Why Rolling Stone gets it right: After Beck's initial success as a one-hit wonder, he headed back into the studio to make a bizarrely post-modern work. Shaking off the slacker label, Mr. Hansen fused aspects of dancehouse, disco, hip hop, indie rock and the like on tracks like "Devil's Haircut," "Where It's At" and "Minus."
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: The album sounds more dated than I remember it being, probably because it was a favorite of mine when it came out in 1996. Still, it's a remarkable record and I'd forgotten how much I enjoy it.
Best song: "Devil's Haircut" is probably the record's highlight, though "The New Pollution" is great.
Worst song: "Readymade" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: Yes, it is awesome.
"Odelay" came out just after my sister graduated from high school and my greatest memory of it remains listening while we drove her out to college. I imagine a lot of people have the experience of driving more than a day out to some college for someone's first year, but Boston is a long fucking way from Chicago. I remember having one of those clunky Discman-style CD players that skipped all the time and only two CDs with me at the time: "Odelay" and Nirvana's "In Utero."
I listened to "Odelay" easily 10 times on that trip, almost never skipping a song. I don't know why, but that record just fit in my head at the time. I was in the process of delving deeper into classic rock, hating hip hop and country (ironic considering Beck's influences) and discovering independent stuff. "Odelay" fused and opened my mind, on some level, and for that, I'm hugely in debt to the album.
The Dust Brothers have a certain sound, that's for sure, and "Odelay" is covered in Dust Brothers, uh, dust. The quick-step drums on "Devil's Haircut" and "The New Pollution" pretty much sum up the Dusts.
Nevertheless, "Odelay" is delightfully 1996. From what I remember, the culture at the time was dominated by post-modernism and Beck is about as post-modern as they come. Taking cures from hip hop (a post-modern art form in and of itself) and country, Beck's ability to spit out the art that is lodged in all of our brains is remarkable. It gave white kids reason to dance, if nothing.
You want an endorsement? How about from Bob Dylan? This is from his XM show:
'We're talkin' about the Devil here on Theme Time Radio Hour. And the Devil always looks sharp. One of the reasons he looks sharp is that he had a good haircut. Here's Beck to tell you all about it. This is from his hit album Odelay, produced by the Dust Brothers. Beck says "This song is a really simplistic metaphor for the evil of vanity." I just thought you could dance to it.'