Song 27: Beck, “Timebomb” (2007)


One of my pet peeves is articles whose headlines end with a phrase like “…that you’ve never seen” or “that you’ve never heard.” You know, the ones that assume you haven’t seen some supposedly obscure movie or heard a song that the writer decided hardly anyone has ever listened to.

But I’m gonna be that annoying person today, because there’s a fair chance you haven’t heard the Beck song “Timebomb.” Not because it’s hard to find (what, in the age of the Internet, is?), but because it was released as a single and didn’t get much attention. I happened to read about it somewhere and decided to spend a buck on it.

I am so glad I did. I think this is one of the best songs Beck has ever done. I wrote a while back about songs we choose to run to, and I think there are two types of running songs: those that are so loud and insistent that they inspire you to go go go, and songs that simply keep the pace. “Timebomb,” with its mid tempo pulses, splits the difference. The background singers are like cheerleaders for a robot football team, and Beck is out front, saying “tick, tick, tick,” reminding you that you have to keep going. Time’s a-wastin’.

For lack of a better sentence, this thing holds together beautifully. I think the glue is the “bum-bum-bum” vocal that pops in at the one-minute mark, and the wash of electric guitar strums are like (if you don’t mind the mixed similes) bursts of sunshine, warm counterpoints to the cold thumps and beeps.

It makes sense to me that this song was a one-off; I can’t imagine it sitting well on a whole record (nor can I picture an entire album of tracks like this). I’m just glad Beck is still around, surprising people. We need artists like him.

Fun bonus activity! Put this song on repeat–it’s an almost perfect loop, with the “sucka headphones!” guy sounding like a quick interjection instead of a raucous introduction. You may go crazy, but I think Beck would approve.


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