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Recorded at Ocean Way Studios, Hollywood, California from March 19 to April 3, 1998.
MUTATIONS won the 2000 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Performance.
With ODELAY, Beck's second helping of sampladelic, hip-hop inflected alt-pop, Beck took his white-kid-with-a-sampler schtick as far as it could go (which in his capable hands, was farther than anyone else could have taken it). An artist of commendable taste and natural instinct, he followed it up by going the only route possible--straight-ahead singer/songwriter pop/rock. That's not to say this genre-hopper doesn't take a few interesting left turns, as on the Brazilian-flavored "Tropicalia," but gone are the hip-hop beats, sampled backdrops and semi-raps of the past. In their place are solid, inventive, pop/rock arrangements played by Beck's regular touring band.
And the irrepressible Mr. Hansen inserts more melody into the songs here than anyone would have thought likely; he's just plain singing more. Though there's no lack of humor inherent in MUTATIONS, Beck's dropped the off-handed jokiness of his previous work as well, coming as close to earnestness as a postmodernist like him can. The amazing thing (and the testament to his enduring artistic worth) is that he pulls it off so well. In its own way, MUTATIONS is every bit as rewarding as MELLOW GOLD or ODELAY.
What the critics say...
Spin (12/98, pp.170-172) - 8 (out of 10) - "...it's a warm, slow, understated downer of a record, all about death and depression, and therefore totally in line with Beck's fascination and comfort with folk blues..."
Entertainment Weekly (10/30/98, pp.111-112) - "...MUTATIONS is a colleciton of tumblin'-tumbleweeds, mellow-Acapulco-gold melodies on which Beck's drowsy voice and strummed guitar are framed by the lazy whine of a pedal steel, the wheeze of a harmonica, the occasional trumpet, and the bleeps and burps of old-school synthesizers..." - Rating: B
Q (12/99, p.115) - 4 Stars (out of 5) - "...a loose, thrown-together selection of oddities and missahpes which he dreamed up and scribbled down while out on the road. He calls the album 'parenthetical.' Most artists would kill to be able to casually marginalise material as marvellous as this..."
Muzik (12/98, p.72) - 5 stars out of 5 - "...[Beck] settles down to some good ol' bluegrass strummin'. And it might just be his best album yet....Retro or not, it sound sperfect at 4 in the morning..."
CMJ (1/11/99, p.4) - "...the intimate, colorful, occaisionally creepy themes of this stop-gap effort and the sheer diversity of its songs make it a beautifully complex album, as instantly rewarding as any in his catalog..."
Vibe (1/99, p.182) - "...the songs are still quite fully fleshed out and sweet....MUTATIONS is an exploration of more classic 60's Brit-pop structures and arrangements..."
Dirty Linen (4-5/99, p.74) - "...Beck's complicated work reminds listeners of their own complications and contradictions..."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.63) - Ranked #32 in Mojo's "100 Modern Classics" -- "[A]n eerie update of roots from back porch to Brazilian, pushed through a dark, Beatlesy filter..."
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