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Album Review
One Foot In The Grave (Delux Re-issue)

One Foot In The Grave (Delux Re-issue)
by Beck


Review Date
27th July 2009
Reviewed by
Courtney Sanders

There was a time, not so many years ago (although in this rapidly moving blog age I guess 6-odd studio albums is quite a long time) when Beck was a young, carefree blonde haired lass, hangin’ out with pals, pashing babes and writing about those tales, while of course these days, Gamma Ray has just been released, he’s married to a Ribisi, and apparently the world is both ecologically challenged and theologically troubled. But back in the day, Beck was simply straight-chilling, and creating the albums - namely the still lauded and career opened Stereopathic Soul Manure, followed closely by One Foot in the Grave - laying the foundation for those progressive gems that followed, starting at the critically acclaimed and launch-of-superstardom Odelay.

And so it becomes relevant to split Becks career into pre-Odelay and post Odelay nuances. Post Odelay albums saw the musical experimentation and progression begin – even if it was still totally happy times for this Gen X-er – like say on Midnight Vultures, and where the concept albums started – try Sea Change, and his generally dedicated pessimism towards the state of the world, its people and its future – The Information, Modern Guilt. The change in Beck from the fiery tassel clad dance machine maniac in the ‘Sexx Laws’ clip and during stage performances, to the dour amish hat man who apparently needs to employ puppets to pick up the on-stage slack has been highlighted no better than in his current release; sure all the pop hits slash subtleties are there, but there’s this overwhelming mood of defeat that just makes you think, ‘man, he’s not that happy anymore’.

Anyway, One Foot in the Grave is definitely a pre-Odelay ditty. Not simply because chronologically it precedes that album, but because in lyrical theme, instrumental depth and breadth of sound it’s as naively beautiful and poetic as Beck was back then. It’s an appropriate tome of where Beck was at the time, and as a result the powers that be (record labels fighting to reclaim profit losses on current releases by re-releasing classics for the fans?) have released a deluxe re-issue of the album. Unlike many deluxe re-issues, there’s no fancy box or accompanying artwork present (which was kind of surprising for Beck and a tad disappointing to be honest) but perhaps that had something to do with the fact that the record itself has been out of print and almost completely unavailable since 2004 so they just wanted to re-release a slightly more intense version – hell, it’s meant UTR is re-reviewing it right? Anyway, I’m not complaining, there’s like 15 extra tracks which leaves the run list (all on ONE disc!) at something like, no hold on, let me tell you the exact amount…32 tracks.

Anyway, what the extra 15 tracks do is pretty much what the first 15 tracks do, double time. Dour teen-angst laden tracks that hint at metaphors belying the age of the dude at the time, musically perpetuated by acoustic guitars, DIY and bluesy drumming and best-friend-bad (but charming) back-up singing. Tracks like ‘A Mighty Good Leader’ (opener) and ‘Hollow Log’ set up Becks influences and idolized artists as Southern whisky swillers, whereas the more DIY noise-core laden tracks - ‘Outcome’ (sooo Lou Reed), ‘Burnt Orange Peel’, ‘Teenage Wastebasket’ - hark at ‘60’s American revolutionaries that were hangin’ with Warhol and known for being as progressive at the time as Beck is today.

There’s also a couple of semi-famous and revered unreleased tracks on there including a personal favourite, “It’s all in your mind”, which underpins, only a couple of albums into his career, Beck’s ability to hit human nature and its’ insecurities on the head and hammer them into the ground until you feel the track maybe put your own to bed along the way (how are these for lyrics on the title track: “Life’s a commercial for being fucked up / It all boils down to a casually pathetic future”). And with One Foot in the Grave deluxe re-issue you can totally put this part of Beck’s career to bed too; all on one disk, in one neatly packaged cardboard cover, hassle and baggage free. Somewhat unlike what his life’s become, right?

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