I was ten years old when Beck released his second major-label LP, “Odelay”. I promptly decided it was the greatest album ever. I played the songs about hot dog dances and three dollar bills until I could hum every guitar-twang sample, and patiently waited another two years for the follow up, hoping it would be as frenetic and genre-bending as its predecessor. I ended up with “Mutations”— an album that I was initially so disappointed with that I marched my 4’2” body all the way back to the record store and demanded they take it back. Miraculously, they did, but what’s more important is that as time passed I eventually learned that my reaction to the album was silly. Who was I to tell any musician what album they should make?
So with each new album he made, I followed Beck from sexed-up funkophile to folk troubadour, enjoying the journey, but all the while finding it hard to stop yearning for the days when Beck had “two turntables and a microphone.” Last year’s “Guero” attempted to recapture some of “Odelay’s” magic while trying to fuse it with mature songwriting, and it came out hit-or-miss. With “The Information,” it appears Beck thought “Guero” needed a part two. Though it’ll be sure to get you clapping, the lead-off single “Nausea” comes off like a demo of “Black Tambourine,” and the party-groove perfection of “We Dance Alone” is more than a little reminiscent of “Hell Yes.” One of the few tracks that doesn’t come across as a retread is “Strange Apparition,” where it seems Beck is channeling the Stones at their most drug impaired. “New Round” also succeeds in its fusion of “Sea Change’s” delicate songwriting with the strong push of an airy drum sample backing delay-infused vocals. The latter half of the album becomes a pretty forgettable journey until the last track; granted, you will be remembering it for all the wrong reasons. Sure to leave a bad taste in your mouth, “The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton” clocks in at 10:36, all the while sounding like the discarded remnant of Thom Yorke’s recent album.
“The Information” is an album for true Beck fans, which is strange since so many will be initially disappointed. Maybe that’s the point though; it’s quite difficult to make an adequate comparison to Beck. “The Information” reminds us that the only person worthy to impersonate Beck is himself.