Beck = The New StrongSad

“Imaginary Secretary?”

“Yes, Mr. Chorpenning?”

“Get in here. And bring me a copy of Beck’s record contract, will ya?”

“Right away, Mr. Chorpenning.”

<Imaginary Secretary enters, hears Modern Guilt blasting from my computer speakers.>

“Is this a Joy Division cover band?”

“No, Imaginary Secretary. This is the new Beck record.”

“Beck? Isn’t he the guy who did ‘Sexx Laws’?”

“The same. Lemme see that contract.”

<I look over the contract>

“Hmm….”

“What is it, Mr. Chorpenning?”

“I was looking for some indication that Beck has to keep making albums. He’s not obligated to make an album a year for the next ten million years. And yet…”

“And yet?”

“Listen to this album, Imaginary Secretary. Tell me what you think, just as a first impression.”

“I like the beats -”

“That’s DJ Danger Mouse. Good stuff.”

“Right, but the vocals… it sounds like Beck doesn’t really want to be there.”

Exactly, Imaginary Secretary. This guy is sitting in a studio with a modern beat god, the guy who pulled The Black Keys out of their little rut. And he sounds like he’s at the fucking dentist. What gives?”

“You think he’s burned out?”

“Maybe. Maybe the Scientology isn’t helping – no big surprise there. But this is Beck and Danger Mouse – I should have a hard-on with goosebumps on it for this album.”

“And?”

“Nothin’. It’s like seeing Glenn Beck wrestle Rush Limbaugh naked in kiddie pool full of pudding. I was more thrilled by the new Del the Funky Homosapien album.”

“Sorry to hear that, Mr. Chorpenning.”

“Not your fault, Imaginary Secretary.”

“Is there anything that can be done, sir?”

“Usually, I would prescribe working with Danger Mouse for something like this. But it hasn’t helped Beck one bit. I’m not sure what else there is.”

“Perhaps having Rick Rubin produce mostly acoustic sessions of cover songs?”

“Perhaps, but Beck’s not nearly old enough for that to work.”

“This song is pretty good. What’s it called?”

“‘Profanity Prayers.’ It’s my favorite song on the album too. But one out of ten is not a good score for Beck.”

“This is better than The Information.

“What the hell is The Information?”

“The last Beck album, Mr. Chorpenning.”

“Oh… oh! The one after Guero and that shitty remix album?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Yeah, that sucked. Modern Guilt doesn’t suck. It’s… well, it’s kinda too sad to suck.”

“Maybe he’s too distracted by the state of the modern world to be able to make the bouncy, dancey music he used to make.”

“Maybe, Imaginary Secretary. But doesn’t he realize that when the world really shits the bed, we need good, positive art more than ever? Or at least loud, rebellious art. Modern Guilt is neither.”

“He must not realize that, sir.”

“Maybe he needs to listen to The Hold Steady.”

“Do you think it will help?”

“I don’t know, Imaginary Secretary. Maybe he’s a lost cause.”

“Didn’t he do a mildly depressing album earlier in his career?”

“He did two – Mutations and Sea Change. But they were beautiful depressing albums, and they had their moments of levity. But Modern Guilt sounds like Danger Mouse made a real effort on the music and Beck made no effort on the songs. It’s really fucking half-hearted.”

“Perhaps he just needs a break.”

“I think he does, Imaginary Secretary. Maybe go back and listen to Stereopathic Soul Manure, get his bearings again.”

“But if he takes a break, Mr. Chorpenning, isn’t there a possibility that he’ll retreat deeper into Scientology to help him?”

“I see where you’re going with this. His comeback album will be produced by Tom Cruise and have subliminal messages about Thetans and Xenu and all that horseshit… wait a minute!”

“What is it, Mr. Chorpenning?”

“What is Danger Mouse working on right now?”

“I don’t know, sir. I’m sure it’s awesome.”

“You don’t know, Imaginary Secretary? I don’t know either. And do you know why we don’t know?”

“No, sir. I’m afraid I’m at a loss on that.”

<I slap my forehead with a mixture of surprise and disgust>

“It’s so obvious! We don’t know what Danger Mouse is doing right now because the Scientologists have him! He’s a brilliant producer; obviously, he heard Beck’s vocal takes and suggested that maybe reading Dianetics and moping isn’t helping Beck out any, Tom Cruise and his merry band of goons take umbrage, and boom! Danger Mouse is being held hostage by the Scientologists, who have obviously programmed some sort of mopey poison into this Beck record.”

“Why would they do that, sir?”

Because, Imaginary Secretary! The Scientologists, like all fundamentalist douchebags, think that they have the only viable solution to all of life’s mysteries. In other words, they cannot accept that you and I could possibly be happy without following the drunken, drug-fueled ramblings of L. Ron Hubbard. They need us to be miserable so that they can trot in with their insane books of half-assed monkey-science and save the day! If we’re miserable without Scientology, it will convince them that they’re right!” <I clench my fist and shake it at the sky> “Scientologist bastards!”

“You know, Mr. Chorpenning, what you’re saying makes a certain amount of sense.”

“It does. This record is poison, Imaginary Secretary. We must cleanse our ears. Fetch either the new Hold Steady album, the Titus Andronicus record, anything by Pulp, or London Calling. No. Wait. Fetch all of those. And bring Mule Variations while you’re at it. We can’t be too careful on this one.”

“Right away, sir.”

<Imaginary Secretary begins her exit but is stopped by:>

“Oh, Imaginary Secretary?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Fetch also my baseball bat. I’m going to rescue DJ Danger Mouse from the Scientologists.”

“Very good sir.”

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