I've said it here before and it bears repeating: 1994 was the year a lot of really great modern rock artists broke. Can we ever forget the year that gave us Beck's Mellow Gold?
With its persistently catchy single, "Loser," Beck stormed MTV with Mellow Gold like Thurston Moore's bratty little brother, lacking supercilious gravity and carrying disdain for pop's rules with an unassuming little album he cut in his basement.
Everyone knows "Loser," but let's not forget the funky party groove of "Beercan," the box-spring hum of "Whiskeyclone" or the twanging chant of "Sweet Sunshine." The overall effect is just weird, but in a good way--a quintessential lo-fi hodgepodge achieving a psychedelic wistfulness that has more to do with the feel than the sound. For every smirky, silly line like "shit-kickin', speed-taking, truck-drivin neighbors downstairs" there's a smirky, silly line like "give the finger to the rock-n-roll singer" that seems to mean something to the guy delivering it. Beck had subsequently proved that he's no one-hit wonder, but it was fun at the time wondering whether the guy could keep it up or just implode.
Beck hasn't changed much lyrically over the past decade, still preferring obscure and/or nonsensical-sounding strains that seem to hang together by the sound rather than the meaning. He's grown up as well, become an alt-rock darling and learned to take himself way too seriously. (Please, Mr. Beck sir, spare us another Sea Change.) Mellow Gold reminds us of when Beck used to be fun.