For a video-starved guy like me, the idea to release a CD with an accompanying DVD that contains a video for every song was sheer brilliance. Truthfully, I'm surprised it took this long for a big-named artist to try something like this. Then again, if anyone has the ingenuity to pull off such an amazing audio/video spectacle on disc(s), Beck is the musician.
I love everything about "The Information," both the CD and the DVD. There's plenty to dance to here, lots of tunes to sing along with, and some much more laid-back fare. In fact, the tail end of the disk becomes a tad more somber and uneven, but the music still kills. "The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton" reveals itself as murkier music for the diehards at 2 a.m. and counting. Still, it's great stuff until everything dissolves into a mesh of ethereal synth and a few incomprehensible voices meant to confuse; bizarre, to be sure, but also a fitting end to an album so rich in musical depth.
This masterful CD is littered with cool hip-hop dance tracks like "Elevator Music, "1000BPM" and "Nausea," which sit next to songs that mingle hip-hop and pop-rock such as "Think I'm in Love" and "No Complaints," two playful-sounding tunes that make not liking Beck's music impossible. "Strange Apparition" has a lively country-western sound, complete with jumping piano and a suitably weird video to match. Everything on this album is smooth and instantly catchy, often danceable. The dance tracks have that big bass thump, a crisp beat and snappy drums that could get anybody moving. There are also sublime songs like "Soldier Jane" that ooze atmosphere and manage transcendence. Along those lines, "Movie Theme" is an especially moving track, perhaps the best on the album. It has a buzzing, slow-synth groove that is infectious but a little sad. The video is nothing but an electric green haze of Beck's staid face shown in a row, as if a synthetic, twisted cloning went severely bad but left us great music. His voice on the track is hardly above a murmur, making the words barely audible. When he sighs toward the end of the song, you want to sigh along with him, and maybe even shed a tear or two.
Beck's droning voice belies the exciting array of noises that are par for the course within his well-rounded music. And his demeanor onscreen is no less understated than his endearing vocals. The DVD portion of "The Information" is chock-full of colorful low-fi videos (often with smooshy coloring and purposely grainy quality) that feature the calm Beck as the ever-present focus, amid a blur of bizarre men and women of all ethnicities performing a myriad of activities in odd clothing. Few bodily movements are spared in these videos: Kung Fu guys, little girls dancing, bears playing the drums, cars driving by, women exercising, jousting, costumes galore, retro graphics that flash incessantly -- you name it, every type of music-video chic is covered. Beck's sound might be modern, but his video aesthetic is pure retro, from slick 1970s suits, to "keytars," to boom boxes that his minion musicians cradle in their arms. So in a way, Beck pushes boundaries in an equally forward-thinking and nostalgic manner. There's no real theme to his videos, except to behave beautifully free and act weird once "Action!" is shouted. Sometimes people just stand around looking bored, which is cool too. Everything looks like it was filmed in the same house. Beck often has a bored, dazed look about him, but after hearing this CD and seeing his videos, you realize the guy is completely in control of what he's doing. How cool is it that the diverse songs on "The Information" also get a varied set of accompanying videos?