Released: November 1998

If you've been keeping up with your reading, you've by now ingested a glowing review or two of Beck's latest release, Mutations. No doubt, you've read that he recorded the album's twelve songs in fourteen days after completing the Odelay tour. And surely you know that the album was co-produced by Nigel Godrich, who was at least partially responsible for Radiohead's OK Computer. All this background information was most certainly followed by heaps of praise for the songs on the album and the treatments they get at the hands of Godrich and Beck.

On Mutations, Beck's traded in his two turntables and microphone for a Moog synth and a copy of the Kinks' Muswell Hillbillies. Here, he fully explores his obsession with the 60s. He's always shared Ray Davies' ear for a tune and flair for the theatrical, but on "Bottle of Blues", he manages to co-opt the old Brit's voice, too. Yet, what makes Beck special is his ability to infuse his own musical identity into the lifted lines. Like Davies' Hillbillies and even Neil Young's Tonight's the Night, Mutations initially flows so easily that it sounds rudimentary. It's that very flow that's missing on Odelay, and subsequent listens reveal the complex details creating it. It's like pressing your nose against an impressionist painting to examine the thousands of meticulously placed brush dabs that make up the seascape.

If the backbone of the album is a string of rootsy melodies - some of the best Beck has ever penned - its mood is definitely driven by Godrich's patented pre-millennial assortment of buzzes, bleeps and quirks, giving it the spacey urgency of OK Computer, and leaving us with a beautifully futuristic roots album. A perfect example of this is the addendum to the album's last track, on which duelling lasers fire over a riff swiped off of the Beatles' Revolver.

Unfortunately, with the music biz buzz awaiting the release of Odelay's proper follow-up, Mutations will most likely be praised and then forgotten. Its low budget, soft-spoken demeanour, and lack of a standout single will surely count against it. For that to happen would be tragic. Beck is clearly working on a level most others can only dream of, and Mutations is proof of that. It seems impossible that his next album could be any better, but I can't wait to find out.

-Neil Lieberman

Tracklist:

Cold Brains
Nobody's Fault But My Own
Lazy Flies
Canceled Check
We Live Again
Tropicalia
Dead Melodies
Bottle of Blues
O Maria
Sing It Again
Static
Diamond Bollocks
*
Runners Dial Zero
*
Halo of Gold*

* Denotes secret/hidden tracks on some versions

Lyrics:

Cold Brains

Cold brains, unmoved
Untouched, unglued
Alone at last
No thoughts, no mind
To rot behind
A trail of disasters

A final curse
Abandoned hearse
We ride disowned
Corroded to the bone

The fields of green
Are bent, obscene
I lay upon the gravel
A worm of hope
A hangman's rope
Pulls me one way or the other

A final curse
Abandoned hearse
We ride disowned
Corroded to the bone

A bird of song
Is heard no longer
In the evacuated heavens
The drain is drawn
And drained and gone
And on and on, it doesn't matter

A final curse
Abandoned hearse
We ride disowned
Corroded to the bone

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Nobody's Fault But My Own

Treated you like a rusty blade
A throwaway from an open grave
Cut you loose from a chain gang
And let you go
And on the day you said it's true
Some love holds, some gets used
Tried to tell you I never knew
It could be so sweet

Who could ever be so cruel
Blame the devil for the things you do
Its such a selfish way to lose
The way you lose these wasted blues
These wasted blues

Tell me that it's nobody's fault
Nobody's fault but my own
That it's nobody's fault
Nobody's fault but my own

When the moon is a counterfeit
Better find the one that fits
Better find the one that lights
The way for you
When the road is full of nails
Garbage pails and darkened jails
And their tongues are full of heartless tales
That drain on you

Who would ever notice you
You fade into a shaded room
It's such a selfish lose
The way you lose these wasted blues
These wasted blues

Tell me that it's nobody's fault
Nobody's fault but my own
Tell me that it's nobody's fault
Nobody's fault but my own
Tell me that it's nobody's fault
Nobody's fault but my own
Tell me that it's nobody's fault
Nobody's fault but my own

Tell me that it's nobody's fault
Nobody's fault but my own
Tell me that it's nobody's fault
Nobody's fault but my own

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Lazy Flies

Lazy flies all hovering above
The magistrate
He puts on his gloves
And he looks to the clouds
All pink and disheveled
There must be some blueprint
Some creed of the devil
Inscribed in our minds

A hideous game
Vanishes in the air
The vanity of slaves
Who wants to be there
To sweep the debris
To harness dead horses
To ride in the sun
A life of confessions
Written in the dust

