Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 260
Mon. Nov 25, 2013

“The Golden Age”


“♫ Let
The Golden
Age begin

The other day this nugget from Beck’s 2002 Sea Change album appeared magically from the random setting on my mps stereo device; and I never realized it before but the intro from “The Golden Age” definitely sounds like a musical homage to The Rolling Stones “Wild Horses.” Not everything about “Age” is Stones like, just the opening, which slyly gets you into the right mood, with his transcendent hints of three chord melancholia announcing the very acoustic journey that Beck is about to take you on. If you’re feeling lost, Sea Change is the kind of personally poignant classic album that you will reach for when you want someone who understands pain or if you’re like me in an self-reflective mode; I guarantee with Beck’s “The Golden Age,” he is someone who truly understands and his Sea Change songs will definitely give you perspective while making you feel less alone in this universe and your soundtrack of memories.

If you’re wondering who are what bands influenced the sound of Sea Change, Beck was listening to more than the Rolling Stones as Hansen told Blender Magazine in 2002, “It’s almost like those early James Taylor singer-songwriter records. I don’t like them. I just like the sound.” Many have called 2002’s Sea Change, Beck’s Blood on the Tracks: Dylan’s 1975 divorce album. Instead of being ripped from the headlines, Beck had a better definition of Sea Change when he told The Guardian UK in 2002, “I don’t think I would bother to make a record like this if it wasn’t, you know, ripped from the soul or whatever.” It’s just because Hansen was getting more personal, stripping down all the excess beats that colored his backbeat-eccentric Odelay persona, Beck tried the explain the sound of Sea Change when he said, “This record is definitely more what you hear if you just heard me playing in a room. There’s no voice effects or weird production, it’s pretty straight.”
Sea Change was definitely one of Beck’s more dynamic musical shifts away from his hip-hop meets rock infused radio hits. But according to Beck, the songs from Sea Change were some that he had in his lyrical arsenal for ages as he told Blender, “I sat on these songs for a couple of years, because I didn’t really want to talk about my personal life. I’m more interested in focusing on music and not really strewing my baggage across the public lobby. But I ultimately felt like the songs speak to an experience that’s common, and that most people find themselves in. It didn’t seem to be self-indulgent at the end of the day.”

Sea Change as a whole and specifically “The Golden Age” is anything but self indulgent. It’s an emotional journey reflecting the sadness of the disillusion of Beck’s engagement with Leigh Limon. I give Beck credit for keeping quiet about his private life as he told The Guardian, “I don’t talk too much about my personal life. But you’ll get a thousand times more of me from my music than anything I could say in an interview. When you start opening yourself up in that way, it cheapens your life.” But Beck was quick to defend that the fact that Sea Change wasn’t a truer reflection of his real life personal than say Mellow Gold when he explained, “But it’s a cliché to think that the quiet, melancholy side of somebody is more the real them. It’s just another side of them. It’s an interesting question: are we more ourselves when we’re happy or are we more ourselves when we’re sad? We all have a bit of both. People are fluid. We ride up and down these emotions all the time. That’s the human experience.”

I can’t stop spinning “The Golden Age,” not because I’m sad or depressed because, I realized, you don’t have to listen to Sea Change only when you’re down in the dumps. My life is evolving and in less than ten days I’m about to embark on my first semester of graduate school. This new “Age” is inspiring me to look back at this journey that has lead me to this life changing event. The memories I have encountered some are fantastically hilarious and others are not so joyous but I can say Beck’s “Golden Age” sound has definitely helped me keep my ever changing life in perspective.

Did you know that Beck is preparing the long awaited sequel to Sea Change, with 2014’s Morning Phase? But Hansen hasn’t forgotten the gems from this 2002 album. When asked by Sylvie Simmons in 2005 how Beck feels to sing the songs like “The Golden Age,” Hansen replied, “Well, they are conduits in a way to some other place, you know? The songs are specific but when you’re singing them, maybe you’re connecting with the sadness in the universe and not something specific that you have gone through. Sometimes it’s just this way lonesome song and everybody can relate to it, it’s universal, because everyone has those moments, you know, where a button is pushed and suddenly you’re back to zero.”

So why exactly did Beck go away towards his trademark formula of success he discovered on Mellow Gold and Odelay on 2002’s Sea Change? Hansen explained his reasons to The New York Times in 2005, “My tendency when there’s beats is to do something that’s humorous and off the cuff and throwaway. I really wanted to bring that kind of vulnerability and emotional quality into [Sea Change].” Beck already told The Guardian about keeping his private life away from the press but is the real Hansen as emotional as his songs from Sea Change? I believe the best description about Sea Change and the magical melancholia of songs like “The Golden Age” can best be summed up when Beck told Jane Magazine this in 2000, “I don’t need to cry so much. I think whatever you let loose with crying, I let loose with singing. I tend to be the one who wants…I’m trying to say this without sounding too touchy-feely. I’m usually the one who’s better at comforting the person who’s crying, you know?

So if you need a song to connect with your tears, reach for Beck’s Sea Change. Beck has been there, he’s been more than the immortal “Loser” spokesman of the generation we believed him to be. Sea Change reflected a new more stripped down side of Beck Hansen where he let down his mask and let us inside his lyrical world ripped from his soul. Beck opened himself up to make us feel less alone in the universe. So if you’re like me and in an introspective mood or just want to let all your emotions out on one of Beck’s most evocative albums, reach for Sea Change and you’ll definitely shine within Beck’s glorious “Golden Age” of melancholia, glowing all around you.