The old stuff:
"I came out of playing in coffeehouses and bars, so really, just as a performer, that was kind of a survival mechanism," Beck says. "Because you had to be heard over a crowd, or playing in between the bands that people actually came to see. So the humor was something that just sort of helped me get people's attention, I guess.
His new material, however, has darker undercurrents. Lyrically, songs like "Volcano" and the title track can come off as depressed, apocalyptic, anxious.
For Beck, it isn't necessarily a conscious decision, though.
"The way a lot of my songs are written — I write the music first, and I record it, and then with a song like 'Modern Guilt,' I just get on the microphone and I write something really quick, sort of off the top of my head so I can remember the melody," he says. "And what happens a lot of times is that what I initially sing on there ends up being on the record. A lot of these things, I don't really get to spend too much time figuring out what it is."