As bits of audio, The Information doesn't always add up. It's Beck's usual rummage sale of claptrap hip hop, hazy folk psychedelia and dollar-store electronics, smoothed with the balm of careerism. But he's still a smart guy, and manages to echo some real cultural comment inside those same old shells. "Cellphone's Dead" is sharply funky. But it's also hollow and slightly acrid, like the artificial environment inside an airport's tubular walkway. In the distorted, anxious "1000BPM," however, Beck becomes the crazed corner preacher in a society of the future, yelping non sequiturs like "Biochemical jism!" and "What else can the dust try to tell us?!" as the security forces drag him away. (There's a smattering of conventional Beck here, too, including the drowsy pop of "I Think I'm Love" and "Strange Apparition," which mixes his usual modernism with some tender theft of the Band.) If Beck is warning us about the reams of data affecting our everyday 21st century lives, he also wants us to be participants in how The Information is presented. The album art is nothing but a graph paper background; there's a sticker sheet inside, and though it's criminal that it doesn't include any scratch 'n' sniffs (what would Beck's world smell like?) his concept of consumers creating their own covers is a perceptive one. And Beck and his crew are participants too the DVD that accompanies The Information includes zany homemade videos for each song.
Johnny Loftus is the music editor of Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.