After his last disc, 2002's somber Sea Change, it seemed as if '90s alt-rock hero Beck was being passed by the Chris Martins and Jack Whites of the world. Just when you thought the baby-faced dude who helped define the slacker generation might have seen his best days, though, Beck is once again where it's at. His terrific new album plays like the long-awaited sequel to 1996's double-platinum, Grammy-winning Odelay. Indeed, Guero (which is Mexican slang for a blond-haired, fair-skinned Caucasian) reunites Beck with the Dust Brothers production team of Mike Simpson and John King, which laid down the lo-fi, sampledelic sound on Odelay. They continue to judiciously use samples—a few familiar (the Beastie Boys' "So What'cha Want" on the thumping rocker "E-Pro"), most obscure (Claus Ogerman and His Orchestra's "Voce e Eu" on the bossa nova-tinged "Missing")—to create a groovy sonic kaleidoscope swirling with shades of hip-hop, funk, psychedelia, folk, blues and Latin music. For his part, Beck revels in the eclectic experimentation. Whether he's playing slide guitar and singing Beach Boys-style harmonies on the irresistible "Girl" or rapping and blowing the harmonica on the Beasties-like party jam "Hell Yes," he seems to be having more fun than he has in years. While Guero is rhythmically upbeat, however, it can be a downer lyrically. The last three songs tackle death ("What's left of death is more than fear/ Let dust be dust and the good lord near," on "Emergency Exit"), bringing the CD to a morose close, but not before Beck proves he has plenty of life left.
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