Friday, October 20, 2006

No Complaints

Song: No Complaints
Artist: Beck
Album: The Information

While I was a little unsure when I first heard two tracks off the album, after spending a little over two weeks with it, I am once again in love with Beck’s latest album. “The Information” has been in the works since 2003, so some of these songs date further back than the tunes on last year’s “Guero.” Produced by Nigel Godrich, who helmed the more acoustic-folk albums “Mutations” and “Sea Change,” the album was intended as “Beck’s hip-hop record,” though the final result can only be described as typical Beck. Song styles change from song to song and sometimes within a single song.

What has struck me with this new record is how much Beck has grown as a songwriter. While I adore his early very popular albums “Mellow Gold” and “Odelay,” the lyrics seemed to be nonsensical filler that just fit best for the music behind them. Beck always understood how words needed to flow together, but it seems now that he is not just putting words together because they sound good next to each other, he is taking things a step further and making it all MEAN something. This is partly while I thought “Guero” was such a milestone, a real jump in his song-craft. I can’t say that I like “The Information” better than “Guero,” not even close, but slowly certain songs are really getting my attention.

“No Complaints” has recently stood out as a highlight on the album, and the perfect breezy pop-ish confection to have you sail into a pleasant weekend. I love the whistling, and the fun strummy vibe. Lines like “No complaints but it's harder to believe in the truth” are a good example of the idea for the record. “The Information” specifically takes aim at the flood of information we are subjected to these days, and how it is effecting us. I haven’t quite deciphered what Beck’s conclusion is as I’m just too busy enjoying these songs for just how much fun they are. Other album highlights include “I Think I’m in Love,” “Strange Apparition,” “We Dance Alone,” and “The Information.”

This is an album you need to go out and buy for a few reasons… first, it’s very good, and if you like Beck even a little you won’t be disappointed. Second, it has some of the most ingenious packaging I’ve seen in some time. The CD cover is a blank booklet on tech paper and includes six pages of stickers for you to design and make your own cover. Also included is a DVD with low budget music videos made for EVERY song on the record. They’re silly, simple, and seem to be made specifically for stoners, but I am so glad they are included… and something you can’t get if you download the album. Go buy it! (And the album is not more expensive because of this, got mine at Tower (R.I.P.!) for $9.99.)

While this may mean I am just a super-fan, to me Beck has yet to release a “proper” album that I haven’t liked. Scratched that… LOVED. I am happy that he seems to no longer be just trying to make genre records. While one could argue that this made them more distinctive, I think it was also limiting as Beck is about much more than that. From his start with “Mellow Gold” he’s been about fusing many styles and watching how they bounce off each other with deft skill. With “Guero” and now “the Information” he is broadening his pallet to simply make Beck records, where anything can go at anytime. While I can appreciate the sustained mood of sad-sack “Sea Change” or even the party funk of “Midnight Vultures,” I like when things are a bit more unpredictable.

And while I think that “The Information” is another great Beck record, I must say I have been very frustrated with reviews of the album from the media mostly because they seem to have decided this is the Beck record to champion, and in turn call it a return to form after the “disappointing” “Guero.” (Which I still think is his best.) I don’t understand how or why this happens as they mostly seem to be all on the same page. (Did they get a marketing plan form his record label that I didn’t?) This is specifically annoying because at the time of its release “Guero” was met with good to extremely positive reviews. Oh well, I need to let this go and stop trying to push “Guero” on people. May it be the last time I mention it! (Good luck with that.)


Here is an example of one of the videos on the DVD:

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