Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New York: High 5 (Rock The Catskills)

Beck: High 5 (Rock the Catskills)


Assuming that the Catskill's reference in the parenthetical title is deliberate - Beck was infamous in the nineties for taking misheard phrases and using them as adopted in-jokes in lyrics and titles alike - then there's a case to be made that this odd little broken collage of a song from mid-nineties masterpiece Odelay, which fades in and out of a plethora of feedback-heavy beats and melodic interludes covering everything from obscure 70s funk to a chunk of Schubert's Unfinished 8th Symphony, and even crashes to a self-referential halt about two thirds of the way through, is actually much smarter than it pretends to be.

The richly layered stop-and-start cycle of beats pays effective tribute to the evolution of the beautiful Catskill Mountain region of New York, known in the nineteenth century as a high-culture retreat and locus of the Hudson River School of painters, in the early twentieth as the "Borscht Belt", a middle-class summer retreat for predominantly Jewish and ethnic cityfolk looking economically upwards, and in the mid twentieth as a concentrated space for summer camps for city kids. These days, like Beck's narrator, the region is "more dead than alive", peppered with economically depressed working-class tourist towns, hiker's outposts, isolated weekender and summer homes, failing farms and antique shop barns, and deserted hotels even as it struggles to return to the grandeur it once represented for urban generations.

*With apologies for the irresistible visual pun...

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