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Saturday, November 12, 2011

"Devil's Haircut"

Beck - Devil's Haircut (1996)

"When I'm upset I write a song about it. Like when I wrote 'Devils Haircut', I was feeling really...really...what's that song about?"

This song is all about the samples, but there's a twist. The first samples come from funk drummer "Pretty" Purdie's Soul Drums; the title track off of his debut album. The drums were lifted for the chorus and drum breaks. Just start listening at the top, you'll hear it right away. The next sample comes from a cover of a James Brown track called Out of Sight. Them is the name of the group; it's Van Morrison's group before he went solo. It's harder to catch the drum break used for the verses. Fortunately the up-loader of this version clearly tells us that it is at 0:09. The twist comes in that the riff is also from a Them song: I Can Only Give You Everything but they didn't sample it. Beck plays the riff on his own guitar and then it's distorted in in post production. This track and The New Pollution were recorded in the same two day period, Beck and the Dust Brothers wrote and produced the track. Beck played almost all of the instruments on the album, but there were a few exceptions. It's hard to say if anything on this track was live instruments played by others, short samples that were not notated, or just short licks played by Beck.

As far as the lyrics go, they are notoriously obscure. The quote at the top of the page is Beck making fun of himself on the show Futurama. Whatever landscape is being described is a terrible place: rotten oasis, garbage man trees, etc. Beck has said that the title could refer to the idea of being forced to do corporate friendly work, to take "the devil's haircut" to stardom. Vocally he performs the majority of the song in a pleasant enough basically flat range. It is not until the last 15 seconds that his voice slips into the angry shredded throat noises that a song that mentions ripping eyes out of their sockets probably warrants.

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