While Beck has made great records throughout his career, there was a time when he was considered one of the most exciting and unpredictable artists working in the mainstream. And coming off the chart-busting Odelay, and the surprise success of the low-key Mutations, expectations were ridiculously high for Beck's proper follow-up.
Midnite Vultures arrived to critical approval and sold well, but lacked Odelay's game-changing sonics and its genre-hopping fun was seen by some as too ironic. Today it's Beck's most overlooked records, especially given how his next effort, Sea Change, flipped the script yet again.
But Midnite Vultures found Beck playing in the sandbox he'd built with the Dust Brothers on Odelay with fantastic results. Where Odelay felt like a statement of purpose, it's follow-up plays like a comedy album, switching and mashing genres with the kind of knowing wink-wink-nudge-nudge he's never been able (or willing) to match. The faux-hardcore hip-hop of "Hollywood Freaks," the brass-driven funk (and banjo solo) of "Sexx Laws" and the Prince/Rick James panty-jam spoof "Debra" would all fit in nicely on a Lonely Island record. The humor might come across as silly, but there's a sense of absolute freedom at play that few artists ever get to enjoy and besides, nobody yukked it up like Beck.