Beck Hansen's records are like thrift stores, a collection of seemingly unrelated odds and ends united only by a shared roof.
It's an adventure, sifting through the wares at the Salvation Army, looking for that overlooked treasure, and that same sense of discovery is alive in Hansen's tunes.
He's a musical Dumpster diver, a hoarder of seemingly disparate sounds, unifying them mostly with a firm grasp of funk.
That, and a measure of playfulness as boyish as his still-youthful features.
At The Pearl on Wednesday, he led the crowd in a bit of denim improv, giving shoutouts to various jean manufacturers - Sergio Valente, Sasson, Jordache - dropped some freestyle rhymes about slot machines and drinking from plastic cups and let loose with the occasional tongue-wagging, hair metal guitar lead.
"There's lots of '80s guitar solos played in these casino walls. I just have to lay one down myself," he said before letting it rip at the end of "Hotwax."
This came immediately after he and his band (who share the Beck handle) scruffed up a Bob Dylan tune, "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat," with bluesy bombast and directly before they vacuum-packed some existential angst into the toe-tapping vamp of "Modern Guilt."
Beck initially came to prominence by bringing some funk to decidedly unfunky times: the angst acned '90s alt-rock boom.
He opened the show with a pair of signature early hits, "Devil's Haircut " and "Loser," which showcased both his disregard for tidy genre designations and his knack for inscrutable wordplay.
But in the years after Beck's mid-'90s commercial emergence, Hansen's repertoire became increasingly shifty and boundless from one record to the next, which continues to this day (to wit, his next two releases are a remix disc with minimalist composer Philip Glass and "Beck Hansen's Song Reader," a collection of tunes issued as sheet music rather a recorded CD).
Beck's 90-minute, 23-song set at The Pearl mirrored the tangent-strewn nature of the band's albums.
Clad in a black fedora and matching leather jacket, Hansen bobbed and weaved between musical whimsy and uncertainty, his tunes frequently coming off as naive, precocious and knowing all at once.
He sang with eyes clamped shut, acoustic guitar in hand, for solemn, barren-hearted tunes like "Lost Cause" and "Guess I'm Doing Fine," culled from Beck's equally biting and beatific 2002 breakup album, "Sea Change," his most direct record both emotionally and in terms of song arrangements.
This was counterpoised with the '60s pop sock-hop boogie of "The New Pollution" and "Girl," the gospel revival fervor of "Black Tambourine" and the harmonica-fired hip-hop of "Novacane," where blues, rock and rap became compressed into a single hunk of loose-hipped groove.
On the brooding "Paper Tiger," Hansen's voice was a whisper, but his guitar was a shout.
"We're just holding on to nothing, to see how long nothing lasts," he sang plaintively, before unleashing a squall of six-string dissonance that swallowed his words whole.
Next up was instant dance party "Where It's At," where crowd members did the robot as bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen followed suit.
It probably would have registered as a sudden shift in mood and temperament if these shifts didn't form the lone constant in a catalog devoid of them.
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476.