Beck’s "Guero" is here, and so is Over the Rhine’s new album!

If you have a surround sound DVD system, do not buy the new Beck album Guero on CD.

Instead, purchase the DELUXE DVD version!! It has the entire album, plus several extra tracks, videos for the songs, and more. The surround sound experience is fantastic. Beck clearly conceived of these songs for this format–they’re busy with little details, and they’re spacious enough that you can explore them in different ways with each listen. I rarely listen to an album three times through without a break, but I did tonight, and I can’t wait to hear it again. Beck is one of the few rock artists recording in surround sound. His 5.1 surround version of Sea Change is an awe-inspiring experience. Guero is an entirely different experience, but equally enjoyable.

Meanwhile, I’ve already raved and raved to you about the new Over the Rhine album Drunkard’s Prayer. Now I can tell you that the packaging that comes with it is the most handsome collection of photos they’ve ever offered with an album. Since they moved out of that gorgeous old place called “the Grey Ghost,” where they recorded this record, it’s nice they invited us in for a tour before leaving.

I know, I know, I’ve been promising a full review. I’m working on it. Very soon. Good reviews take time.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • Gabe Syme

    Well, if anyone is still looking at this string of posts, I’ll try one more time not to chew on my foot.

    Jasdye: I was probably responding more to MY understanding of Briner than YOUR comments. I appreciate what you were saying and would enjoy sitting and talking with you over a strong cup of English tea (I don’t do Star-lotsa-bucks). Maybe Jeffrey can join us, too.

    Kevin: Ideally, art should be a personal expression of the artist’s vision through some medium, unrelated to commercialism. However, that is not the reality. If it does not find an audience, it is never recognized as “art,” and is not preserved. (And, as an aside, I don’t think I’ve ever seen art of any medium that I would call a “conversation” with the audience–it is nearly always a statement by the artist. Analysis and interpretation is not a conversation). In America, art that is not commercially successful is usually judged “lesser” art, so great is the hold of commercialism. Only art that is “consumed” is preserved, in much the same way that art was “consumed” by the courts and the church in past centuries was thereby preserved. My point is that art MUST be consumed to be recognized and preserved. Artists must SELL their works in order to have money to buy new media (or sell their artisty to a wealthy benefactor, also a kind of consumer). Artistic effort and desire can be appreciated and applauded, to be sure, but history will judge “art” by what is preserved. That is why I am glad that there is a CCM, and a Christian video market, and other “Christian” artistic markets quite distinct from the “secular” arts. Christians, of all people, should have art to offer to culture that reveals truth in many media. There is an ocean of “Christian” art that, because it is comsumable, will be preserved for future generations. You take the bad with the good in that equation, but the bad will be forgotten. And, yes, Christians can express neutral or secular ideals through artistic gifts, and that is great. But that is not employing art to further the kingdom and, let’s face it, it is usually a commercial effort to sell the medium. Film is, indeed, a commodity to be consumed. Whether or not it is “art” depends on whether it survives and is preserved. If it does not, it was at best a temporary, fleeting artistic expression.

  • jasdye

    Whoa, hold up here!

    My point in quoting Briner was to say that Christians should act in the world – which includes but is not limited to the arts – in order to be a transformative power in it. But I also made careful mention of how we should not lose our saltiness.

    I agree that the so-called Relevant (magazine) generation is losing its saltiness, as referenced by their cranky comments. And believe me, I’ve felt like a stern, grumpy old man a couple times while admonishing some – presumably – kid who takes himself and his cool mission more seriously than Christ.

    Now, should we have a different market, separate for Christian artists? We already do, it’s called CCM. Take it for what it is, it’s not for everyone (although I still listen to some of it). However, I think a lot of Christian artists have made good strides into influencing small pockets of so-called secular cultures, i.e., Over the Rhine and their testimony on “Drunkard’s Prayer.”

    Kevin, although you may feel that film is not a commodity – and truth is, it shouldn’t be treated as such – pick up the arts section of your paper on any given Monday. Open up to page 2 or 3. Most Americans would disagree, and they’ll shell out 10 bucks a pop and cheer-on their favorite movie to take first place over the weekend to prove you wrong. If an independent film is to be made for $30 million, it’s a commodity.

  • Wasp Jerky

    “I often want CT Movies reviews to be stronger in saying a movie is not acceptable for Christians to consume, but that day is long past.”

    Film is not a commodity to be consumed. It is art, a conversation between an artist and his or her audience.

