The only lyrical theme appearing on Beck's Morning Phase with any sort of consistency involves the sun's angle and repose, SoCal imagery that nicely compliments the obvious homages made throughout to various Laurel Canyon artifacts. But there are also broader nods to '60s icons like George Harrison (album closer "Waking Light" finishes with Abbey Road guitar flourishes), the Byrds ("Blackbird Chain" contains hints of Roger McGuinn's circular "Bells of Rhymney" riff), and, perhaps most surprisingly, Simon & Garfunkel (those choirboy harmonies adorning "Turn Away" only highlight the lovely melody's debt to "El Cóndor Pasa").
What does all this studio perfectionism add up to? A sun-kissed stroll through gentle waves of melody, serenity for those seeking some winter light, and sleep aids for those who think West Coast rock went off the rails between the formation of CSN and the first rumblings of X. (Those sympathetic to the latter philosophy may not find much to snicker about when Beck notes, "I need to find someone to show me how to play it slow," quite possibly the only joke on an album claiming few grins.) But jokes aren't the point, and neither is BPM. No matter how enthusiastically some claim Beck as a zeitgeist-embracing pop chameleon of the Jean-Luc Godard variety, he's far more a craftsman of the Louis Malle school: sophisticated, assured, self-aware, and incessantly torn between competing genres. J.G.
Read SPIN's review here.