As the greatest living guitarist around, Jeff Beck’s work on the Fender Stratocaster always presents enough melody, tonal shades, squeals and bends to make vocals unnecessary. But, with his unending desire to attack each new release at a different creative angle, Beck uses his first album in six years, Loud Hailer, as a means to not only put forth political statements (short version: the rich get richer, the poor get the picture) but does so with vocals and a soundscape of modern rock and EDM.
Co-writing with singer Rosie Bones and guitarist Carmen Vandenberg, the former also contributes a punkish snarl to many of the album’s vocal tracks. Together, it’s a mixed bag that finds a rejuvenated Beck adding fierce six-string bursts akin to a loud hailer (a.k.a. megaphone) amidst topical lyrics that explore the 24 news cycle/social media (“The Revolution Will Be Televised”), the sturm und drang of the class system (“Thug Club”), broken down social order (“Scared for the Children”), instant gratification (“Right Now”) and the world’s addiction to black gold (“O.I.L.”). The lone instrumental, “Pull It” sounds like a tossed-off outtake from the Guitar Shop sessions.
While he’s to be commended for not resting on his past achievements Beck’s latest doesn’t always live up to the glories of his past achievements. At its best, the songs mesh his playing well with these newfound sonic territories, particularly “Revolution,” “Scared,” “Right Now,” the ’50 throwback of “Shame” and the longing grasp at hope on the album’s closer, “Shrine.” At its most puzzling, it’s the sound of a square peg being shoved into a round hole.