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April 19, 2007

Beck spent over two months in an L.A. studio with producer Danger Mouse, comparing notes on their favorite Sixties psychedelic records while recording Beck's 10th album. What's amazing about its first song is that two hyperdetailed sonic architects have produced such elegantly simple music – on a track that could be Beck's most controversial yet. Taking cues from Syd Barrett-era Floyd, "Chemtrails" starts with electro-raga organ drones. But just when you think it's a slow-burning meditation, an explosion of drums kicks in with rubbery bass funk, pounded piano chords and sweeping vocal "ahhhs." The title suggests the song was inspired by a hit of acid, but Beck's lyrical images of jets flying above dead bodies hint at the Chemtrail Conspiracy theory, which posits that Army planes are secretly dusting humans with mind-controlling toxins. (Check out the Wikipedia entry.) "You and me hypnotized by evil," he croons. "Watching the jet planes go by." Beck never gets to resolve whether he believes in this theory: "Chemtrails" morphs into a fuzzed-out stain of guitar noise and abruptly cuts out – a rude awakening from a killer dream.

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