Beck – Modern Guilt: #769 of best 1,000 albums ever!

Beck - Modern Guilt

Why is Beck’s Modern Guilt on my best 1,000 albums ever list?

It grooves and clicks and jumps like a fanciful anxious thought, beautiful and foreboding.

What does Beck’s Modern Guilt mean to me? What does it make me feel? Why is it exciting or compelling?

There are so many Beck songs – and albums, really – where I’m hooked immediately and remain forever hooked. The first time that I heard “Dreams” or “Tropicalia” or “Cyanide Breath Mint,” they hit me on a visceral level that’s so deep inside my personal musical wheelhouse that everything just clicks from the opening notes.

If you’re like, “Yeah, I was with you up until… ‘Cyanide Breath Mint’?” Yeah, it’s a deep cut off Beck’s brilliant early career album, One Foot in the Grave. Well worth your time.

There are other Beck songs and albums — much more in the minority of the whole, I’d say — that take a little longer to get under my skin. Morning Phase (#788 of best 1,000 albums ever) is in this camp for sure, the melancholy but more accessible Sea Change somewhat less so.

Which brings us to Modern Guilt, a surprisingly – if anything Beck does can be called “surprising” – stripped down and reined in affair, especially after the wild excess and occasionally bloated numbers we get from Guero and The Information (#717). Produced by the wickedly talented Danger Mouse – who you’ll see pop up a number of times on the best 1,000 albums ever project – it sounds like a Beck album… but it’s also a different kind of a Beck album.

Which is a long and slightly ramble-y way of stating that Modern Guilt was a little more of a slow burn for me overall, but one that I find more rewarding and enjoyable every time I revisit it.

“Profanity Prayers” is the perfect example of a Beck deep cut song (on something of a deep cut album for the prolific artist) that mostly escaped my notice for a long time. Like so much of Beck’s creations, there’s a genre bendy aspect to it, but the notes about how Modern Guilt specifically rolls apply: it’s a taut, post-punk, swinging blues number with a tinge of psychedelia. It’s sort of hard to get an exact read on what it’s doing at first overall, but once it does it grooves and clicks and jumps like a fanciful anxious thought, before shuttling along to the next thing.

“Gamma Ray,” for lack of a better way to put it, is the most Beck-like song on this Beck album, and would have fit in on The Information just fine, I’d think. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that it’s my favorite song on Modern Guilt. Fitting to the overall mood of the album, the lyrics are decidedly downbeat, if not apocalyptic in nature, with talk of melting ice caps, hurricanes, lightning, heat waves, and refugees. It’s also got a great driving bass line and beat… so if we’re going down, let’s rock, baby (or some such?).

The more I listen to Modern Guilt, though, it’s the slower, weirder songs that are appealing to me most. “Chemtrails” has an almost hymn-like haunting quality. It’s beautiful and foreboding.

Some stats & info about Beck – Modern Guilt  

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Alternative Pop, Indie Rock, Neo-Psychedelia, Alternative Rock, Alternative Singer Songwriter
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating4 out of 5 stars
  • When was Modern Guilt released? 2008
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #769 out of 1,000

Beck’s Modern Guilt on Spotify

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.