Beck The Information

Beck The Information
Photo: Autumn De Wilde
With The Information, Beck has created an ornery record that is a classic-in-waiting. Much like U2’s Achtung Baby, the overwhelming sensation on the first few listens is that Beck is ushering in a shift in pop music that is initially difficult to appreciate. Songs like "Elevator Music” and "Think I’m in Love” have the requisite hooky melodies, riffs and rhythms (all rendered wonderfully by producer Nigel Godrich) but there are also a lot of nuances here. This is what the late ’60s-era Rolling Stones might sound like if they made a trippy, brave, hip-hop record — their influence is all over "Strange Apparition,” Beck’s update of "Dead Flowers.” It’s the kind of exploratory psych rock with street affectations one expects of Beck but it looks back to go forward in new ways. Even the interactive artwork and its ensuing controversy recall what the Stones went through with Warhol’s Sticky Fingers concept. This is a contemporary art record that we might not really be ready for and that makes it a complicated, conflicting listen. The unsettling "Soldier Jane,” "Dark Star” and "1000BPM” are unsteady and songs like "Nausea” and "No Complaints” are thrown out like lifelines. The Information contains the fundamentals of rhythm and voice with an uncomfortable, technological pastiche. Even the accompanying videos for every single song are fraught with a randomness of imagery and narrative and their non-commercial nature is meant to be too much to digest. The work of hapless hipsters, they’re nothing and really something simultaneously. The Information is Beck’s boldest effort in years; it’s divisive and crazed and the sharpest dart thrown by the mainstream in recent memory. (Interscope)