Modern Guilt is the eighth official studio album and eleventh overall by American alternative artist Beck. The album lasts 33 minutes, making it the shortest album by Beck to date. Modern Guilt features two contributions by Cat Power and was produced by Beck and Danger Mouse.
Modern Guilt indulges Beck's love of Sixties psychedelic music, and the results are vividly rendered - all acid-trip guitars, mod dance-party beats, daisy-chain harmonies and thundering percussion. But beneath the DayGlo arrangements lie some deeply bummed-out songs about living in a time of war (Walls), environmental degradation (Gamma Ray) and widening generation gaps (Youthless). Danger Mouse brings a hip-hop DJ's love of funky old rock records; Beck brings the end-of-the-Sixties, pre-apocalyptic hangover.
Taken as a whole, the album's first five songs stand among Beck's strongest work. The most dazzling example is Chemtrails, which nods through a heroin haze of droning guitars while Beck imagines jets flying above a sea full of dead people. The song title comes from a conspiracy theory that holds that some jet trails are actually chemical sprays engineered by the government for secret purposes. But you don't have to know the reference to feel the dread. Staring at the corpses, Beck sings, So many people, where do they go? The morbid answer is implied: No matter where all the lonely people come from, they all end up in the same place.
That last song sums up Beck's biggest issue on the album: Don't know what I've done, but I feel ashamed. That's modern guilt for you: knowing the world's going to hell and feeling partly responsible, but not quite knowing what to do about it. Some days, we're worse than you can imagine/And how am I supposed to live with that? he sings on Walls. A few lines later, he finds his own reason to carry on: We do the best with the souls we're given. And not long after he sings these words, the song cuts out abruptly in the middle of the melody. Like Tony Soprano said, you never know when your time is gonna come.
--Melissa Maerz, www.rollingstone.com
2. Gamma Ray
4. Modern Guilt
6. Walls (feat. Cat Power)
8. Soul of a Man
9. Profanity Prayers