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When all is said and done, Beck's Guero might be the quintessential album of 2005. Not the best, nor the one that captured the sound of the year, but the album that illustrates that in 2005, there was no such thing as a finished album -- that a set of songs could be packaged and repackaged in so many forms, it never really seems to exist as a finished work. That's because in the course of the year there were roughly five different incarnations of the album. At the beginning of the year, the unfinished album was leaked on the Internet, causing such a commotion that it was reviewed on the front page of Salon. A couple months later, the album was officially released as a 13-track edition, along with a greatly expanded 20-track special edition, containing a few remixes and several songs that didn't appear on the 13-track album but did appear on the leaked bootleg. Then, after a couple of import editions containing various bonus tracks, Guerolito appeared at the end of the year. Guerolito is a remix of the entire album, with each track being remixed by a different act, including Air, Boards of Canada, Octet, and Ad-Rock. Sometimes these songs bear different titles than their source material -- "E-Pro" became "Ghost Range," for instance; this practice was in place for the deluxe version of Guero as well -- and Guerolito itself had its own alternate edition, which was packaged and sequenced slightly differently from its main edition, plus an import with a bonus track. All this packaging and repackaging, mixing and remixing, titling and retitling has the effect of diluting a good set of songs by Beck -- there may be many ways of enjoying these songs, but having them exist in different physical and musical forms makes them harder to grasp, not easier to appreciate. And while the mixes on Guerolito are, by and large, good, they neither illuminate the original songs, nor do they offer much new -- they don't expand the songs, they still try to keep the basic structure in place, so it's not a good showcase for the remixers. Instead, they just reconfirm the suspicion that this set of songs was never quite finished or sequenced, it was just released. And while that may be a very 2005 experience, that doesn't mean that each grouping makes for satisfying listen. After all, given all the capabilities you have at home these days, why not make your own mixes and play lists of the Guero material? The deluxe edition of Guero even gives you the ability to remix it on your computer -- which means there may be many more versions than five of this album floating out there in the ether.

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