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This review is from: The Information (Audio CD)
I'll keep this brief... I've been a Beck fan since the off (well, since "Loser" anyway) & followed his career very closely until the maudlin Sea Change. Before you start punching your monitor & screaming "Classic!", "Idiot!!" or, possibly, "What a classic idiot!!", don't misconstrue me here... I l.o.v.e. Sea Change, but it seemed like it might be Beck's creative zenith to me. When, after it's unfairly lukewarm critical reception, he hooked up with The Dust Brothers again, for the overcooked/overlong Guero, I figured he might've finally run out of steam. The minor diversions offered by water-treading remix projects like The Gameboy Variations & Guerolito only seemed to confirm that.
So, when The Information originally appeared, hot on Guero's heels - another deluge of songs in a variety of slightly confusing formats & tucked inside a slightly "whacky" (yes, I hate that word too) sleeve - I told myself "ENOUGH!" & gave it a wide berth. It wasn't until I heard the brilliant - & relatively brief - Modern Guilt LP that I decided to risk disappointment & give The Information a go. I bought the 3 disc version, as it was going for a song, & was utterly dazzled. As a couple of other folk have hinted on here, it's arguably Beck's magnum opus. Personally, I still rate Mutations as his finest album to date, but it's difficult to compare the 2 as they're so completely different. The Information is a very electronic record, sometimes deceptively so (it's mix of electronic & acoustic instrumentation is incredibly skillful), & the production is very dense in places. Frequently, there seems to be a lot more going on beneath the surface than is initially apparent, making it a record that repays repeated plays.
The Information strikes me, lyrically, as being Beck's reaction to his Scientologist beliefs & upbringing (apparently, he's been involved with the movement for most of his life). The lyrics, noticeably more "cosmic" than usual, are often delivered in an unsettling android-like monotone, but are some of his finest ever. A handful of songs disappoint - "Nausea" & "1000bpm" sound like heated-up Guero hangovers for starters - but several are his best yet. The unearthly, eerie drift that underpins tracks like "Solider Jane", "Movie Theme" & "Cellphone's Dead" is genuinely haunting. The latter's Michael Gondry-directed video perfectly captures the feeling I'm talking about.
n.b. Curiously, "Timebomb", released as a single to promote the album, isn't actually on it (even the 3 disc version omits it). Curiouser still, it would've been one of the worst tracks on it if they included it.
The Information is a sprawling, slightly chaotic, fantastical brainfart of an album... & I heartily recommend it.