For over a decade, Beck had his fingers firmly on the pulse of capitalism and culture, drawing out its very worst and delighting in its dysfunction and excess. While individual songs were nonsensical, his albums as a whole explored uncomfortably recognizable moods or themes. Disjointed and unintelligible even by Beck’s standards, Guero proved the exception to this rule. The theme of Guero was not found in the music but instead in its marketing gimmicks, with 8-bit Gameboy remixes and exclusive iTunes-only downloads.
When early discussion of The Information revolved around its unique packaging០’design your own cover’ sticker play set and a DVD with low-budget videos for each track many feared a repeat performance. However, The Information is arguably the most interesting and personal exploration of Beck’s feelings toward popular culture to date.
The Information is what happens when Beck is trapped in a 2006 that is stranger and more threatening than any future he could have imagined. Produced by Nigel Godrich of Radiohead fame, polished electronics form a suitable backing for the dystopic gloom and weirdness the album offers. This is not the playful gen-X snark of Odelay or Midnite Vultures. Beck shows us the possibilities of networks, biotech, and robotics colliding with the dangers of universal surveillance, a shrinking middle class, theocracy, and perpetual war.
While not his greatest or most innovative album musically, The Information is thoroughly enjoyable and much better than its predecessor. His musical ability reasserted, this latest album does something none of his others have: it takes a position. Beck is no longer content to sit back and cackle gleefully at the wrongs of our culture.