Out in the mangroves
The mynah birds cry
In the shadows of sulphur
The trawlers drift by
They're chewing dried meat
In a house of disrepute
The dust of opiates
And syphilis patients
On brochure vacations

Fear has a glare
That traps you like searchlights
The puritans stare
Their souls are fluoresecent
The skin of a robot
Vibrates with pleasure
Matrons and gigolos
Carouse in the parlor
Their hand-grenade eyes
Invalid and blind

A hideous game
Vanishes in the air
The vanity of slaves
Who wants to be there
To sweep the debris
To harness dead horses
To ride in the sun
A life of confessions
Written in the dust

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Canceled Check

I hate to do this
But you're a pain in the neck
I thought you knew this
You're handing me a canceled check

You're so helpless
Your girlfriends think you're a saint
I'll give you a quarter
I'll keep my judgements to myself

And I get caught up in the moonlight
Reaching out for a rotten egg
I don't want to beg
It's crystal clear your time is nearly gone

Count your blessings
And do the things that you should
O the has-beens
Never had it so good

Stormy weather
The kids are making a racket
In the wilderness
The wild lives are so mild

And I get caught up in the moonlight
Reaching out for a rotten egg
I don't want to beg
It's crystal clear your time is nearly gone

And I get caught up in the moonlight
Reaching out for a rotten egg
I don't want to beg
It's crystal clear your time is nearly gone

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We Live Again

These withered hands have dug for a dream
Sifted through sand and leftover nightmares
Over the hill, a desolate wind
Turns shit to gold and blows my soul crazy

The end
O the end
We live again
O i grow weary of the end

O hungry days in the footsteps of fools
Gazing alone through sex-painted windows
Dredging the night, drunk libertines
Stink like colognes from the newfangled wasteland

The end
O the end
We live again
O I grow weary of the end

Love is a plague in a mix-match parade
Where the castaways look so deranged
When will the children learn to let their wildernesses burn
And love will be new never cold and vacant

These withered hands have dug for a dream
Sifted through sand and leftover nightmares

The end
Of the end
We live again
O I grow weary of the end

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Tropicalia

When they beat
Upon a broken guitar
And on the streets
They reek of tropical charms
The embassies lie in hideous shards
Where tourists snore and decay

When they dance in a reptile blaze
You wear a mask
An equatorial haze
Into the past
A colonial maze
Where there's no more confetti to throw

You didn't know what to say to yourself
Love is a poverty you couldn't sell
Nisery waiting in vague hotels
To be evicted

You're out of luck
You're singing funeral songs
To the studs
They're anabolic and bronze
They seem to strut
In their millennial fogs
'Til they fall down and deflate

You didn't know what to say to yourself
Love is a poverty you couldn't sell
Misery waiting in vague hotels
To be evicted

Now you've had your fun
Under an air-conditioned sun
It's burned into your eyes
Leaves you plain and left behind
See them eyes and fall
Into the jaws of a pestilent love

You didn't know what to say to yourself
Love is a poverty you couldn't sell
Misery waiting in vague hotels
To be a victim

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Dead Melodies

Where will you go
When this day is over?
A gambler's purse
Lays on the road

Straight to your door
Snakes have gone crazy tonight
Winding their way out of sight

A laugh, a joke
A sentiment wasted
Seasons of strangers
They've come and gone

Doldrums are pounding
Cheapskates are clowning this town
Who could disown themselves now?

Engineer
Slow down this old train
Cinders and chaff
Laugh at the moon

Night birds will cackle
Rotting like apples on trees
Sending their dead melodies
To me

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Bottle of Blues

I just found me a bottle of blues
Some strange comfort for a soul to soothe
Ain't it hard, ain't it hard
To want somebody who doesn't want you?

And I been waiting for a year and a day
Some strange weather must be blowing my way
'Cause I got no mind to go or to stay
Or be left behind

Holding hands with an impotent dream
In a brothel of fake energy
Put a nickel in a graveyard machine
I get higher and lower
I get higher and lower
Like a tired soldier with nothing to shoot
And nowhere to lose this bottle of blues

Egos drone and pose alone
Like black balloons all banged and blown
On a backwoods river
The infidels shiver in the stench of belief

And tell my momma I'm a hundred years late
I'm over the rails and out of the race
And the crippled psalms of an age that won't thaw
Are ringing in my ears

Holding hands with an impotent dream
In a brothel of fake energy
Put a nickel in a graveyard machine
I get higher and lower
I get higher and lower
Like a tired soldier with nothing to shoot
And nowhere to lose this bottle of blues

Well, I just found me a bottle of blues
Some strange comfort for a soul to soothe
Ain't it hard, ain't it hard
To want somebody who doesn't want you?

