published in Empire No.74, Sydney
For some, Beck is the US indie post-hippy alt-sunshine popster. For others, Beck is the Japanese post-grunge power-pop band from the TV series Beck. A completely fabricated band – in line with anime’s artifice and J-pop’s unabashed acceptance of ‘unrealism’ in the pop cosmos - Beck come across with a higher quotient of the real than a hundred Datsuns driven by Wolf Mothers. Beck hides none of its fictional nature, but in the process generates what just might be the best study of the psychological and emotional dynamics which shape the growth of a struggling indie band.
Rock journo types might baulk at Beck, but this slow simmering series beautifully merges prickly teen friction within the smothering cloak of the music industry. The result is a high quality drama that neither patronizes pop/rock sensibilities nor mocks those embroiled in its sometimes delusional machinations. Centred on the achingly slow maturity of 14 year old Koyuki, Beck starts with him accidentally becoming interested in picking up the guitar. He doesn’t get to strum his first chord on stage until at least a third of the way through the series. Beck’s painstaking pacing acknowledges the snail-like rate of personal growth – something in marked contrast to all current youth marketing which emphasises speed-addled gratification.
Based on the successful manga, Beck’s portrait of Koyuki deftly paints his disconnected feelings, and gradually creates a musical landscape for his aspirations. His bond with the slightly older and wiser Ryusuke – ex-guitarist from another indie band – provides the frame for Koyuki’s widening perception of the world. The just-released first volume of this series is a low-key affair, but it really is an engrossing saga that deserves as much patience as Koyuki realises is needed for him to become integrated into the band.