Another Great Opening Track

Devil’s Haircut – Beck from Odelay

Continuing on the same theme as one of my last posts, here is another strong album opener.  Following the mega-success of the opening track to Mellow Gold, there was great anticipation about the follow-up.  Mellow Gold had been a shambling, glorious mess of an album, with all kinds of different musical ideas.  Even though that album was released by Geffen Records, the production seemed to be a throwback to his earlier independent releases.

The first thing you notice about Devil’s Haircut is the crisp sound that greets you.  It really pops.  The famous Dust Brothers produced this album, and they seemed to be a great fit for this artist and this album.  The song, like some of their work for the Beastie Boys, has all kinds of things going on in it.  It starts off with a peppy drums and a loud guitar riff, then the guitar drops out while Beck begins his lyrics.  Keeping in line with Mellow Gold, his lyrics border on the nonsensical, but like with the previous album, somehow it works.  A synth burst bubbles in the background, some echo effects come in right before the chorus of “Got a devil’s haircut/In my mind.”  Some fuzzed out guitar, then back to Beck, the drums and the synths.  The mid-song breakdown has a different guitar sound entirely (I think it’s a guitar) that almost sounds like a sitar or possibly it’s another synth.  Some keyboards, and a sampled yell (goddamned?!) and then a quick breakdown with some feedback and echo-y drums.  Chorus cuts again, then I think there’s a harmonica.  The guitars then amp up, and the last 20 seconds is Beck shouting the chorus like the lead singer of a thrash metal band as the song ends in a squelch of guitar feedback completely opposite from the polished, crisp beginning.

As an opening cut on what would prove to be a classic album, this signaled that Beck was more than up to the task of following up the success of Loser.  While in some sense this song is a continuation of the ramshackle style of Mellow Gold, it just felt different and made you want to dig further into the album.  I first really got into this album as I was driving home from Kentucky by myself, and once I’d gotten through the album once, I had to keep listening to it again, especially to hear this track.  That’s the mark of a good album opener.  Not only does it get you psyched for the rest of the record, but you want to come back to the beginning again and again.

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