Beck — ‘90s indie-rock hero and one of the few musicians in history to make J.C. Penney sound fun-kay — is going in a very unconventional direction with his next album. And by very unconventional, I mean that his next album will contain absolutely no music at all, as Stereogum has noted..
Wait, so Beck can no longer afford even two turntables and a microphone?
No, that’s not the issue. It appears that Beck and the good people at McSweeney’s, who apparently are releasing the 20-track collection called “Song Reader,” have decided to issue each piece as sheet music.
That’s right, Beck has written 20 new songs. And if you want to listen to them at a party or while you exercise, you will have to get out a bunch of paper and read them. This is your punishment for all those free downloads. Music should not be so accessible and easy. It should be hard to get, and Beck’s here to remind you of that, okay?
Before I go off on one of my patented rants about how I used to hold up a lousy Panasonic cassette tape recorder to the speaker of an even lousier radio in order to record songs for my listening pleasure, let’s allow the McSweeney’s Web site to explain the logic behind Beck’s endeavor.
“Complete with full-color, heyday-of-home-play-inspired art for each song and a lavishly produced hardcover carrying case (and, when necessary, ukelele notation), ‘Song Reader’ is an experiment in what an album can be at the end of 2012—an alternative that enlists the listener in the tone of every track, and that’s as visually absorbing as a dozen gatefold LPs put together,” the album announcement explains. “The songs here are as unfailingly exciting as you’d expect from their author, but if you want to hear ‘Do We? We Do,’ or ‘Don’t Act Like Your Heart Isn’t Hard,’ bringing them to life depends on you.”
In other words, artists are now crowdsourcing their recording sessions. You want to listen to this CD or series of MP3s? Fine. Play it your dang self.
In all seriousness, as a Beck fan, I can’t decide how to feel about this. Is it a cool and daring approach that will make us think about music with fresh perspective? A creative way to guarantee that few people will ever hear the tracks Beck wrote? Or — given such phrases as “and, when necessary, ukelele notation” — is this officially the tweeest indie rock move of all time?