1994 was a busy year for Beck Hansen. ‘Mellow Gold’ had come out and ‘Loser’ was hitting MTV big time. But somehow he found the energy to put out two further albums: ‘Stereopathic Soulmanure’ may have been a tuneless oddity, but ‘One Foot In The Grave’ - a breezily lo-fi set of bluesy folk - is not only good, it’s the best of the year’s three long-players.
Sure, it doesn’t have any of the junkyard folk-hop of ‘Mellow Gold’, but neither does it have the dirgey lows of tracks like ‘Mutherfuker’. Instead, ‘One Foot…’ pays homage to Skip James, reprises Hansen’s usual lyrical obsessions (death, apocalypse, the devil) and rattles along nicely at just over half an hour.
It’s also, by some degree, Beck’s most emotionally engaging record. Perhaps it’s the fact that it was recorded pre-fame and pre-irony, on a budget of about $5, but there’s an intimacy that’s missing even from 2002’s ‘Sea Change’. ‘One Foot…’ finds Hansen singing about dreams that never come true, loneliness, and girls who make him “feel like an asshole”. OK, he also sings about kids drinking fire and seeing “666 on the kitchen floor”, but that’s par for the course with Beck.
This edition comes full of goodies for Beck fanboys. A whopping 16 – sixteen - bonus tracks from the period give more context into what he was up to. They’re a variable lot, not as good as the songs that made the album, but entertaining and well worth it for fans.
‘One Foot In The Grave’ isn’t the best Beck album. That’s still ‘Midnite Vultures’. Oh yes it is (I guess we’ll agree to disagree – ‘Sea Change’-preferring Ed). But it’s pretty damn good, and a fascinating peak at what might have been, had fate and fame not come knocking.