A polite way to examine this album would be to say that Beck sounds tired. A less kind way would be to say that Beck sounds bored and fresh out of ideas. Too much of Modern Guilt gives off the feeling that it was only made to fulfill a contractual obligation, with the once exciting disco hip-hop cowboy floating through the ten tracks without saying all that much and leaving very little impression on the listener.
Chemtrails is probably the most instantly appealing track across the thirty-odd minutes of music, but it's hard to say if that's just because it sounds a lot like Caribou. Walls is another highlight, with Beck's communicated feeling of pain (almost) working - but sounding nowhere near as genuine as anything from his bittersweet break-up masterpiece Sea Change. And that is the essence of what makes this album so uneventful - Beck has done this all before, and better.
The current pop production go-to man, Dangermouse, adds some weight, doing an admirable - although slightly formulaic - job of creating a pleasant enough soundscape for Beck to lace with his drawling vocals. For the most part however, the music sounds remarkably flat and the recycled use of the same foundation of instruments doing very little to personalise each song.
The neatly packaged pop style and occasional vibrant lyric save this from being a complete train-wreck, but it's pretty safe to say that if this was a new artist's debut (and not by a proven star) then this would be the kind of record that would go almost completely unnoticed and be instantly forgotten. It might get a couple of spins from die hard fans, but lacks anything substantial to make it a highlight of Beck's back catalogue.