The ninth album by Beck is, in some ways, of a piece with his last album Guero. Both records reunite Beck with producers of previous records; last time it was The Dust Brothers who rejoined the world of Beck, and now it's Nigel Godrich, who produced the 1998 release Mutations (as well as much celebrated work with Radiohead). And both The Information and Guero also seem to be working towards what we might call a Unified Field Theory of Beck's Music: a cohesive album that fuses all the diverging strands of Beck's oeuvre. Take a bunch of the big-beat dance-rock of Odelay, a pinch of the 70s-style sexy funk of Midnite Vultures, and a little of the folk-tinged groove of Sea Change and create something fresh and still consistent.
The album kicks off with the solid bass-driven funk of the deceptively-titled "Elevator Music." Although Beck's allows that he's "Little worse for wear/But I'm wearing it well," he asks listeners "Tell me what's wrong with a little grind n' bump?/When the stereos erupt with a kick drum punch?" It's a song very much in the vein of Midnite Vultures.
In "Cellphone's Dead," Beck raps with his typical playful flair. "Mr. Microphone making all the damage felt/Like a laser manifesto make a mannequin melt." Other highlights include the "Devil's Haircut"-reminiscent track "Think I'm in Love" and the first single "Nausea."
Beck can still be a little on the freaky side. Rather than the harsh sound experiments from his early albums, he closes out the album with a track called "The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton." It's a ten and a half minute sound collage with song sections, spoken work passages, and flashbacks to earlier on the disc. Think Beck merged with Radiohead rolled in Pink Floyd, and you get the idea.
The cover art for the album is merely a graph paper design, and it comes with one from a series of sticker sheets so that the listener can create their own unique cover art for the CD. The stickers are promised to be "specially designed by European and American artists and representative of the unique Beck aesthetic."
And that phrase sums up much about his recordings: the "unique Beck aesthetic."
While not entirely consistent, The Information turns out to be more so than Guero and a stronger album.