Pitchfork says the album “feels connected to little more than a good idea.” Consequence of Sound claims “There’s just no getting around how bored Beck sounds.” Without entirely bashing the album, Pop Matters heralds “Yacht-rock Beck.” The worst review comes from Tiny Mix Tapes, calling the album tasteless and adding that it “barely surprises or even maintains interest.”
On the flip side, NME describes the album as “intoxicating.” Variety applauds the album’s pop-inflected sound, but wonders if this might not be some strange inside joke. Metacritic counts more positive reviews (19) than mixed (14) or negative (1), but the threshold for positive is fairly low. The 67 score assigned to Consequence of Sound doesn’t sound exactly positive to me. The 34 reviews averaged a 72 score—much less than my own impressions, and equivalent to a C- if we’re assigning grades.
Beck Reimagines the Feeling of the 80s and 90s
Songs like “Colors” and “Dreams” recall the spirit of mid-80s English wave. “Seventh Heaven” and “No Distraction” take you back to 1979 New Wave. “I’m So Free” emerges from a more polished version of early 90s grunge. I don’t mind Beck’s attempt to craft a “pop” album. His producer and chief collaborator on the album, former bandmate Greg Kurstin, has worked with a number of prominent pop artists. Together they have created an album that soars above the usual saccharine impulses in pop, akin to what Todrick Hall or Janelle Monae have recently done. These trends encourage me to believe that pop music may be emerging out of its two-decade slumber.