We do like a return don’t we?
A return after a long period of silence; a return to solo work after time in a band, or a band reformation after solo years; a return to a sound that defined you for a large portion of your audience; a return to a tone/mood/attitude.
So pleased by this return are we that we can, at least at first and sometime for much longer, elevate material from decent to good, from good to very good, and in our most fevered moments, from very good to classic.
Furthermore. we can let slide little quibbles, call flaws minor and put aside issues. After all, how good is it that [insert name of a dozen artists off the top of your head] is back/sounding like this again?
The most recent example locally is the incredibly strong reaction to another good Paul Kelly album which feels more like his “band” albums of two decades ago, both in sound and temper.
To the list can now be added Beck’s Colors, a record so rapturously received it feels something like a second coming, a summer record let out early to end a dark winter and the cure for enervation.
Hearing this long discussed, oft delayed album - the record he’s had mostly in the can for years but either never felt was completely right or wasn’t right for the time – the signs are there for a “return”.
It is principally, though not exclusively, on a positive, upward swing, not burdened by marriage breakups, ennui or indeed any existential crises.
You can sing along, you can dance along and you can ponder a few comments on the modern world that aren’t jacking it all in for despair at an orange buffoon, black lives or inevitable death by nature’s revenge.
Musically, it throws bones to those who liked him loose and rocky, those who liked him funky (but not the full Prince), those who enjoyed his pop nous, and those who liked him as a nonchalant folkie with hip hop tendencies.
There are sliding electro-folk moments like Wow and Colors, buzzy guitars and hooks that are like grown up Weezer, such as I’m So Free, unzipped grooves such as Up All Night and buttoned up pop like Seventh Heaven.
Want something slowish and tender but not weighed down? Try Fix Me. Need some alternative pop/rock that mixes the ‘80s and the ‘90s? Have Dreams – Colors Mix.
There’s no pretending otherwise: Colors is a fun record. Is it a great record? No, not really.
It’s got plenty of enjoyable moments but doesn’t pack any serious punch, doesn’t contain unalloyed brilliance. And there’s a sense that Beck knew that, maybe even a few years ago.
Sometimes it feels like the songs have been gestating a bit too long and allowed to accumulate elements in the hope that the next one might be the trigger for something special.
If that was the plan it didn’t really work. There’s a return here, for sure, there will be many plays of tracks from this album ahead and pleasure had. But don’t be fooled by the reception, this is not a return to the heights Beck once scaled.