An Album review of One Foot In the Grave 2009 Release Deluxe Edition from Beck
Ok, so Beck, known to his mother as Beck Hansen is a formidable artist and for those living on another planet for the past 15 years, he has been responsible for a plethora of albums, some simple low-fi, blues, folk, alternative, some rock, hip-hop, funk, punk, country and electronic fusions.
His first official album release was called 'Mellow Gold' in 1994 on Geffen, however there were two albums which had been recorded prior to and concurrent to 'Mellow Gold'. One was called 'One Foot In The Grave' and the other 'Stereopathetic Soul Manure'. Both, seemingly slipped under the radar failing to chart, but gently added to the creditability of an artist who was at risk in the popular eye of being a one hit wonder with 'Loser'.
However that was something that he managed to dismiss by following up with seven major releases, notably the 1996 Grammy award winning 'Odelay' and not to mention contributions to film sound tracks such as 'A Life Less Ordinary' and 'Eternal Sunshine For The Spotless Mind'.
So I guess he showed the popular eye where to stick it eh?
So now in 2009, he has re-released 'One Foot In The Grave', which isn't just a straight re-issue as there are 13 previously unreleased tracks on the normal edition, and 16 on the deluxe edition.
The album was created with the aid of Chris Ballew (The Presidents of the United States of America), James Bertram (Pacific Northwest), Sam Jayne, Scott Plouf (Built to Spill), and Mario Priletto.
As previously mentioned Beck has a diversity that makes him impossible to define overall. 'One Foot In The Grave' is most certainly in the blues camp.
There is a strange aged quality to it that makes it reminiscent of original early Robert Johnson recordings. However, tracks like 'Sleeping Bag' with its steel slide guitar and morose pessimistic emotional discourse sounds more like grunge than straight up blues - it just doesn't get as heavy with layers as grunge can do.
'I Get Lonesome' is another simple, and intentionally straight forward song, sparse, loosely executed layers of guitar, percussion and bass come across simple but pure, raw and real. 'Asshole' has a Velvet Underground quality to it, with the 'shakey jangley' percussion you half expect Nico to pipe up at some points, which is interesting because Beck's Record Club has recently did a recording of 'The Velvet Underground and Nico' album, and although a bit of a horrible literary tool to keep my point moving, this shows that Beck has never really ventured too far in any direction away from the plethora of his inspiration; it's just how he manages to mash them all together than makes him exceptional in his own right.
'I've Seen The Land Beyond', could have been penned by Woodie Guthrie with a country folk sounding guitar riff with that 'warm 'n' hurting' country vocal.
The album in retrospect doesn't seem like something an artist of 24 would manage to make a success. Tom Waits' depth and maturity vocally with witty and life lived poetry drips throughout most of the tracks on this album and is very interesting to listen to.
If you like Beck but are more inclined towards the easier to listen to albums like 'Odelay', then 'One Foot In The Grave' might not satisfy you. However, if you like the grittier edged side of Beck on albums like 'Modern Guilt', you may like to hear the stuff that clearly nurtured that side of his vibe.
All in all Beck aficionados will most likely already have this album, and for the avid music collector they will want to fill their musical sack with the other previously unreleased tracks this re-issue has to offer. For everyone else, if you like Beck, or even just straight-forward simple low-fi blues this will be a very interesting listen.