Crate-Digging: Beck – Golden Feelings

Throughout August, Crate-Digging will be focusing on recordings that have been given a cassette release.

(Sonic Enemy, 1993)

Way back before Beck Hansen was known worldwide as simply Beck (the “Loser” guy), he released a couple of super under-the-radar collections on tiny imprints. Sonic Enemy was the lucky recipient of his 1993 tape Golden Feelings, a hodgepodge of folk music and sound experiments pressed in an unknown limited number. After Beck achieved megastardom, copies of Golden Feelings were as equally hard to come by as they were prior to fame, but the demand was obviously much greater, and it seemed as though anyone who had a copy was lucky indeed. Fast forward to 1999 and Sonic Enemy, perhaps sensing an opportunity, re-released Golden Feelings on compact disc to hopefully wider acclaim. I’ve got a copy of the 1999 CD.

Hold up – so you’re telling me you’re doing an entire month’s worth of columns on releases that have featured prominently on cassette, and smack in the middle you’re writing about the Golden Feelings compact disc? What gives?

Ah, good question. It’s because Golden Feelings, the cassette, was never meant to be issued on CD.

It’s a tale as old as time: Boy releases cassette on tiny record label. Boy gets famous. Tiny record label says, “This would be good to reissue on CD.” Boy’s new mega record label says, “No way.” Tiny record label says, “Too late – we printed 2,000 copies.” New mega record label says, with their fancy lawyers, “Cease and desist.” Boy probably had a say in there somewhere too. Maybe “new mega record label” should be replaced with “boy” in this story, who knows. Regardless, the story is a sad, cautionary one.

So … you have one of the 2,000 copies of the Golden Feelings CD that Sonic Enemy pressed?

I feel like I’ve made that pretty clear. End of paragraph one actually.

And yes – yes I do. No, I did not acquire it via nefarious, underground means. I simply happened to be wandering through a record store – a real, honest-to-goodness record store – and checked in to see if there were any new Beck import singles or something. I remember thinking, “Wow, somebody finally had the good sense to re-release Golden Feelings. I know what I’m getting today!” And just like that, I paid my $12 or whatever it was, and walked out the proud owner of what is now a pretty rare CD. There are two copies of it for sale on eBay right now (8/1/11), $410.38 on the low end and $499.99 on the high end. Neato.

Snob. The Internet has made owning rare music an obsolete activity.

Whatever. You’re just jealous.

So does this cassette, or, in your case, CD, have any music on it, or are you just gonna hoard your little find over us all day?

You are one impatient dude. You shouldn’t be surprised that I’m excited about my Golden Feelings CD. Now, if you were to ask whether I was excited simply for the enjoyment of the music on this release, well…

Unfortunately, it seems that Beck found a dirty, beat-up old shoebox under his bed filled with unspooled tapes and miscellaneous broken pieces and shook it out onto the floor, cobbled together a tracklist, and hoped for the best digital transfer he could get. As such, GF plays like the fat that was cut from Stereopathetic Soulmanure, and you all know how shoddily recorded and pieced together that was. The cutting room floor must be littered with dust and debris, crawling with ants and spiders, and sticky with gum and soda. Not unlike the floor of a movie theater, actually, and unsurprising for a boho Los Angelino folkie used to donning a leaf blower for live performances. This, then: It’s not very good. Beck’s uber-detuned acoustic prominently plays, and as he was wont to do in the early moments of his career, he either sets the playback purposefully low to give his voice an unnatural depth, or he pitch-shifts it down. Either way, it’s a practice he abandoned after he realized he could write pop songs.

That said, opening duo “Fucked Up Blues” and “Special People” are kind of funny, in that the former combines two of Beck’s early lyrical cornerstones – “fucked up” and “blues,” as in “Lord what can you do about the fuckin’ fucked up blues?” – with his penchant for left-field lyrical additives (the completely unrelated “I woke up on the futon and my boots were on fire” ends the song). The latter “tune” finds a double-tracked (high and low pitch) Beck sort-of spoken-wordedly rattling off what “special people” do. For example, this inscrutable couplet: “Special people squeeze the breeze / Special people slice their knees.” Musical criticism? Is that even possible for the likes of these?

Give it a shot, smart boy.

Eh. There are a couple of interest points, if only in passing. “No Money No Honey” was recorded at slightly better fidelity than its Stereopathetic version. “Heartland Feeling” has a funny opening monologue, and its intentionally lazy chorus (I think) of “Nothing happening, that’s about it, ooh ooh ooh,” is also worth a chuckle. “Super Golden Black Sunchild” features a “Hurdy Gurdy Man” vocal effect at times. “Schmoozer” rhymes with “Loser” as well as “Snoozer,” as in “Pay No Mind (Snoozer).” That’s all I got for that one.

You’ll find early versions of “Totally Confused,” which was much better recorded as a B-side for “Beercan,” and “Mutherfukka,” which would show up on Mellow Gold, and is probably the highlight here. Its diseased, lethargic punk is less thick than the MG version, and it actually sounds pretty good. It’s appended by about 20 seconds of weird folk.

So I don’t think I care if I listen to it or not.

Fine by me. It may not be worth listening to, but it sure is a pretty trinket to have.

Thanks to Whiskeyclone.net for release info. Accessed 8/1/11.

RIYL: Ween, Daniel Johnston, Sebadoh

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