On his first DGC album, 1994's Mellow Gold, Beck demonstrated his ingenious ability to mix old and new styles with ease. The result was music that on one hand sounded familiar, yet surprised at every turn. On Odelay, Beck has further mutated his approach, taking it to a higher level.
The first cut on Odelay, "Devil's Haircut," sports a guitar riff reminiscent of Terry and the Pirates' "I Can Only Give You Everything" and features Beck's stream-of-consciousness lyrical flow. The title of the first single, "Where It's At," is a skewed reference to the John Lee Hooker album That's Where It's At. The song boasts Jimmy Smith-style keyboards that would be right at home on a Blue Note record. The vocals, however, are run through a vocoder, giving them a retro-futuristic vibe more akin to an old- school Africa Bambaataa track. "Sissyneck," with its carnival-flavored organ line, possesses a lap steel chorus hook that recalls the spirit of Hank Williams with more honky-tonk authenticity than a million mullet-haired country artists could ever hope to muster. "Derelict" sounds like Mike Millius covering an old Hoagy Carmichael number at a recreation center in the middle of everywhere.
Odelay is a collection of songs culled from ongoing recording sessions Beck conducted over the past two years whenever time and touring permitted. The album was produced by Beck and the Dust Brothers, a.k.a. John King and Michael Simpson, who are world-renowned for putting the boutique in the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique album and putting L.A. hip-hop on the map via their hits with Tone- Loc and Young M.C. Beck utilized the Dust Brothers' Silverlake Hills studio for the majority of Odelay, with two songs recorded elsewhere: "Ramshackle," produced with Tom Rothrock and Rob Schnapf of Bongload Records, and "Minus" with Mario Caldato Jr. and Brian Paulson.
Beck was born in L.A. to bohemian parents. His mother, Bibbe Hansen, was raised amid New York's Andy Warhol Factory art scene of the '60s and in the '90s was part of the underground L.A. punk-drag band Black Fag. His father David Campbell, a Canadian musician, bluegrass street musician. During his childhood, Beck was shuttled back and forth between his mother in L.A. and his paternal grandparents in Kansas. His grandfather, Al Hansen, was a pioneer in the avant-garde Fluxus movement, and in 1998, Beck helped put together a traveling art exhibition that paired his visual artwork with his late grandfather’s. During his teens he discovered the music of Sonic Youth and Pussy Galore. After hearing a record by Mississippi John Hurt at a friend’s house, however, he began playing his own postpunk brand of acoustic country blues.