In the Internet age, four years goes by in the blink of an eye.
Take Beck, for example, who plays in Bend on Sunday (see “If you go”). From 1994 to 2008, the visionary singer, songwriter and producer pumped out 10 critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums in 14 years, earning the Los Angeles-based artist gold and platinum records, Grammy awards, and a place as one of the most important figures in modern music.
Those albums may have faded from your memory, but taken as a whole, they are a stunning reflection of Beck's fertile musical imagination. Let's recap, shall we?
There's his iconic, genre-busting breakthrough (“Mellow Gold”), a lo-fi country-blues record (“One Foot in the Grave”), an exuberant disco-funk effort (“Midnite Vultures”), a Tropicalia-flavored collection (“Mutations”), and one of the saddest break-up albums ever (“Sea Change”).
And that's only half the output. Scattered around those, Beck did what Beck does best — take disparate sounds and mash them together until something sleek and cool appears, often one step ahead of everything else. The man is a futuristic fusionist blessed with rhythm, an affinity for strange sonic soups, and an ear for the bleeding edge.
Toss in his cool stoned-hippie, slightly bewildered vibe and you've got someone well-suited to lead music lovers from the high-walled genres of the late 20th century to the stylistic mishmash we have today.
Here's the problem: Many have forgotten — if they ever knew at all, depending on their age — how great Beck was (or is). This summer, it will have been four years since he released his most recent album, “Modern Guilt,” and in four years, even the baby-faced king of the slacker generation can start to feel like old news.
Here are some of the things that he's been up to, according to www .beck.com: covered old songs and contributed them to a charity compilation, a tribute album, an art exhibit, and a film; produced records by Charlotte Gainsbourg, Thurston Moore and Stephen Malkmus; collaborated with Oliver Peoples on Beck-inspired sunglasses; been the subject of a photography book; recorded a bunch of Yanni songs; guest designed a literary magazine; and remixed Feist, Jamie Lidell and Lykke Li.
In August of 2010, Beck told the music website Pitchfork he had recorded an album in the fall of 2008 and had been working on it off and on since.
“I actually wanted to have something out last summer, that was my original plan,” he said in the interview. “And then this summer. But I keep having other things come up.”
Remember that list a few paragraphs back? All fine stuff, and Beck can certainly focus his time and efforts wherever he likes. But those are not new Beck albums.
Elsewhere in the same chat, he zeroes in on the problem without really realizing it — and, to be honest, probably without caring very much.
“I've worked on it a little bit here or there, but it's the kind of thing where I turn around and two years have gone by,” he said, “and it starts to get less relevant to what's happening at large.”