October 19, 2006

Beck's One Step Back

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On the appropriately titled new album, The Information, Beck gives us an album of just that: 61 minuets of data. Calculated and predictable, the album unfortunately is an encyclopedia of previous records: it is Beck simply doing Beck.
Up until now, Beck has consistently made exciting records since he broke ground with Mellow Gold in 1994. With “Loser,” he took his trademark white-boy-rap-flow mainstream along with a few acoustic guitar chords as he sang whimsical verse lyrics with an unforgettable chorus. Since then, he has proved he can be gritty, groovy, funky and funny. Who could forget all the hooks from 1999’s Mutations? On his newest record, however, Beck seems to have slightly lost his touch: he is less relatable and definitely less loveable.
The main problems with The Information are disguised by the rich production by guru-producer Nigel Godrich (of Radiohead fame). The second track on the album, “Think I’m In Love,” feels good, but only a solid groove helps save a song that would otherwise be overlooked. “Strange Apparition” is the closest Beck comes to having memorable lyrics on this album: he sings the tongue-in-cheek words, “Lord, please don’t forsake me in my Mercedes Benz” on this standout track. Although “Strange Apparition” is one of the best on the album, it is bogged down with an excess of rhythm tracks and finishes with a contrived and anticlimactic section. The general “overthinking” done on this album makes me yearn for Beck’s simpler early days: we all loved you when you were just a loser!
The Information comes with a pack of stickers; an advertising ploy allowing fans to create their own album cover, as well as a video for every track that consists of Beck and his buddies wearing strange costumes, doing strange dances, with strange props. Although they are intriguing ideas, they are altogether disposable.
Two albums ago, on Sea Change, Beck proved he could seriously sing. On The Information, however, he neglects this talent and takes his rap-flow too seriously; it worked before when it was fresh, but now it’s slightly rotten. In the past, production added an enjoyable layer to his music, but without a solid base of good songs, even this meticulous production cannot help much. Although he may have made a flop this time around, I still hear signs of brilliance in his music — and no, Lord, I won’t forsake him: he’s still my favorite Beck.