Mouthwash Jukebox Gasoline

You gotta hand it to Beck, to my mind in 1996-7 he was the coolest man alive, by some distance.  I remember seeing him play at the V97 Festival in Leeds, on between Foo Fighters and The Prodigy he was dressed in a little white racing driver suit and with a crack band backing him was absolutely mesmerizing – his DJ also put on the best display of live scratching I’ve ever seen, banging out a version of ‘Smoke On The Water’ made entirely by scratching.  Like all the Beasties kids Odelay just hit the spot for me in 1996, it was (and remains) just so damn cool.

Beck Devil's Haircut 04

Sheep that I am, I hoovered up all the singles the man cared to release, but if one could be said to embody all the fun and creativity that he was brimming with at the time it would have to be Devil’s Haircut.  I picked up a US import copy in July ’97 – why, of why do they call them ‘Maxi Singles’ over there? it’s a 12″, deal with it!

Beck Devil's Haircut 05

Cue it up and we get the LP version, all groovy beats and brilliantly worked samples.  At his best Beck manages to make his music sound like it was warping into Earth from three decades simultaneously, ‘Devil’s Haircut’ sounds like all the grooviest bits of the 60’s, seasoned with some tricks and flicks that could only have come from the post-Ill Communication 90’s.  Best of all, for my money are Beck’s lyrics.  I still can’t work out how the man manages to pretty much nail so many random words together and make it sound amusing and coherent, occasionally even profound; like a glow-in-the-dark plastic reproduction Bob Dylan circa. Highway 61.  Witness:

Heads are hanging from the garbage man trees
Mouthwash jukebox gasoline
Crystals are pointing
At a poor man’s pockets
Smiling eyes ripping out of his sockets

It gets me every time.  I remember early on when I first got the internet, there was a website where the goal was to make up a Beck lyric – you’d give it some phrases and it would spit out random lyrical gibberish at you.  For some unearthly reason the example I remember was, ‘shitting in a shoe box on a chocolate bar’ I can so hear Beck singing that!

Beck Devil's Haircut 06

Anyway, back to my maxi-single.  Next up is ‘Dark And Lovely’ a remix of the title track by the Dust Brothers.  They mute the song down a little, mess with the beats and add some classical touches here and there which sound like transmissions beamed in from some forlorn satellite.  It’s fine, not as good as the original but the best is yet to come.  The ‘American Wasteland’ mix by Mickey P is just brilliant, it is basically a hardcore punk blast through ‘Devil’s Haircut’, complete with hostile-sounding audience – I genuinely have no idea who Mickey P is and wonder whether Sean Ross who plays bass, is Shaun Ross who played with Excel and Infectious Grooves.

Beck Devil's Haircut 01

Flip Devil’s Haircut over and we get the ‘Lloyd Price Express’ which confusingly is a remix of my second favourite Beck track, ‘Where It’s At’.  It is absolutely brilliant too, a laid back mix by John King (1/2 the Dust Brothers) mixing, you guessed it, Lloyd Price Express into the mix to wonderful, gliding, chilled effect.  This is my most-listened to Beck track on my iTunes, by far.  Next track ‘Clock’ is an impenetrably dense pile of matter and wonky beats that, I am afraid, could have been better titled ‘Crock’.

Beck Devil's Haircut 02

But forget the last one, this was a really good 12″ and I’m pleased I got it.  This was the crest of the wave for Beck and I, so let’s ride it again and again:

Love machines on the sympathy crutches
Discount orgies on the dropout buses
Hitching a ride with the bleeding noses
Coming to town with the brief case blues

Beck Devil's Haircut 03

561 Down.


31 thoughts on “Mouthwash Jukebox Gasoline

  1. “Maxi Single” sounds like a feminine product. It’s a terrible name for 12″ single, which sounds much more manly.

    I’m extremely jealous. A “Devil’s Haircut” 12″ single??? Wow. ‘Odelay’ is a classic…but I’m backing Mr. J on this one: Midnight Vultures is a misunderstood work of genius. It’s so batshit goofy it’s as if it ascended to a new, unheard of level of coolness.

  2. I think I saw him in ’98 or so, was equally impressed by the man with the microphone, the band, and the DJ operating those 2 turnatables!
    It holds up wonderfully a couple decades later, thanks for posting.

  3. Yup, mid-90s Beck was so huge. I got in a little earlier, when Mellowgold hit I was first year university in residence and, yeah it was everywhere.

    At the risk of sounding like a hipper-than-thou ass (I’m really not trying to), my favourite was always One Foot in The Grave (and most of Stereopathetic Soul Manure). There was just something about that One Foot record that slayed me every time.

    But Odelay absolutely exploded and I rode that wave pretty hard. I had a lot of the singles too. Hardcore punk version, you say? Hm that sounds like something Aaron would love…

    I like the look of that Deluxe Odelay too. Dammit man, you’re spending my money!

    1. God you’re a hipper-than-thou ass!

      My brother taped the earlier ones for me, but there was only bits of them I liked. Ah well I will revisit Mutations at some point soon. I loved Salt In The Wound, if that helps.

      1. Haha I’m so hipper-than-thou, I listened to these on phonautograph.

        No, wait, I was so much hipper, I heard them in his head before he did!

        If it’s any help, I loved Mellowgold and Odelay too. There’s just something about his roots acoustic stuff that appealed. His voice worked well with it.

  4. Odelay is without doubt my favorite, and Devil’s Haircut my favorite from that, so…thanks. I rate The Information a heck of a lot higher than most, ditto Guero, and have never been able to get into his critical favorite (you know which one that is), bar a few songs. And Midnight Vultures is better than most Prince from the ’90’s and beyond, too!

  5. Yup. To all of it. I had all these singles (on CD) and managed to get all the awesome B-sides again when I nabbed the deluxe edition a few years back. I had picked up Mellow Gold (on the strength of Loser), but found myself completely entranced by Odelay. An absolutely incredible piece of work. Still. And yes, Beck was very much a “glow-in-the-dark plastic reproduction Bob Dylan circa. Highway 61” on that record in particular. Great stuff!

      1. I think Odelay will always be ‘that album’. I think maybe the flow is what loses folk – the eclectic bonkersness to lush ‘standard’ song cycles. I dig most of it, even when he seems a little to earnest. But it’s worth getting to know the post-Odelay stuff a bit more – Mutations is wonderful stuff, Midnite Vultures took me a while, but I now accept it’s geniusness. The Information is the only album I really can’t go. Never been able to handle that one. Just plain dull. Guero and Modern Guilt are also favourites.

        But aye, nothing tops Odelay though.

        … is that what we were talking about, aye? 😉

      2. I couldn’t really get on with Mutations and really didn’t like Midnite Vultures – although I never cease to be amused when they use instrumental bits of ‘Sexx Laws’ on TV.

        I gave up after that, especially when he went all mature … yuk!

      3. Man, you need to revisit Midnite Vultures. That one is a misunderstood work of art. One of my all time favourites. I dare say the timing of that one really threw folks … the promise of a true follow-up to Odelay.

      4. Nice one!

        Obviously I’m gonna say “November 2013? Man that’s a hundred years ago! – revisit it”

      1. Only after looking at that did I think “Lordy! It’s a vinyl only track!”. I may not ever have heard it, cause I no longer have the CD single to check. I likely didn’t. That means my comments here are void. Ignore me.

      1. Last night my wife got mad at me while we were driving because I killed the headlights and put it in neutral. She told that even though we’ve got a couple of couches, I can sleep on the loveseat.

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