Beck Hansen has long been a musical iconoclast, willing to radically change music styles, even as he’s remained widely popular. There was his weird guy breakthrough in the mid-nineties, his sad acoustic folk, his big funky dance party – even a song reader from him. If 2017’s Colors (QRO review) was a bit of a disappointment in its move to mainstream pop, it was still Beck. And now he teams up with none other than Pharrell Williams to let the synthesizers fly on Hyperspace.
Hyperspace is a somewhat apt title to the album, as it certainly feels space-y, even if there’s nothing hyper about it. Yet much of the synths feel anything but revelatory, such as the big-but-hollow “Chemical” or the low-key “Star”. After the first few songs, the smooth detachment of “Uneventful Days”, the great Beck backwoods dance party “Saw Lightning”, and the nicely meditative “Die Waiting” (with Sky Ferreira), the rest of Hyperspace plays like one long synthesizer studio session, never really grabbing the listener in any way. The similarity of the songs pushes them all together as well, not the first time Beck has faced this (he varies much more album-to-album than within a record), but synthesizers particularly all sounds the same.
Still, there’s the strong early third on Hyperspace, and the rest certainly doesn’t put one off. It’s just that one, particularly a longtime fan (such as a hipster-before-the-title-existed nineties fan), might feel underwhelmed.