Beck must’ve been sitting on a ton of ideas since Guero. His new album, The Information, is fifteen tracks of some of his most disparate material, anywhere from starry chillpop to jangly party sing-a-longs to ripped-up, whiteboy hip-hop.
Produced by the alt-genius, Nigel Godrich, Beck’s lucky seventh major release features more electronics than ever before, and with them, a slyness from somewhere between Guero‘s trickery and Sea Change‘s subtlety. Beats are shiftier, melodies ooze, and background effects drizzle like the streaming green bits of the Matrix at a depth of sound that’s well stripped down but highly spread out. Sounds you’ve never heard before, and like some tasty ear candy, you’ve got to try a bite of everything.
The Information kicks off with “Elevator Music”, a shaking jam styled up with Nintendo buzzes and glassy pops, and even a wrong number tone, but clearly, Beck is right on. There are so many sounds per second on this album that it almost takes a third ear to catch them all. “Cellphone’s Dead” is like throwing rocks in an abandoned warehouse while a robot scratches jungle records in the corner. It’s as open and spread-out as the album itself.
Beck’s ability to rock a rhythm is near untouchable, exhibited by the array of beats he’s released over the years. There are some fine numbers here, as well, such as the feel-good piano-stomp, “Strange Apparition”, and the bouncy funk in “Think I’m In Love”. The curveball “1000BPM” is fuzzed-out glitch-hop with Beck frontin’ over futuristic cowbells. Production is key, but you know only Beck could pull this stuff off.
Beck’s “Motorcade” vocals resemble “The New Pollution” but the music is like something off of Thom Yorke’s Eraser. As Godrich worked on Yorke’s album, there are obvious similarities, and as Yorke is the depressed, nit-picky British guy, Beck is the laid back, cool American, portrayed through their uses of Godrich’s talents. On “Nausea”, Beck sings with a rolling pace that could’ve been on Hail To the Thief, but with vocal roughness and drumbeat wackiness that never would have passed the Radiohead test. The triple track, “The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton” is a massive, ten-minute art-house blockbuster that finishes off the album in whirlwind fashion.
Beck may be America’s answer to Radiohead, as he’s stretched the alternative genre to its breaking point, as his genius lies in his ability to incorporate a million different noises into one distinct sound. Eccentricity is in no shortage yet again, as Beck further defines himself as an indespensible musical archetype. He’ll certainly never be duplicated, as his résumé pioneers more and more into the great unknown with each release.