Holding hands with an impotent dream
In a brothel of fake energy
Put a nickel in a graveyard machine
I get higher and lower
I get higher and lower
Like a tired soldier with nothing to shoot
And nowhere to lose this bottle of blues
Bottle of blues

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O Maria

There was no one nothing to see
The night is useless and so are we
Cos everybody knows
The fabric of folly is fallen apart at the seams
And I've been lookin' for a good time
But the pleasures are seldom and few

There's no whiskey there's no wine
Just the concrete and a worried mind
Cos everone knows death creeps in slow
Til you feel safe in his arms
And I've been lookin' for a new friend
And I don't care if he's decrepit and grey

O maria haven't you known
Days so careless
All on your own
Everybody knows the circus is closed
And the animals have gone wild
And I've been lookin' for my shadow
But this place is so bright and so clean

There was no one nothing to see
The night is useless and so are we
Cos everybody knows
The fabric of folly is fallen apart at the seams
And I've been lookin' for a good time
But the pleasures are seldom and few

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Sing It Again

A town of disrespect
The trains are wrecked
The night is younger then us
Nowhere is anywhere else
You keep to yourself
Stirring the dregs where I have layed
The exit signs are flashing
Dead ends they won't come to life anymore

I pledge the rest
I should have guessed
Your love was hanging by threads
Tongues tied under the moon
My love is a room
Of broken bottles and tangled webs
The misers wind their minds
Like clocks that grind their gears
On and on

And if its meant
Some accident
Some coincidence
Crumbs fall out of the sky
When you wander by
The dust clouds blow
But nobody's home
Oh won't you lay my bags
Upon on the funeral fire and sing it again

Oh won't you lay my bags
Upon on the funeral fire and sing it again

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Static

It's so easy to laugh at yourself
And all those jokes have already been written
Seems like another vain attempt
To let yourself fall out of the oven

Holy mountains, they look so tired
And it's a perfect day to lock yourself inside

Who you foolin' with the fools are right
It's the same thing but it's almost as different
Hard to tell when it pacifies your mind
Leaves you stranded with a broken engine

Lazy desert looks so mangled
Let me drown in a convalescent bliss

Get up from your bed of rest
Been a long time since you've lived
But the static in your mind
Leaves you hollow and unkind
With a shock electric wave
Turns you on

You've been flunked out of the devils house
Delinquent hygienes are so abrasive
Some distortion that's never been known
On the treadmill you've been runnin' forever

Holy mountains, they look so tired
And it's a perfect day to lock yourself inside

Begone

[Top]

Diamond Bollocks

Looking back at some dead world
That looks so new
Offices and fountains that they named for you
Dazzlements of accidents
Rejoice their doom
Hari-karis spinning round the golden looms

Girl you dream infections
From a nauseous heart
Choice cut meats
From derelict boulevards

Hear that lonesome whistle blow
No direction to be known
In a senile revelry
A tearful gaze turns away
Emoting cold and grey
Scented eunuchs
Clothe our wretchedness

Looking back at some dead world
That looks so new
Offices and fountains that they named for you
So ungrateful to the who's and what's-his-face
Terrorist confections
Look so out of place

Looking back at some dead world
That looks so new
Looking back at some dead world
That looks so new
Looking back at some dead world
That looks so new
Looking back at some dead world
That looks so new
Looking back at some dead world
That looks so new

[Top]

Runners Dial Zero

By the dried up stream
We slit our throats and dreamed
When the building's burned
Was there some concern
Mother laid in bed
What was it she said?

Gather all your worldly jewels
And scatter them like fools
Don't you make a fuss
Days so perilous
When day is done we'll ride
Who cares what we find

Another misspent night
We thought we got it right
The driver lost a wheel
The ice turned into steel
They shivered like refugees
Way down on our knees

By the dried up stream
We slit our throats and dreamed
When the building's burned
Was there some concerned
Mother laid in bed
What was it she said?

[Top]

Halo of Gold

Have you got a fine place to slip to when you're feeling down?
Have you had a week or two just to get your troubles down?
Found a lot of life and laughter with a grandfather in the bowery
She had a body of sixteen or seventeen
She had a mind of forty

I met her on a cold day
In a city far away

With the worlds about zero
And I saw at once into her soul
She's gonna call me her hero

Never like a walk in the rain or the lane
I found a lot of death that day
With the grandfather in the bowery
Cause I like her like the world

She had a halo of gold
Told me stories of her life and the courage was sublime
Pantomime
I walk the line
'Cause you're blind
I walk the line

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