Song of the Day #976: ‘Side of the Road’ – Beck

Three albums of the twenty I’m featuring in this series are what I would call heartbreak records. They stem from and focus on the end of a relationship. The first is Beck’s 2002 Sea Change.

This album represented a major stylistic and lyrical shift for Beck, whose previous work blended hip-hop, funk and folk-rock and featured absurdist hipster poetry. Sea Change was a mostly acoustic affair with straightforward lyrics about love and loss. And despite all of the inventive ground-breaking music he’d released to that point, it felt immediately like the best thing he’d ever done.

Working with producer Nigel Godrich, best known for his work with Radiohead, Beck layered his somber meditations with atmospheric strings, building so much space around his sparse compositions that it sounds as if he’s singing from inside a tunnel. It is the sound of loneliness and heartbreak and one of the best examples I can imagine of an album’s sound serving as a metaphor for its content.

‘Side of the Road’ is the final track on Sea Change and, as great last tracks often do, it serves as a summation of the whole experience. The final image of kicking an empty can across an empty floor captures what Beck has been doing throughout the album — he’s alone, and he can’t stop obsessing over what was once a meaningful relationship and is now something discarded.

Something better than this
Someplace I’d like to go
To let all I’ve learned
Tell me what I know
About the kind of life
I never thought I’d live
Till the ugly truth
Showed me what I did

Let it pass
On the side of the road
What a friend could tell me now

On a borrowed dime
In different light
You might want to see
What the other side looks like
In a random room
Behind an iron door
Kick an empty can
Across an empty floor

Let it pass
On the side of the road
What a friend could tell me now

One thought on “Song of the Day #976: ‘Side of the Road’ – Beck

  1. Dana says:

    Beck definitely intrigues me. I generally have liked what I’ve heard, although, perhaps not surprisingly, I tend to like him better in that stripped down acoustic mode.

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