We were released early from work yesterday, due to an ice storm currently rolling across East Tennessee. The roads were just starting to freeze when they left us out, an improvement over the last time this happened, when they let us out well into what the weathermen here charmingly refer to as "wintry mix", as if it's a bag of special snack food that you can only get around the holidays. For the most part, my ride home was fine, if a little slow, except for one turn from Volunteer onto Joe Johnson. I took it a tiny bit too fast, and as I completed the turn my back end slid for just a second on some slush, and I thought:
Shit. I'm going to fly off the bridge and die a fiery death in the Publix parking lot, and the last thing I'm going to hear is this crappy Beck CD.
Did you know that Beck has a new album out? I didn't, but he does. Morning Phase is his first new album in six or seven years, and I had no idea that Beck was still around and releasing albums until it won Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards last weekend. I posted this to Facebook the night of the awards and my friends immediately commenced shaming me, their responses ranging from random expressions of disgust ("Ugh, Joel.") to indictments of the general state of our culture and the fact that I know everything about every single Real Housewife but nothing about Beck's current status as an artist.
That's a lie, by the way.
I don't know anything about the Housewives of Miami.
Mostly because it's the only one of the franchises that I don't watch.
I have standards, you know.
What I did not have, on the other hand, was a copy of Beck's new album, so Monday, when I left work early due to my terrible cold, I realized on the way home that I needed more diet ginger ale and diet orange juice and decided that I would go to Target, since they also have a music department. I assumed I could kill two birds with one stone, and when I had my basket loaded with juice and soda I headed over to the music area, where I found a display of Grammy winners.
I checked the B section of the "Pop/Rock" area, because it won "Best Rock Album", but they had nothing from Beck there. Mildly annoyed, I flagged down the nearest employee, who explained that the CD was not actually out yet, but that I could buy it on iTunes. Some of my friends also suggested this, but I like to buy the CD and listen to it in the car for a few days so that I know if I like the songs or not. That's how I came to understand, after a week of listening to nothing else but 1989 in my car, that Taylor Swift is not a slightly unbalanced man-stalking nutbag, but is instead my spirit animal. We've both dated a bunch of jerks, and then picked ourselves up and moved on.
Back to Beck, though, I made a second attempt at purchasing the new CD on Tuesday after work, when I was going to Barnes and Noble to pick up this Superman hardcover. They don't carry a lot of music at Barnes and Noble (it isn't Borders), but there is a little rack up near the registers and bargain books, so I figured since I was already there I might as well look. Nope, no Beck CD although, just like Target, the rack had a large sign advertising the Grammy Awards. I didn't actually watch the Grammies, but I heard from credible sources that the album won Album of the Year. What the hell?
Now determined to track down and purchase this thing, I went from Barnes and Noble straight to the mall, even though it was Tuesday night and it was almost time for my stories. I went straight to FYE, which claims to be For Your Entertainment, and where they have a large selection of CDs. As predicted, they had a huge Grammy display at the front of the store, and I immediately scanned it, looking for the Album of the Year.
Which wasn't there.
"Can I help you find something, sir?"
I live in the south, so I get "sir"-ed a lot. I turned to Nick, an FYE employee who appeared to have been born right around the last time I purchased any of Beck's music, and said, "Yes, please. I'm looking for the new Beck CD. It won a Grammy?"
Nick frowned thoughtfully and stared at the Grammy display rack.
"I don't see it," he said, still frowning. "Are you sure it won a Grammy? Because they sent us a list to tell us what to put on the shelf."
"It won Album of the Year," I said. Clearly, Nick doesn't watch awards shows, either.
"Let me go look it up for you, sir."
Eventually Nick located the CD, over in the B section of "Rock/Pop".
"Maybe you should put some on the Grammy shelf over there?" I suggested.
"Oh, no, we only put stuff on those from the list they send us."
I thought about pointing out that the list was obviously incomplete, but I didn't have it in me to lecture an 18 year old on fighting his corporate overlords and showing a spark of independent thought. He probably just wanted to get through the rest of his minimum wage shift without having to help clueless old guys locate CD's by obscure artists he's never heard of when they should have just bought it from iTunes and not come to the mall in the first place. Mildly disgruntled but ultimately satisfied at completing my To Do list in time to get home and watch my stories, I hiked back to the car, drove home, and spent the next six days listening to Beck's "Morning Phase".
And I don't like it.
There's nothing in particular that I don't like about it, but after repeated listening there's also nothing in particular that I like about it. None of the songs stand out or catch my thoughts, and in fact they all kind of sound the same and blur together into one song that takes up the whole album. Every time I start to think, "Jesus, how long is this song?" I look at the CD player and realize that it's three songs later than the last time I looked. I just didn't notice the songs changing because they all sound exactly the same and, worse, it's not a particularly entertaining sound.
But it won a Grammy, so there must be something there that I'm missing.