Toe Rag Studios in London, England got its start in the early 1990’s and quickly made its name as the go to source for bands / musicians looking to use analog equipment. One of the founders was Liam Watson, a one time member of the ever revolving cast of characters supporting Daniel Treacy in the Television Personalities. Though I have always loved the mid 90’s singles by the TVP’s that were recorded there (gathered on the Fashion Conscious compilation), there was a definite uptick in notoriety with the release of The White Stripes album Elephant which was recorded at Toe Rag / produced by Jack White. Though they are worlds apart musically, that album shared the same qualities as the TVP’s singles recorded at Toe Rag – sparse sounding, instruments with clear separation – allowing the no frills approach to inundate the listener with the feeling that the instruments were in the same room with you while the record played.

Jack White’s Third Man Records has become somewhat of an American version of Toe Rag studios. Bands stop by the studios in Nashville, TN to cut singles, full lengths, or even special versions of well-known classics. Even Conan O’Brien cut a record at Third Man during his year of exile (it is actually pretty good). It seems that since the official demise of The White Stripes, Mr. White has taken the DIY ethos to extreme levels all while retaining that vintage feel.

When I read that Beck would be releasing an exclusive single for Third Man Records’ Blue series I was fairly excited to see what the product would sound like. Would it be more of the more serious-minded Beck – lamenting lost love and the passage of time? Or would it be early Beck, pissed off about a taco that was given to him by none other than Satan himself? The answer is…somewhere in between. On some websites I’ve seen this single praised as a return to the Beck from the Mellow Goldrecord – to an extent, that is correct (just a little misleading). This is a masterful single that incorporates the lo-fi feeling of the early Beck albums while retaining the pathos and dread of his most recent work.

I Just Started Hating Some People Today has a country-ish vibe to start the single – initially sounds like funny lyrics obscuring the fact that it comes from a place of betrayal and hurt. Full band kicks in and it sounds like we are enjoying a Nashville country romp (oh wait, I guess we are). For comparison purposes, the first 3 1/2 minutes sounds like it was cut from the same cloth as “Satan Gave Me a Taco” from Beck’s Stereopathetic Soulmanurealbum. The song shifts into a punk hardcore section with Jack White providing guest screaming for about 20 seconds before again shifting into a coda that sounds like a funk soul jam off Beck’s Midnight Vulturesalbum. It is a stunning cut and hopefully a sign of what is to come from Mr. Hanson. Key lyrics:

I just started to see the light of day
Some people say one thing but act the other way
Sooner or later they give themselves away
And I just started to see the light of day

I just started hating some people today
Talking trash behind your back all day
Saying things that a garbage man would not say
And I just started hating some people today

I just started hating some people today
Rick and Thor and Randy better run away (Randy)
Some others I don’t even think I have to name
Cause I just started seeing the light of day

I hate you Randy

Blue Randy I have to assume that the Randy that is the subject of this song is the same Randy that was talked about in the previous song. This song is a country-ish lament, cut from the same cloth as Beck albums Sea Change and Mutations. A low-key, unassuming song that has an appealing story telling vibe about it. Key lyrics:

I was driving home in a Dodge Stratus
To the contaminated side of town
Where the shortwave radio playing songs of the century
And a big black cloud of asbestos
Was shadowing my demise

Where were you this morning, Little Randy?
Breakdancing in the food court by yourself
With the honor and your attitude
And your jeans full of prison food
There’s a police chalk outline where you last been seen

I have to say – if these songs are a sign of what the next Beck record will sound like, I am really looking forward to it. Beck does tend to have a Neil Young-ish impulse to do whatever he feels like, so I’m going to try not let that thought take hold. Instead I’m going to play this wonderful single – over and over and over and over again. It is available on Itunes or directly from Third Man Records.

Verdict: Candy for my ears

For Fans Of: Smog, Bonnie Prince Billy, Neil Young, Beastie Boys, The White Stripes

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