Geffen – 2005 – 59 minutes

Beck Hansen's last album, 'Sea Change', was a searingly personal collection, featuring spare, haunting songs that had been stripped right back to the bone. After this unexpected move that delighted some fans, but perplexed many others, Beck has edged back to safer territory on 'Guero'.

The introspection and grief are gone (for the most part). Those sparse arrangements are binned as well. Instead Beck has re-enlisted his old sparring partners, production duo The Dust Brothers to take a trip back to the golden years of 'Odelay'.

The album starts with 'E-Pro', a pounding drum loop pilfered from an old Beastie Boys album, supporting a full-on guitar assault; this is 'Devil's Haircut' territory, complete with rambling Beck rap.

'Guero' might lack the typical "shock of the new" that's made every Beck release so unique and essential, but this is still a fine collection of eclectica that's been filtered through the unique brain of one of music's finest talents.

'Girl' goes Casio keyboard mad at first, but just when you think this is going to be Beck's modish electro moment, the slide guitars come out and the result is perfect West Coast pop. 'Missing' rocks a nice bossa nova beat but is ultimately way too inconsequential. The whole album just seems a notch below what Beck is capable of.

'Go It Alone' might be the album's most telling track, slight, downbeat and barely there. But there is something about the song's sentiment that's deeply affecting, provoking the question – is Beck pining for the "one man and his guitar days"? Who knows?

'Guero' might be far from Beck's best, but that's still light-years better than your average singer-songwriter. Drippy bards of Dublin, take note.

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: E-Pro – Que' Onda Guero – Girl – Missing – Black Tambourine – Earthquake Weather – Hell Yes – Broken Drum – Scarecrow – Go It Alone – Farewell Ride – Rental Car – Emergency Exit – Send A Message To Her – Chain Reaction