'The Information' Finds Beck at His Best

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Beck's tenth album seems to use the best sonic ideas from his wildly divergent back catalog

Beck's tenth album seems to use the best sonic ideas from his wildly divergent back catalog — and it all works beautifully. Interscope Records hide caption

itoggle caption Interscope Records
Critics are already hailing 'The Information' as the best yet from the Los Angeles-based musi

Critics are already hailing The Information as the best yet from the Los Angeles-based musician. Interscope Records hide caption

itoggle caption Interscope Records

Beck is something of a musical chameleon — he's been called a cracked folkie, a hip-hop joker, a sonic innovator, even a pop star. His latest CD, The Information, finds him in all these guises, and more.

The 15-song collection is his most difficult descent into narcotic funk and psychedelic rock. And it may well be a classic.

"Cellphone's Dead," the lead single from Beck's new album, is a wobbly electro dub-fest that sounds like it could have been transmitted from a remote desert. If it sounds like an odd choice to introduce Top 40 listeners to his tenth album. But Beck has always been able to create masterworks out of elements that could easily have fallen flat.

The Information is Beck's weirdest album yet, full of tricky rhyme schemes, narcotic funk, sun-baked melodies, electronic blurps and strange ear candy. But it's also the psychedelic rock record of the year, and an album that could prove a favorite for years to come.

"Elevator Music" is one of the catchiest cuts on the record, but it's also slightly retrograde in its big funk sound and junkyard-rap shtick. Beck's coherent lyrics manage to make you feel relatively traditional post-modern thoughts about a modern world where mountains of data have replaced genuine human interaction.

The artist has been tackling similar issues for years. But now his lyrics are more smartly introspective than ever, and his music is more ambitious, more nuanced and ultimately more seductive than ever.

Take, for example, the Kraftwerk-meets-disco-meets-Duran Duran hookiness of "We Dance," the serrated, tape-looping, washing-machine tumble of the genius "1000 BPM," or sun-baked, uneasy affection of "Think I'm in Love."

How exactly does Beck pull it off? For one thing, he's got Nigel Godrich, who worked Beck on 1998's folkier Mutations and was the producer behind Radiohead's seminal CD OK Computer. Godrich knows how to keep disparate, experimental sounds coherent, and with his help, everything on The Information just works.

Every song has a memorable yet subtle melody, or arresting rhymes that are more schooled and skilled than any in Beck's career. More importantly, every song goes somewhere. So when Beck actually bears down and tosses out a big, show-stopping chorus on the song "Strange Apparition," it sounds like the culmination of a lots of great little moments, and one to grow on.

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