Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Beck: Mellow Gold [Bong Load/DGC, 1994]
His clip file is home to a bigheaded kid who's memorized Bob Dylan's Playboy interview, a slacker version of the Pretentious Asshole--here a folkie there a punk everywhere an image-slinger (with absurdist tendencies, mais oui). But his album barely contains an exuberant experimenter whose verbiage coheres on record--either because he knows records are history or because repetition tamps down the loose ends. He's a folkie-punk version of, well, the Young Bob Dylan, except that he also loves hooks enough to cast his net wider than the Young David Johansen, finding them everywhere from an electric sitar to an illicitly taped tirade from a "Vietnam vet playin' air guitar" downstairs. Full of fun and loaded with 'tude, he doesn't care what you think of him and makes you love it, right down to the nose-thumbing bummer dirges that close each side. Proving how cool you are by making an album that sounds like shit is easy. Proving how cool you are by making an album that comes this close to sounding like shit is damn hard--unless you're damn talented. A