classic line “I got two turntables and a microphone” and uses many obscure samples, including Schubert’s ‘Unfinished Symphony #8 in b Minor’. Two of my personal favourite tracks would be ‘Jack-Ass’ and ‘Sissyneck’ which perfectly showcase Beck’s folk alt country roots. In my opinion Odelay is a modern day classic and deserves to be in the music collection of any self-respected music fan. 

Above: Beck filming the music video for ‘Devil’s Haircut’

Beck’s Odelay set a new musical bench mark, possibly one that will never be recreated due to increasingly complex sampling laws. In a 2005 interview Beck explains "Back [on Odelay] it was basically me writing chord changes and melodies, and then endless records being scratched and little sounds coming off the turntable. Now it's prohibitively difficult and expensive to justify your one weird little horn blare that happens for half of a second one time in a song and makes you give away 70% of the song and $50,000."  

Beck’s Odelay will be reissued on 180gm vinyl 2nd December (in time for your Christmas vinyl order). Pre-order your vinyl copy now at JJ’S Vinyl for $44.95