uero was the worst kind of Beck record, unique only in that it failed to change anyone’s perception of Mr. Hansen or add anything to his varied catalog. Beck had failed before, but never so tediously: The worthwhile tracks that laced Guero still seemed like bastardizations of earlier work. Guero touched on each of Beck’s previous sounds/albums so meticulously that it seemed fair to suggest that one of pop music’s most reliable shapeshifters was tuckered out.
Enter Guerolito, on which a massive amount of talent, artwork, and promotional dollars are spent trying to make Beck exciting again. On that level, Guerolito succeeds, linking up by-the-numbers Beck with some genuinely fresh talent. The lineup here is especially enticing given the wealth of performers who are either particularly relevant (Diplo, Boards of Canada) or have been absent too long (Air, Unicorns offshoots Islands and Th’ Corn Gangg).
The theme among mixers here seems to be addition, often supplementing Guero’s mix with something that adds thickness: soupy keyboards, busy percussion, bulbous bass. Of course, under-arrangement has never been one of Beck’s problems, and this means that many of these artists are bringing extra artillery to an already busy gun fight. This approach absolutely destroys Guero’s better, roomier moments – “Go It Alone,” “Black Tambourine,” “Farewell Ride,” and “Emergency Exit,” all easily among Geurolito’s most obvious misfires.
Surprisingly, then, it’s the already cluttered tracks the benefit most from their remixer’s zeal. “E-Pro,” gets a surprisingly competent update: It’s still a shit single, but kindred spirit Homelife erases the over-reliance on the hideous “Na na / Na na na na na” chorus, cannibalizing the track with rumbling bass and slashing strings. The Unicorn children break even here; Th’ Corn Gangg ruin “Emergency Exit’s wayward chanting by upping the tempo and irreverently adding a trance beat, but Islands smooth out “Qué Onda Guero” with ice cream synths. Air rescue “Missing” from low-tenor, Sea Change hell and Boards of Canada prop up “Broken Drum,” both of them slinging quietly insistent drum machines and codeine keyboards.
Still, there are too many missed opportunities here. Why does the tracklist remain unchanged? More curious still is that with the exception a hackneyed screwed and chopped passage, no one makes any attempt to alter Beck’s voice. The sopping reverb of Sea Change still plagues too many vocal takes, sounding no more appealing over Diplo’s misplaced funk or El-P’s aggressive, industrial hellscape than on the original mixes. The sole new Beck track, “Clap Hands,” is tacked cheaply onto the end of the album and has no trouble justifying its exclusion from Guero.
Don’t let song cycle and new material fool you, though: Guerolito is a legitimate remix disc, each of its tracks differing materially from the original. Only half of these tracks provide truly valuable alternatives to Guero songs. Despite some poor execution, Guerolito is a noble effort, and by no means a massive failure. Beck’s catalog is ripe for revision, and it’s worth hearing Diplo destroy “Go It Alone” if Air can turn “Missing” into a beautiful, space-pop gem. But the diverse range of collaborators here means that Guerolito fails as a definitive Beck mixtape, too splotchy and scattershot to recommend as anything but a handful of remarkable mixes and lots of interesting experiments.