Even if you're not a beardy music geek, you've probably managed to catch a few fascinating recently popularized song remakes, ranging from a roomful of gamine models cultishly chanting their way through Iggy & the Stooges' classic "I Wanna Be Your Dog" to Christopher Walken brilliantly Walkenizing Lady Gaga's not-quite-so-classic "Poker Face."
It's lucky for Beck that these amusements are floating around out there, because there's a good chance that they have diverted your attention from what has to qualify as the lamest, smirkiest, and most boneheaded moment in the erstwhile loser's long career. We refer to Beck's cover of Leonard Cohen's so-classic-it's-practically-holy-scripture "Suzanne," which you can find online as part of the ongoing project known as Beck's Record Club.
The club involves Beck and a coven of his much-much-cooler-than-you friends (members of MGMT, Devendra Banhart, etc.) getting together to record an entire album from the annals of much-much-cooler-than-you music. They began with the first Velvet Underground album. Now they've paid tribute to Leonard Cohen's Songs of Leonard Cohen.
We really like Leonard Cohen. And we like Beck, for that matter. Mostly. But this cover of "Suzanne" is an atrocity. It's worse than bad—it's such an insult to the legend of Leonard Cohen that we feel like introducing the aging Canadian ladies' man to a lawyer so that he can sue these lazy hipsters to get his dignity back. Listen to the Beck Record Club's version of "Suzanne" and you will encounter a perfect example of what might be called "smugism": singing in a self-consciously droopy and tuneless chorus that suggests nothing so much as a collective yawn, Beck and his bohemian buds give off the impression that they couldn't be bothered to crawl out of bed for this song, let alone put any genuine feeling into it. It's not a remake; it's a pose.
Really, if the Beck Record Club's ultimate objective is to ruin old music by drowning it in a lukewarm bath of skin-crawly Silver Lake self-satisfaction, why don't they leave the likes of Leonard Cohen alone and pick on someone their own size.