Friday, October 26, 2007

MUSIC REVIEW: Beck 'The Information'

Until 'Sea Change' I never thought Beck would ever bore me but he did because it ended, unintentionally, his Peter Pan career of carefree abandon. Beck, always suspicious about his potluck, now sounded like a broken man, one that seemed destined never to rise again. 2005's 'Guero' was a decent attempt to shake off his blues in a less sobering light. Now comes 'The Information', the album he hopes will get him back to that no-grown ups allowed space he created with 'Loser'. But we can never go home again and even talented musicians must come face to face with such a realization.

That said, Beck in denial is not a bad thing. 'The Information' rumbles and grooves with beats that keep the listener from lulling but they stop well short of tripping us out into the stratosphere. The album feels like indifferent pastiche unevenly arranged instead of boldly saturated by his sheer will and vitality. This is extremely odd when one considers how long the collection is (15 songs topping an hour with the last song alone well past 10 minutes). This feels like leftover ideas from the making of 'Guero' although there is nothing as bluesy as that album's 'Girl' or as downright funky as 'Hell Yes'. Even so, it's hard to pinpoint what went 'wrong'. I put that word in italics for it is the first time such a word is being used in a review I've done with him surely. Beck doesn't do bad music and maybe the reason why he will be criticized for this is because of the brilliant precedence he sets. As the most vital solo male artiste of the previous decade, he carried an enviable mantle that seemed in safe hands. Hands that were never afraid to experiment with funk, hip/hop, honky-tonk and western blues... anything as long as it served his purpose. The opener 'Elevator Music' comes close to recapturing this aura with its seamless beats. Next track, 'Think I'm In Love' uses a similar beat to Madonna's 'Beautiful Stranger' but stays oddly in a holding pattern even though he rips a brief guitar solo towards the end. Another two words rarely found in a Beck review: 'holding pattern'.

Producer Nigel Godrick--who did Thom Yorke's solo debut-- should be credited for some funky beats and unusual use of percussions and instruments as varied as glockenspeil and kalimba. The album's production is solid and never wavers even though the pastiche element failed to spark any real fire when intentionally lit. The weakness mainly is in Beck's delivery. 'Strange Apparition' is all juiced up with lush beats and vocally Beck reaches high only to quell it with repitition and everything else that follows falls into the same routine: the instance the songs threaten to really take off he restrains them. Another word rarely used in a review of his: restraint. 'Nausea' is another track with monster intentions but he regulates it with too many lapses in silence until it dissolves and segues into another track. A lot of these songs sound alike too, again, not necessarily a bad thing but Beck drones on with them as if barely awake and merely tacking ideas together in a blind hope of finding a right, pulsating solution.

Even when his vocals come into sharp focus, the repitition never fails to dull the moment ('1000 BPM')or even when it escapes the strangulation , the pleasure dervied is short-lived ('The Information'). The closer , 'The Horrible Fanfare...' attempts with dubiousness to bridge too many crossings into one coherent track. It rails on too intent on content to have a sharp impact and leaves listeners in the end just puzzled. I blame it to 'Sea Change' for sobering up his child-like appeal and I'm left to wonder how long before he finds the funk door latch and re-enter his once comfortable home, so we can become enchanted guests again and fly away with him into Never Never land again.

RATING: 6/10

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