Remember when we got excited by the prospect of a new Beck album? Back when he’d follow something as thoughtful as 1998’s Mutations with the crotch-grabbing exuberance of 1999’s Midnight Vultures? It’s easy to pinpoint when that anticipation was squandered (post-Guero, 2005), but it’s tougher to say why. After all, he’s still doing that thing he does—following folky records with funky ones. That’s what Colors is to Morning Phase—yet this time, it feels like he’s doing it because he thinks it’s what we expect him to do.
Perhaps as a result, Colors plays out as the most perfunctory, least personal disco to which Beck has ever put his name. These songs could belong to any number of current artists, from M83 to Passion Pit. It’s easy to bob your head to “Dreams,” “Wow” and the title track because that’s what they were engineered for; they have no other layers hidden beneath the giddy, heavily produced beats on their surface. They’re easy to like, but not weird enough to love—not good enough for the man who made such solid-gold get-downs as 1999’s “Sexx Laws” and “Get Real Paid.”