I Wanna Know What You’re Thinking
Beck last left us with the sample-delic folktronica of Guero, a Dust Brothers-produced affair that harkened back to his 90s masterpiece Odelay. Unbeknownst to the average fan, Beck was simultaneously working with his frequent producer Nigel Godrich. Last collaborating on 2002’s sublime, somber effort Sea Change, Godrich and Beck strived to strike a middle ground between SC’s lavish orchestration and Beck’s colorful rapping on this new album, The Information.At times (“1000BPM,” “Nausea”) the results are exuberant. One instrument dominates–acoustic bar chords on “Nausea” and electronically treated cymbals on “1000BPM”–serving to propel each song’s momentum. Far more common, though, is a subdued pace, allowing string flourishes or analog drones to make the song pop. Chief among those instances is the sinewy crawling bass of “Dark Star,” perhaps one of the slower, calmer raps of the last fifteen years, and Beck’s resonating voice soaring against additive synthesizers on “Soldier Jane.”
“No Complaints,” on the other hand, is the type of folk slow jam that made Beck famous. A song that’s easy to imagine being played live with nothing but an acoustic guitar, losing none of its effectiveness.
Two offerings in particular deserve special accolade: “Cellphone’s Dead” and “We Dance Alone.” Both are a rare treat, a positively dynamic approach to hip-hop. “Cellphone’s Dead” alternates between a 60s party-jam vocal line, a squelching synth bass riff, arpeggiated piano melodies and comical vocal samples (“one-by-one I’ll knock you out”) with stop-on-a-dime precision. And somehow “We Dance Alone” manages to sound impossibly faster, despite its similar tempo, and Beck deftly murmuring barely audible rhymes.
A majestic, sonic experience, indeed, The Information concludes with Beck’s most adventurous piece since the finale to his breakout Mellow Gold, the eleven-minute opus “The Horrible Fanfare, Landslide, Exoskeleton.” A Frankenstein’s monster of musical might comprised of bits of earlier songs in one sleek, expansive package–echoing the success of this album, much like Beck’s entire career.