Magazine article The New Yorker

Treading Water, Gainfully

Magazine article The New Yorker

Treading Water, Gainfully

Article excerpt

Jimmy Page has been content to sink into semiretirement, occasionally reteaming with Robert Plant for low-altitude, ersatz Led Zep. Eric Clapton has continued to turn out tasteful adult blues so narcotic they could be used as sleeping pills. Meanwhile, Jeff Beck--who never really attained seventies superstardom due to his eclectic muse--has sneakily bested the other British guitar gods. "Jeff" (Epic), his third album in the last four years, picks up where the recent "Who Else!" and "You Had It Coming" left off; over dance-rock productions by artists such as Splattercell and Apollo 440 that range from the jittery to the abstract, Beck delivers a majestically idiosyncratic master class. Songs like "So What" and "Line Dancing with Monkeys" whir, grind, and pound with a surplus of harmonic and rhythmic ideas; at times, it sounds as if Beck, famous for tinkering with his collection of vintage cars, were playing power tools. Others, like the short, sweet "Bulgaria," prove that when Beck wants to he can draw a clean melodic line better than anyone. Beck's new records may not be as coherent as his mid-seventies fusion masterpieces, but they're revelatory for their stubborn artistry and the way they absorb current trends without drowning in them. …

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