The New Pollution
By: Beck Hansen, John King, Mike Simpson

Written by: Beck Hansen, John King, Mike Simpson

 
Unofficial Versions: [show/hide]
  1. Tax Jam Pollution (3:17)
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed
    The Beatles: Mashed
    The Jam: Mashed
    ccc: Remix (Mashup)
  2. The New Pollution (Instrumental) (3:39)
  3. The New Pollution (Pollution Mix 1) (7:41)
    Available on The New Pollution and 1 other release.
  4. The New Pollution (Pollution Mix 2) (7:02)
    Available on Drama! Unreleased White Labels Volume 24.
  5. The New Pollution (The Newest Pollution Mix) (2:57)
  6. Thrill Me / New Pollution (1:49)
    Available on 2 Many DJ's: As Heard On Radio Soulwax Pt. 10.
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed
    Junior Jack: Mashed
    Soulwax: Remix (Mashup)
 
 
Lyrics:
The New Pollution [Version (a)]:

Doo-doo-da-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo...

She's got a cigarette on each arm
She's got the lily-white cavity crazes
She's got a carburetor tied to the moon
Pink eyes looking to the fruit of the ages
She's alone in the new pollution
She's alone in the new pollution

She's got a hand on a wheel of pain
She can talk to the manglin' strangers
She can sleep in a fiery barn
Throwing troubles to the dyin' embers
She's alone in the new pollution
She's alone in the new pollution

She's alone in the new pollution
She's alone in the new pollution

She's got a paradise camouflouge
Like a whipcrack sending me shivers
She's a boat in a stripmine ocean
Riding low on the drunken rivers
She's alone in the new pollution
She's alone in the new pollution
The New Pollution (Mario C. and Mickey P. Remix) [Version (b)]:

She's got a cigarette on each arm
She's got the lily-white cavity crazes
She's got a carborateur tied to the moon
Pink eyes looking to the fruit of the ages
She's alone in the new pollution
She's alone in the new pollution

She's got a hand on the wheel of pain
She can talk to the manglin' strangers
She can sleep with a firy ball
Throw her troubles to the dyin' embers
She's alone in the new pollution
She's alone in the new pollution

She's alone in the new pollution
She's alone in the new pollution

She's got a paradise camouflouge
Like a whipcrack sending me shivers
She's a boat in a stripmine ocean
Riding low on the drunken rivers
She's alone in the new pollution
She's alone in the new pollution
 
The New Pollution (Mickey P. Remix) [Version (c)]:

Doo doo da doo doo
She's alone in the
She's alone in the new pollution
New pollution, new pollution

She's got a cigarette on each arm
She's got the lily-white cavity crazes
She's got a carborateur tied to the moon
Pink eyes looking to the fruit of the ages
She's alone in the new pollution
She's alone in the new pollution

She's got a hand on the wheel of pain
She can talk to the manglin' strangers
She can sleep with a firy ball
Throw her troubles to the dyin' embers
She's alone in the new pollution
She's alone in the new pollution

She's alone in the new pollution
She's alone in the new pollution

She's got a paradise camouflouge
Like a whipcrack sending me shivers
She's a boat in a stripmine ocean
Riding low on the drunken rivers
She's alone in the new pollution
She's alone in the new pollution

She's alone in the
She's alone in the
She's alone in the
She's alone in the new pollution
New pollution, new pollution
New pollution, new pollution
Doo doo da doo doo. . .
 
The Song:

"The New Pollution" is one of Beck's hit singles from his 1996 album, Odelay.

Beck was once asked what the new pollution was. His reply, "Human radios, sex with machines, mad eunuchs." Cryptic, but it makes a little sense. He is observing that in modern times, technology and information can drive you mad. It's everywhere, bombarding your senses.

The woman he is singing about in the song, then, is admirably unaffected by the new pollution, and somehow remains pure. Beck himself called it a "love song," and surely there's some admiration, if not actual love throughout the lyrics. It is a great way to frame his point about modern information.

In Rolling Stone in 2008, it was written that Beck was "trying to evoke the Sixties glamour of femme fatales from Nico to Brigitte Bardot" in the line about having a cigarette on each arm. The ability to "throw her troubles to the dyin' embers" is admirable. The image of her being a boat alone in a "stripmine ocean" is wonderful. There's something very comforting in that, if at the same time, slightly dangerous. This is a slanted, but effective, portrait of a femme fatale.

"The New Pollution" is an amazing song, and Beck seems quite proud of it: "...a song like 'The New Pollution,' I mean, pollution, it's a presence in our lives. And isn't it interesting to use a word like that-something with such horrible connotations-in the context of a love song? That's where you create friction. That's where you can start to get someplace where you aren't dealing in the banalities of everyday, pedestrian rock lyrics. Not that I mean to be snobby about it, I can appreciate the good ol' song, and I still like to write that way sometimes." It's interesting to note that Beck uses this type of contrast often, including songs like "Asshole" or "Sweet Sunshine."

Integral to the song's core is the sublime sax sample. It makes the song what it is. More generally, Beck calls the song "inverted funk." He explains, "Some of the other songs are a little bit too loose. We had to pull in the reins, make it a little more tight, bring in the Mormon feel. Mormons are funky."
 
Live:

Played live 423 times:
Earliest known live version: July 16, 1996
Latest known live version: October 24, 2017

As one of his big hits, "The New Pollution" has thrived on stage since it came out in 1996. The only times it does not show up is when Beck is playing acoustic gigs, but when Beck has a band, he will most likely play the song. It is never far from his rotation.