  • Gabe Syme

    Jeffrey,

    re: “Who are you saying has that “notion”? I was responding to what I understood was the implication of the Bob Briner (“Roaring Lambs”) reference in an earlier post; I was not referring to CT Movies. There are those, hopefully not at CT, who argue that there should be no distinction of “Christian” in the arts (no Christian music, no Christian video, etc.). That notion is birthed in the idea that artists who are Christians should be as “good as” those in the secular arts industries, should take their cues from them, and strive to compete with them. The idea is that is how we can truly engage culture. What I see happening as a result, that I alluded to, is a gradual but steady blurring of lines and standards as to what defines an “acceptable” movie for the Christian mind. In what I refer to as the “emerging Christian conscience” of the Relevant generation, almost anything goes as to what is considered acceptable for a believer to consume. I read CT reviews (yours included, of course), and I appreciate that CT Movies provides good input, but I sense in small ways the influence of the Relevant generation creeping in. The more evangelicals try to be like culture in order to engage it, the more we have become influenced by culture, and there has been a steady erosion of standards in the past generation that shows no signs of slowing. My comments in my posts were just general thoughts that CT should be on guard against that, not a screed about CT reviews as you seem to feel it was. If I’m being honest, I often want CT Movies reviews to be stronger in saying a movie is not acceptable for Christians to consume, but that day is long past.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    >>I would challenge the notion that our mission as Christian artists is, or should be, to gain acceptance and approval of the prevailing culture, or even to try to be as “good” as they are.

    Who are you saying has that “notion”? Surely not the folks at CT. I write for them, I know many of them, and I have yet to meet anyone who would claim anything close to that “notion.”

    I think you need to explain what you mean by a “biblical” sort of review, and show how a CT review falls short of that. In my experience, CT reviews point out what is excellent and worthy of praise, point out what is not so excellent, examine the themes of the story, highlight where the truth is echoed, point out where deceit is evident, and encourage people to be discerning and to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. THAT is the notion behind CT Movies.

  • jasdye

    It’s funny, I was actually thinking of Relevant magazine and their often extremely cynical – and, in some cases, often antagonistic – repliers/posters.

    That sounds like a vision from God. I may not agree with you fully, but I definitely see the need to make quality, God-infused art, and as I alluded to earlier, our need – as the Bride of Christ, expectant on his return and answering him as pure and ready – to be of sober and clean spirit, to be transformed into the likeness of the Son and not conformed into the likeness of the powers of the air.

    Now, see, that’s dialogue. Somebody tell the fine people at relevantmagazine.com it can be done (laughingly of course, because you will get your head bit off by some sixteen year old).

  • Gabe Syme

    Jasdye,
    I apologize. I didn’t mean to suggest I was responding only to you. I should’ve been more general. I was responding to an attitude I see more and more in the “new” and more “relevant” Christianity, which I see reflected in many comments on posts such as these. Our family is involved in the arts on several levels (music, writing, theater, video), and we are committed to using the creative arts to effectively communicate biblical truth and spiritual meaning to the culture, both Christian and non-Christian. I would challenge the notion that our mission as Christian artists is, or should be, to gain acceptance and approval of the prevailing culture, or even to try to be as “good” as they are. On the contrary, I believe our mission is to present a compelling alternative to the un-Christian arts that is characterized by truth, excellence, creativity and spiritual depth. No matter how admirable they may be in the technical and acting realms, degenerate movies (creative arts) should not be our models. We, too, always try to apply Phil. 4:8 to our arts involvements, so our minds are filled with the things God approves. Romans 12:1-2 commands us (Paul is addressing believers) to “stop being conformed to this world”–it is a clear word picture that suggests our minds can become etched, like a schematic drawing, into the pattern of the prevailing beliefs of one’s culture. He uses the term “aion” for world which points to an age or time period rather than just the world system in general. That is the danger inherent in consuming the media and arts of the current culture, of our “times,” that we will be slowly conformed to them. Instead, Paul commands us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds with truth, “morphed” into something new by truth. I want to create, and consume, creative arts that transform me more into the likeness of Christ, not into the likeness of our culture. I am a conservative evangelical, and a committed consumer and supporter of all things CT, so my point was not to criticize their reviews, but to encourage them to consider what it means to give a truly “Christian” review. Hope that clarifies a bit what I was trying (perhaps with a bit too much of my own cynicism) to say.

  • jasdye

    Gabe,

    I’m sorry you feel that way. I do not think that I’m above toxic influences in my life. For the next week +, I’m shutting off the tele. I can only listen to so much radio. I have a hard time going to Blockbuster on my own, for fear my single and selfish lusts will try to draw me out and I’ll make a stupid decision. And I’ve already talked about my vow of abstaining from Family Guy, et al. because of the creator’s vulgar references to God here http://leftcheek.blogspot.com/2005/05/holy-crap-is-it-comedy.html

    As mentioned before, though, CT Movies does have a section where they do rate such things. And I believe that serves a valid function. Yet, as was mentioned in Bob Briner’s “Roaring Lambs”, the way to engage with the world (being a shaken salt) is through the arts and particularly the popular arts, eg. music, movies, tv. The way to not engage is through doing a counter. That says nothing of the quality – and may only hint at the banality – of a work.

    I think I should also rip out another part of Briner’s salt analogy: If the salt has lost its saltiness, what good is it? So, I want to apologize for sounding so sarcastic earlier. Maybe it is a bit of a superiority complex.

    But please remember that – although we should dwell on whatever is lovely, of good repute, etc. – the Bible is chock full of dirty stories. Stories of dirty and honest people and their wrestles with a true (and sometimes silent) God.

