By Matt Kelemen
The question isn’t “What has Beck been up to lately?” but rather, “What hasn’t Beck been up to?” This summer, it’s been mainly short bursts of shows with longtime drummer Joey Waronker, bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen, power-pop journeyman Roger Manning Jr. and in-demand session guitarist Smokey Hormel. The fact that alternative rock’s No. 1 iconoclast convinced his favored backup musicians to drop everything for a handful of shows is an indication that major moves are afoot. Is Beck warming up the band for his first full-length recording since 2009’s Danger Mouse-produced Modern Guilt?
Beck spent the past several years producing albums for friends such as Charlotte Gainsbourg and Thurston Moore. Other pals show up on Beck’s Record Club collaborations at Beck.com, where tribute is paid to albums by the Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen and new age composer Yanni. He took a country turn with the May release of his sardonic single “I Just Started Hating Some People Today,” and invited Dwight Yoakam to his home to record a few songs for Yoakam’s upcoming 3 Pears. He seemed to be following his muse wherever it led him.
Although that muse seemed to come out of nowhere with his monster 1994 hit “Loser,” Beck shares DNA with a film music arranger father and a grandfather associated with the Fluxus art movement, which purposely blended genres, medium and styles. Now after several years of satisfying his restless spirit, expect a marathon concert at The Pearl covering the spectrum of Beck’s recorded output.