Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Beck - The Information
I’ve long been a fan of Beck. I can remember buying Odelay! when I was in high school and blasting it as I sat on the porch. I just loved that album…what with all the hip-hop beats and raspy country singing/rapping…who could resist that?
If that’s all he ever amounted to, I probably would’ve ditched him shortly after graduation. But, fortunately for all of us, he decided that it wasn’t worth being dubbed “The hip-hop Hank Williams” if that’s all he was ever known for. So, like all great artists, he evolved. And evolved. And evolved. With each new album he gave us a new sound…a new reason to love him.
I won’t give you a huge run through of his albums…perhaps that will come another time. Suffice it to say, though, that he is, without a doubt, one of the most consistently creative solo artists running around today (I’d put him around the level of Tom Waits in this respect). He doesn’t necessarily put out albums all that often, but, when he does, you can always be assured of one thing: that it will sound nothing like the last album.
I’m not quite sure if that’s 100% true with The Information or not. You can still hear hints of Guero here and there. For one, his trademark rap-singing is on full display here, after ditching it (pretty much) altogether for Sea Change. He also shows off the tight rhythm section/sampling that made Guero so much fun to listen to.
But, whereas Guero pulled a lot of its influence from Hispanic music, The Information is a bit broader in its influences…that is, it definitely keeps you on your toes. From the grooving, 70s bass line of “Elevator Music” (which kicks off the album in some serious style) to the 60s pop influence of “Think I’m in Love” to the quasi-bossa nova styling of “Cellphone’s Dead”, to the White Stripes sounding “Strange Apparition” (is that Jack White on the piano?) to the jangly, low-end heavy guitar of “Nausea” to the free-roaming, faux-folk of “New Round”, to the rap-disco of “We Dance Alone”, to…well, you get the picture. No two songs sound alike, and there’s really no song that sounds too much like anything he’s ever done up to this point.
That may sound confusing and jumbled, like he has a bunch of great ideas, but maybe they don’t belong on the same album. But the album sounds anything but jumbled and sprawling. Even though he has a lot of different ideas here, they all fit perfectly together on one album. There’s nothing jumbled or confusing about it. I honestly can’t see this album working as well as it does if even one song was missing from it. By the same token, I can’t see a single song off this album making sense on any other album he has ever done.
I hesitate to really make a grand statement about this album within the scope of his work. After all, with an artist as consistently creative as Beck, it’s a little tough to compare one album to another. How can you compare an oddball electro-rap-funk album (Midnite Vultures) with an Indian-influenced sonic-folk album (Mutations)? You can’t. It’s darn near impossible. But I will say this: this album ranks among the best albums that Beck has ever recorded. With every album he gets a little better. He is constantly coming up with new ideas, and, unlike some artists, he manages to mash all of his massive range of influences up into his music and still (somehow) make it work.
I already can’t wait for his next album.
(All of that, and I didn’t even mention the create-your-own-cover-art part of the CD, or the extra DVD containing ramshackle music videos for each and every song on the album. That’s the thing: the album itself is so good, that I don’t even have to resort to general gimmicky to try to sell anyone on it!)
Essential Tracks: “Think I’m in Love”, “Cellphone’s Dead”, “We Dance Alone”
Favorite Tracks: “Elevator Music”, “Nausea”, “New Round”
Also, check out his AMAZING performance on SNL at www.youtube.com (search “Beck SNL”)
And if that isn’t enough, make sure to pick up the latest issue of Paste magazine, with our boy on the cover. The story on him is extremely interesting.