September 30, 2002 12:00 PM

Beck (Geffen)

This could be the end of twerp rock. Beck’s Odelay, the absurdly overpraised gizmos-and-turntables 1996 disc with a shelf life so limited that it should have been sold in the dairy aisle, is now a relic. Beck has packed up his gizmos and moved on to a pleasing, mellow folk-country sound with hints of art-rock: Gram Parsons, meet Alan Parsons.

Fans of the master knob-twiddler will be aghast; these rave-proof tracks build on Beck’s pretty acoustic-guitar strumming and gloomy choruses of violins or subtle synth effects. Jokey lyrics have given way to introspection: “We’re just holding on to nothing/ To see how long nothing lasts,” runs a typical sentiment in “Paper Tiger.” Few lines rise above the standard set by undergraduate poetry quarterlies, but give the man credit: Sincerity is the riskiest choice left for him. The nonstop soul-baring could benefit from a dash of Odelay’s frenetic variety, but fans of Wilco, for instance, will find much to admire here.

Bottom Line: A dark-blue Sea, but worth a swim

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