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Hyperspace (Capitol)

Such laudatory reviews already for Beck’s new album. It must be good.

There have been comparisons to his most admired record, the post-breakup Sea Change, which trafficked in more ballads than jerky folk-hip hop, and even a reference or two to his career breakthrough, Odelay, which featured that jerky folk-hip hop - a style that has its echo in a new track, Saw Lightning.

(But pretty much no talk of his most entertaining album, and unfettered Prince explosion, Midnite Vultures.)

There’s plenty of praise for his emotional openness – about relationships and personal frailties; raves about its lush pop atmosphere; and maybe even some sighs of relief for what appears to be a belated break from the wacko money cult, Scientology.

(Music media are super uncomfortable with belief/faith at the best of times, but especially when it comes with high-price lawyers and wreakers of public and professional vengeance.)

It is mostly mid-paced but not wholly locked into a style: taking in psych grooves, ala Tame Impala, in the title track and Dark Places; low impact R&B in See Through; woody electro-pop in Uneventful Days; new age Visage (rather than, say, Ultravox) in the soul-meets-London of Everlasting Nothing; and a run of songs which might be borrowed Coldplay tracks, including Die Waiting and Chemical (which precede the not dissimilar See Through).

Edges? Not even the more clattering Saw Lightning jars much, and most of the time you could snuggle up to everything. So yeah, Hyperspace certainly does sound warm, tonally and sonically, and attractive to the ear.

It’s also not very good.

Which isn’t to say terrible: there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with anything here and the experience of Beck and occasional collaborator/producer Pharrell Williams shows through in the easy transitions and adhesive elements.

However, as with its 2017 predecessor, the similarly highly praised and equally self-referential Colors, (read the review here) there is a marked lack of the exceptional. These are perfectly nice songs that you can live perfectly fine without.

What’s more, and this probably says as much about my scepticism as his attitude - which may or may not have anything to do with a suspicion the “I’m no longer a Scientologist” line is PR-convenient – they are perfectly decent attempts at making an intimate sounding record without ever really letting us get any closer than observation from a safe distance.

Which, to be fair, is pretty much how Beck has always operated, Sea Change seemingly an exception. However, eventually, sounding intimate but staying a step away, and sounding clever, but never hitting brilliant, begins to chip away at the impression a listener has imposed or inferred and you end up with albums of surfaces you can glide across – and keep on gliding away from.

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