Wringing every last drop out of his recent gold album, Guero, Beck arranged for the whole thing to be remixed by everyone from 8Bit to El-P to Air to the Beastie Boys' Ad-Rock. The original Guero is a cleaned-up, diluted maturation of the original Beck sound—one marked by way-down lo-fi, Spanglish, acoustic guitar, and nonsense. Some would argue this, but while pleasant, Guero simply doesn't weigh as much as Odelay, which nearly every bored soul in the country pounced upon. Guero's timing—as in "being one with the times," just isn't as stimulating. It's certainly not great enough to warrant the incessant encoring that seems to succeed every bona fide success in the music industry. (On a contrary note of local favoritism, be sure to look for the Interscope DVD release of Game Boy-style 8-bit remix videos of Guero songs, with contributions by Portland multimedia talent, E*Rock.) If Guero really, really touched your soul beyond being a competent and reasonably charmingly quirky blip in the pop music march of time, you might treasure this aptly named Guerolito, which neither destroys nor improves on the tracks. If anything, the remixes make the originals seem less interesting, leaving the overall impression that someone simply spent altogether too much time thinking about Guero. (Perhaps a side effect of Scientology.) MARJORIE SKINNER
Electronic musicians can benefit from conceptual framing devices in the studio. Take Matmos, Matthew Herbert, and Decomposure, for example. All of these producers have thrived under the constraints of making music from sound sources like surgical procedures, household items, consumer products, food, and beverages. Secret Mommy (Vancouver's Andy Dixon) got into the conceptual game with his Hawaii 5.0 EP, taping diversions experienced and objects handled and eaten during a visit to that state, in the process elegantly combining work and leisure.
With Very Rec, Secret Mommy ups the ante with an album based on recreational activities and facilities. Talk about a playful idea... Anyway, Very Rec accentuates Secret Mommy's pranksterish tendencies behind the laptop. Using this license to get ill with a cornucopia of goofy sports/games sounds, he constructs his fun-lovin' spazztronica with "jockular" aplomb. Overturning the notion that IDM is all about stoic, anal-retentive sound design, Secret Mommy revels in coloring outside the lines—in fluorescent colors. The disc's titles—"Tennis Court," "Soccer Field," "Yoga Studio," "Basketball Court," "Ice Rink," "Dojo"—bluntly telegraph his raw materials, but the thrill comes in how Secret Mommy processes and arranges these unconventional elements. As a combination of whimsical gamesmanship, inventively warped composition, and mercurial editing, Very Rec is hard to beat. And your funny bone will get a serious workout. DAVE SEGAL
First Impressions of Earth
First impressions of the new Strokes CD... Track 1: "Hi, we're the Cars!" Track 2: "Hi, we're versatile!" (Read: no telephone vocal effect.) Track 3: "Hi, we're ripping off the Stray Cats this time! Hope nobody notices!" Track 4: "We're still the Strokes. Don't worry." Track 5: Filler. Take piss break. Track 6: Big guitar intro = artistic development? Track 7: "Hi, here's the single for college radio! It's smart!" Track 8: Which Strokes record is this again? Track 9: Filler. Track 10: See number 4. Track 11: Slow-burning ballad. Lighters. College-age couples kinda sorta sway-dance in the audience. Younger kids go get hot dogs and nachos. Track 12: Strokes do Cure intro. Strokes do Elvis Costello chorus. Track 13: "Thanks for coming out tonight! This one's called '15 Minutes'! We're dealing with fame best as we can, folks! It's rough!" Track 14: If we play this riff loud enough nobody will be able to tell we're using the telephone effect again!"
Solid Gold Hits
Between their exhaustive 42-track Sounds of Science collection and their Criterion-released DVD set of videos and remixes, the Beastie Boys have assembled some killer compilations. Solid Gold Hits is their latest such attempt, and while it's a totally competent disc and all, it begs the question—who needs this? In moving from drunk punks to elder statesmen of hiphop, the Beasties brought hiphop to new and unexpected levels—but they're getting old, and they probably aren't winning over a whole lot of new recruits. So Solid Gold Hits—which plays like an introductory comp of their biggest hits—is pretty redundant, especially compared to their already great comps.
Kicking off with 1992's "So What'cha Want" and ending with the '86 party anthem "Fight for Your Right," in between's the better stuff—"No Sleep Till Brooklyn," "Hey Ladies," "Sabotage," "Sure Shot," and a few welcome tracks from their criminally underrated To the 5 Boroughs. But the Beasties' unpredictable fringe work has always proved their most interesting, from Hello Nasty's bossa nova strains to Ill Communication's instrumentals, and there's none of that here. Nor is there anything from their instrumental album The In Sound From Way Out!—instead, there's a bullshit fluff track, a "Body Movin'" remix from Fatboy "Remember Me?" Slim. Sure, Solid Gold Hits is a good introduction, but really—who doesn't already know the Beastie Boys? And now that I think about it: If we're going to get down to single discs and brass fucking tacks, doesn't 1994's flawless Ill Communication already serve as a pretty perfect intro/"best of" collection? ERIK HENRIKSEN