If Tommy was the first album that I learned of it's greatness from my parents, then Odelay was the first album I purchased that really meant something just to me. The music of Beck isn't something everyone can get into. In fact, in grade school, I don't remember having a lot of friends who enjoyed my love for Beck as much as I did. I think somewhere in one of my grade school "Thought Books", the first page was dedicated to track titles from Odelay and a really bad recreation of the strange floppy looking dog jumping the hurdle. It was this album that spoke to me as a young adolescent and of most albums that I was into at the age, it's one that will never get old and possibly gets better each time I listen to it. Something about the mix of hip-hop sensibilities and Beck's penchant for blues really was unlike anything I heard and is unlike anything I still have yet to hear.
Beck has many albums that have touched upon moments of my life and it's really hard to not credit him as one of the few artists that really have an introspection into all the fractions of my own personality. Odelay has the best mixture of these in one excellent package. As much as Midnite Vultures will remind me of partying with friends and Sea Change will remind me of heartbreak, it's Odelay that reminds me of my how my life was shaped into the strange slacker of sorts that I am. The album has all the heartbreaking anthems and goof-off jams to fill a party with. It's more of a package deal with Odelay than a single sided experience. One thing will always remind me of was my first time overseas. In 1997, I went to Greece with my family and brought only a few cassettes with me. On one side I recorded the entire Mighty Mighty Bosstones album Let's Face It and on the other side was Odelay. I played that tape so much that I now associate everything else I was doing at the time with that. Whether it was falling in love witha foreign country, reading the latest Gary Paulsen novel or riding a ferry through the Aegean and watching the sunset. It's strange to think that these songs somehow set the scene for that trip, but somehow they did. Strangely enough, the next time I was in Greece I lost a ton of cds and only had two albums just like on this trip. Sadly it wasn't Odelay and that's a story for another day.
The music of Odelay speaks for itself. It's one of the finest recordings of the 90s. It has variety and sounds fantastic 12 years later. The hits like "The New Pollution" and "Devil's Haircut" still rank as some of my favorite all time tracks and the best parts of the album are songs lke "Hotwax" and Novacane" where some of Beck's catchiest moments lay in wait. A meditative track like "Jack-Ass" is followed by the party anthem of "Where It's At" and each are equally spine tinglingly good. The track that hits me the most is the hobo anthem that really is much different from any other song on the album. "Ramshackle", which is clearly about Beck's time as a poor starving artist really has a tone and meaning of the disappointments in life but a solemn acceptance that all things come to an end and happiness can be found in the loved ones around you. It's a sad song but bittersweet in a way. It's a gem amongst some of the craziest tracks you've ever heard assembled. Way down at the end of Odelay, it really tears a hole into your soul and keeps it's warm acoustic glow inside.
Finding the first album that spoke to just me in a different level than any of the classic albums on this list is something really special. It's strange to think this album is over 10 years old now and can be seen as a classic to new Beck fans and younger music lovers out there. This is why Odelay deserves a spot on this retrospective.
1. The Who - Tommy
2. Beck - Odelay
Next up: Television's Marquee Moon