1996-1997 Odelay tours

Most live versions of "The New Pollution" throughout the Odelay tour are pretty cool (though some could get a bit sloppy). It's got a fast funky groove that doesn't stop or change, it's just sort of relentless. Joey Waronker turns out to be the main leader of the song on drums. A lead electric guitar plays a cool intro to the song, and the verses are very drum/bass minimalistic. Keyboard and sax licks/samples float in and out of the song. Beck also took to using a whip ("like a whipcrack sending me shivers") on stage during the song. Later in the Odelay tour, as Beck picked up his own horn section, they became even more a focus of the song's performance. A personal favorite, and very unique, version was on September 2, 1996. One of the speakers goes out or something, because all of the keyboards and guitars seem to vanish. Joey Waronker makes up for it by drumming like mad.

1998-1999 Mutations tours

After the Odelay tours, "The New Pollution" was still regularly rocked. One of Beck's best tours was the short one in May/June, 1998. On June 6, 1998, they kick off a great version with a little Color-Me-Badd-like singalong: "I'm about to rock a beat that's never been rocked before, baby! I'm about to kick some rhymes that have never been rhymed before, darling! I'm about to... what am I about to do? I'm about to flex some muscles that have never been flexed before, baby! I'm about to freak some freaks that ain't never been freaked before, darling!"

In April, 1999, on the Mutations tour of Japan, "The New Pollution" performances are definitely hot, and some of the best ever. DJ Swamp gets to scratch a lot, Joey Waronker's drumming is incredible, and Roger Manning's keyboard solo is stellar. It all adds up, to a controlled, but hectic, masterpiece.

2000-2001 Vultures tours

And of course "The New Pollution" was still being performed very frequently throughout the Vultures tours (it was played at bascially every show). It almost always has that sparkle to it, which is certainly not the case with every performance of every song. It sounds a little different with the new fuller band (i.e., new drummer, new guitarist, Brass Menagerie, back-up singers), when compared with the Odelay rock band.

2002 Flaming Lips version

As said above, the only times Beck doesn't play "The New Pollution" are acoustic-driven shows. August 2002 and April 2003 were solo acoustic tours, and he did not play "The New Pollution" then. In between, he toured with The Flaming Lips though, and they did. They began by doing "The New Pollution" together at their first eight shows. Initially, it was Devo-y, slightly spacey version. But after dropping the song for a month, they returned to it, bringing a totally new hyper sped-up version! They dug this new arrangement so much that they even played it on KCRW, and continued with it until the tour ended. At the show on November 25 2002, Beck called it "The Flaming Lips' version" of the song, explaining that initially they couldn't really find the right groove of the song until they sped it up. Besides the speed, they've also stripped the horn riff that appears in the middle and just go pure hyperspace.

Here is the KCRW jam:



2003 Sea Change band tour

Beck played another new arrangement of "The New Pollution" in Australia in March 2003. Hard to really explain because the bootleg I have does not have the greatest sound quality. However, it sounds interesting, maybe somewhat more new wave. Perhaps Beck's classic band borrowed from The Flaming Lips version, adapting it to suit their interests a little better.

This arrangement continued through the summer of 2003 as well: slightly faster, more new wave-y.

2005 Guero tour

Beck played about 55 shows in 2005 behind Guero, and "The New Pollution" was played at roughly half of them. This version continued to be a little fast, but the keyboard solo and guitar parts feel trippier. They also shortened the song, skipping the second verse/chorus.

2006-2007 Info tour

Beck did around 70 shows on the Information tours, but "The New Pollution" was only played around 20 times. There were also a few more at the end of 2007 when Beck went to play in South America, opening for The Police.

2008-2009 Modern Guilt tour

Similar to 2006-2007, Beck only played "The New Pollution" occasionally on the Modern Guilt tours. It showed up just 12 times out of around 50 shows. I have only heard one of these, and it was played very straight, except that Beck and Jessica Dobson were sort of shredding all through it, giving it a bit of an unrehearsed, garage rock feel.

2011-2013 pre-Morning Phase tour

Beck took a few years off the road here, but did a couple of gigs in 2011 and a couple of legs in 2012 and 2013, sort of as a nostalgic return. "The New Pollution" was not at all of these, but it did show up twice in 2011, and then like 8 of the 15 shows in 2012. He did not do it in 2013.

2014 Morning Phase tours

Beck played "The New Pollution" pretty regularly on the Morning Phase tours. He did not play it on the first leg, nor the last leg; in between, it was at 32 of the 38 shows. However, it was a mostly an exact copy of the studio recording, and though energetic, I cannot say it was really remotely interesting.

2015-2017 post-Morning Phase tours

Beck toured on occasion during 2015-2017, going out for short tours through these years. "The New Pollution" was a regular throughout, more or less. (The leg when he opened for U2 only saw 2 "New Pollutions," but it was common on all the others.) Early in 2015, the song feels fairly tame, even flat at times. Beck did ad-lib more often on the song, and bassist Justin would give his enthusiastic shouts, both perhaps trying to pick its energy back up. In Memphis, he introduced the song with some slight Outkast references: "I'm feelin' so fresh, feelin' so clean / I got the new pollution sound machine / Squeeze it like a tangerine / Read it like a magazine..."

Over the course of 2016 though, the song found its strength. I think the new bassist and drummer in 2016 & 2017 made the song a bit heavier, while still maintaining it's core weirdo funkiness. It seems to be in a good place in this way, as it remains one of Beck's more popular song choices.

 
Notes: