This is one of those albums that I just wasn't sure of from the time I heard about it. Although I've been a big fan of Beck ever since the first time I heard "Loser" on the radio, like everyone else I was kind of let-down when he announced that his new disc wouldn't be anything like the critical darling Odelay. He actually sat down with his touring band and whipped out an album in about 2 weeks, and Mutations is the product of that frantic recording session. When the disc came out and I saw that there was a picture of Beck himself on the cover, I really had my doubts (don't ask me why, but straight artist photos on album covers really bug me).
After listening to the disc, I'm actually still pretty divided. On one hand, I enjoy the poppy goodness of it all. While there aren't a lot of particularly catchy songs, all the tracks seem to go together fairly well and are well played. The strange almost stream-of-conscious vocals are there as usual and a couple of the tracks have found themselves stuck in my head on different occasions. However, there's also a side of me that doesn't like how standard and almost lite-radio-sounding everything on the album is. I just know that I'm going to be in the dentist in a few months, and I'll hear a track off this disc announced by some cheeser on the radio while I'm getting my plaque whisked off. That same part of me thinks that most of the arrangements are super-simple and the only reason the album got such a push is because there are some goofy sounds thrown in and Becks name is on it. The problem for me is that after repeated listens, none of the tracks particularly stand out, and the whole album seems to blur together into one giant, mellow Beck song. While the side in favor wins out more often, I still say bring on the rightful follow-up to Odelay.