  • Gabe Syme

    Wow, lots of barely concealed Christian cynicism here. Why, if we all could be such “progressive” Christians, we wouldn’t even need to talk about such silly things as offensive language, unashamed sexuality and nudity, extreme violence, and humorous perversions. Apparently, the emerging Christian conscience is more evolved spiritually and simply immune to such trivialities. But the fact remains that CT, if it is to be true to its mission, should indeed review all movies from a biblical perspective. In my mind, that includes an honest assessment of what is unbiblical about the movie. And, yes, if CT considers a movie cinematically inferior from an acting and production perspective, then that should be part of an honest reivew, too. Personally, I will choose a mediocre movie that is redeeming and uplifting, over a “great” movie that is offensive and degenerate. If CT thinks it’s no longer “cool” to give an honest biblical review, then what the’s point of a Christian review?

  • jasdye

    Brian,

    Of course we wouldn’t want to send our own little ones out there. And it’s always a good question, best left to parents.

    I’m a youth pastor (of sorts). I don’t want my little ones to be exposed to stuff that they are on a daily basis. But I have little control over that. I have a couple of hours to undo the damage being done on a regular basis. But who says that we need to watch a whole bunch of movies with our kids? And who says they need to be contemporary?

    There’s Pixar, classic Disney (Winnie the Pooh, par ejample), but there’s tons and tons of great books out there. In fact, reading your young ones from the original Pooh canon is more entertaining than watching the movies. And it encourages more interaction.

    So do we just cut out the swear words from the Terminator, or the nudity from Basic Instinct (as if I haven’t watched movies in the last 15 years)?

    Another thing, the CT Movies site has the family corner on every review where they discuss such things. The reader complaining about Batman’s favorable review must have read it before he took his child, must have noticed that there was no mention of swear words (including the taking of our sweet Savior’s name in vain) and decided that that was good enough for him and his family. Yet the violence never really struck a chord, seemingly.

    Doesn’t that strike anybody as sad? We accept violence but damn if anybody cusses.

    For the record, I hate foul language, at least in the person. I think it misrepresents the true Word and I know I’m particularly susceptible to negative language and the thoughts that travel alongside them. But violence should be somewhere up there in our offenso-meter. Which should have a different function altogether from Joe Bob Briggs ratings system (although I did laugh, Neb.)

  • Brian Friesen

    Speaking of kids, what do we show them? Films marketed at kids are often very poorly made.

    While counting swear words may seem obsessive-compulsive and otherwise pathological, there are some real concerns here.

    Imagine you have kids (if you don’t). What would you want them to watch? What would you want to watch with them?

  • Neb

    I agree w/ jasdye: Why would anybody take kids to this Batman movie? Did they even bother to look at any of the trailers? It’s kinda dark for little keedz.

    I like the score card idea. You could be the Christian “Joe Bob Briggs”: 22 swear words, one hinder shot, 2 stupid Christian extremists, 1 missionary portrayed as benign civilization destroyer, Bible-fu…J ‘Street sez don’t check it out.

    (I just pulled those stats out of the air, BTW…don’t try to apply them to any known flick!)

  • Tyler F. Williams

    Perhaps for you next review you should just list the profanities and the number of times they occur and also let them know when they need to cover their eyes so they don’t see a bare butt! :-)

    I also want to say that I very much enjoy your blog (and your reviews), so don’t let these comments get you down!

  • jasdye

    Batman Begins had swear words in it? I’d be more cautious of taking my children to a movie with such a dark undertone to it.

    But hooray for the people who so vigilantly and heroically count the cusses out for us. I just wish he had not stopped at fifteen. Readers need to know…

    And we all know how many covens were started by the Bewitched tv series, don’t we?

  • Shar

    In response to those comments I would say………oh pleeeez……..Bewitched doesn’t have anymore to do with witchcraft than The Flintstones had to do with anthropology.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Darren,
    I’ve been reading your raves about it, and I actually had it in my hand at the store yesterday when I saw the “Guero” special editon. Agony. I had to choose. So I went with the Beck, figuring I could pick up the Gabriel DVD much cheaper on Amazon. Looking forward to it. Thanks for the recommendation.

  • Darren

    Thanks for the recommendation, Jeff. I didn’t realize that Guero was getting the 5.1 treatment.

    Have you picked up Peter Gabriel’s Play? Along with a great collection of videos, you also get new 5.1 mixes from Daniel Lanois. Some are subtle; others are complete reimaginings of the songs. Play has become my new demo disc for multi-channel music.

  • Josh

    I heard Guero yesterday and LOVED it. It has exceeded all my expectations.

    To me, it sounds like an ideal mix of Beck’s two best albums, Sea Change and Odelay. It combines the focus and the melodicism of Sea Change with Odelay’s genre-hopping eclecticism, and the result is one of Beck’s most enjoyable albums yet. In fact, though many fans will disagree with me, I think it’s one of his very finest albums.


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