The beautiful thing about obsessively browsing your local indie record shop is that, once in awhile, you will stumble across something very cool and completely unexpected. Last Friday was one of those days.
In 1994, Beck Hansen appeared on the mainstream music radar with his debut album Mellow Gold and its ubiquitous hit single “Loser”. Just two years (and a couple of indie releases) later, Beck followed up his debut with an album that changed alternative music.
Odelay broke all the so-called rules about what a popular record could be. Released in an era where radio was keen to pigeon-hole artists into specific cavities, Odelay featured a veritable bitches’ brew of sounds and beats. Listen carefully and you’ll hear a whirlwind of rock, funk, soul, folk, country, bubblegum pop, bluegrass, found sounds, hip-hop, electronica, and a dozen other madcap genres. It should have been an epic disaster, but thanks to Beck’s underrated songwriting and the Dust Brothers’ brilliant production it flawlessly hangs together. We still hear echoes of Odelay in alternative rock records today (see also: Radiohead, Eels, Flaming Lips, Kasabian).
Fast-forward a dozen years, and Geffen released a deluxe edition of Odelay on vinyl. It was an over-the-top celebration of this genre-defying (and yet genre-defining) record, spread across four (yes, four) 180-gram platters. Sides A, B, and C feature the original record, remastered for vinyl. The other five sides collate a smorgasbord of rarities, remixes, and B-sides from the era. Best of the bunch is probably the song “Deadweight” which pointed Beck’s compass in the direction of his excellent but lower-key follow-up album Mutations. Despite all the sonic goodies, Sides A, B and C will surely have me Rockin’ the Catskills the most often. I haven’t spun all four discs yet, but the bass and drums on songs like “Hotwax” and “Novakane” sound so good it’s ridiculous.
The deluxe packaging is pretty cool. The front cover features everyone’s favourite hurdling mop-dog, now embossed with metallic blue doodles. The twisted collage on the back cover is similarly embossed, complete with the doodle artist’s epithet “Property of Michael”.
The four platters are tucked into individual pockets inside the gatefold sleeve. Rounding out the package is a large-format booklet containing a short essay by Thurston Moore, a hilariously random interview feature by Dave Eggers, plus lyrics and song credits. But be forewarned – there is no download code for mp3s of the records! Blame it on the 2008 vintage of the release.
I was very lucky to find this package at my local record shop. The shopkeeper was astounded that I had snapped it up less than an hour after it first hit the shelves, since it had taken months to bring in. Call me Johnny-on-the-Spot; my new lucky number is 1614.
On this particular day, my turntable is undeniably Where It’s At.