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Songed Birds: Midnite Vultures

July 1, 2008

In the hot hot summer, when the birds are either off in far-flung boreal forests or quietly going bout the business of raising the next generation of year ticks, it’s hard to have the motivation to spend yet another hot morning seeing the same 25 species over and over again. It’s the Big Year’s lament to be sure, nearly everything around has been spotted already and it’s another month before I can begin to expect those making that early return trip. But what can one do in the meantime?

Well, not everything has to revolve around birding (I know, right?). The dog days of summer are nearly always best spent in front of a grill. Cold beer in one hand, tongs in the other and heaping plate of meat nearby (or, with my wife, a heaping pile of fake meat. It just doesn’t heap the same, though). And in the back ground, a soundtrack of summer, with the funky groove of Beck’s Midnite Vultures, the second album in my “Songed Birds” series.

Midnite Vultures is Beck’s homage to the 70s, an album of funky beats lifted from disco, hip-hop, funk, and soul all jammed together under Beck’s deliberately cheesy off-base lyrics. Beck has always been known for taking liberties with his music, and whether it’s just him and an acoustic guitar as on previous albums, or the multi-phonic soundscape of this one, you’re always certain to get something different, but in the scope of Beck’s discography, somewhat predictable. The unabashed geekiness you expect in a Beck album is on full display here; the lyrical non sequiters, the strange turns of phrase, the off the wall references. You know what to expect going in, and you either like it or you don’t. I tend to give him a pass on that stuff cause I’m a fan, but I could see how others would see it as inane.

No, the difference between this album and every other Beck album is the beat. And it’s fun. Beck really appears to enjoy the funk for funk’s sake rather then using it ironically, and if you can’t nod your head or shake your booty to “Sexx Laws” or”Mixed Bizness”, then I’m sorry, your funkcreas must totally be filled with the bile, and you should totally get that checked out.

Perhaps the best review I read of this album was that it’s “the album Prince would have made if he was more interested in being a geek rather than stroking his ego”. That’s pretty dead on. It’s a ridiculous, goofy, fun album, even if the only thing birdy about it is in the title. That’s good enough for me though.

Go get your groove on.

  1. noflickster permalink
    July 1, 2008 1:36 pm

    Though I enjoy birding vicariously through others, it’s great to read your take on activities outside the birding world. Case in point, your earlier review of the Decemberists prompted me to tag their album, simply ’cause I liked your write up. I suppose I’m a marketer’s dream, except the pesky fact that I hardly buy anything.

    The talk around the grill must be pretty lively, both in breadth and depth, in your backyard.

    Off to iTunes to find some funk, Beck-style.

  2. July 1, 2008 3:04 pm

    I hope you enjoy it. I actually prefer Mutations as an album, but you know, no birds in the title…

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