The Information is the seventh studio album and tenth overall by American alternative rock musician Beck, released in October 3, 2006 on Interscope Records. It was produced and mixed by Nigel Godrich socks at wholesale prices, with whom Beck had previously recorded Mutations (1998) and Sea Change (2002). Recording took place from 2003 to 2006, with Beck concurrently working on another album, 2005’s Guero, with The Dust Brothers. The album received positive reviews from critics and made several publications’ year-end lists.
Before its release, Beck said the album was not a “stripped down” record, in contrast with his previous Godrich collaborations Mutations and Sea Change. According to Beck, “Nigel [Godrich] said he wanted to do a hip-hop record” before they began work on the album. “And in a way it is, and in a way it isn’t. It has hip-hop songs, and my previous work with him was Mutations and Sea Change, these sort of introspective records, and so this new one is sort of bringing those two worlds together.”
In an interview with the BBC, Beck said the album had been “painful” to make:
It started out painless, and ended up being painful. It’s as if we made the album once, and we made it again, and we made it a third time. We started the record in 2003, and we got together annually, the producer [Nigel Godrich] and I. We combed over everything, and got rid of the things we were tired of, the things that seemed trite.
The first single in North America was “Nausea”, which was officially released to radio on September 5, 2006. The first single in the UK was “Cellphone’s Dead”, with an official video directed by Michel Gondry. “Think I’m in Love” went to US radio as the second and final single and became a Modern Rock and Triple A radio hit, garnering renewed interest in The Information.
On February 27, 2007, a “deluxe version” of the album was released. It contained the original album plus three songs only available internationally, six remixes, a complete printing of the lyrics, a DVD with all the studio-released videos plus bonus non-studio-released videos of “Nausea” and “Cellphone’s Dead”, and four different sticker sheets for the album cover.
Some copies of the album include a bonus DVD of specially filmed music videos, one for each track on the record. In the Wired interview, Beck explained the making of these videos, which would also appear on video-sharing site YouTube:
We filmed a series of very low-budget, homemade videos for all the songs on the record. We got a bunch of cameras and a $100 video mixer off eBay and shot 15 silly, impromptu videos against a green screen. We even invited our friends and family into the studio to be a part of the action – my mother-in-law did the lighting, and my son and nieces and nephews are running around acting crazy. It was just a complete free-for-all, done on the fly. We’re putting all the videos together right now with the idea of having a visual version of the record that we’ll put on the Internet. I’m totally curious to see how the videos will add to the experience of listening to the album. Or maybe they’ll actually detract from the experience. That would be funny.
The album was issued with a blank sleeve and booklet and one of four different sheets of stickers for fans to make their own album art. Beck explained to Wired magazine he wanted no two copies of the CD cover to be the same: “The artwork is going to be customizable. The idea is to provide something that calls for interactivity.” However, because the album art concept was seen as a gimmick to bolster retail sales, The Information was deemed ineligible to enter the UK Albums Chart.
For The Information, Beck made low-budget videos to accompany every song, packaged the CD with sheets of stickers so buyers could customize the cover and leaked tracks and videos on his web site months ahead of the album. “We’re moving into a time when the song and the imagery and video are all able to exist as one thing,” says Beck. “It’s not even technically an audio thing anymore. It’s something else.” He also remarked, “I’ve been trying to do something like this for the last three albums,” having released several versions of his previous album Guero, including a deluxe CD/DVD package and a remix album called Guerolito. “The conventional ways aren’t working like they used to, so now there’s a willingness to try new things
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.” Interscope would go on to release a deluxe edition of the album in 2007. It included a DVD containing the videos created collaboratively with producer Nigel Godrich and also a full disc of remixes which consisted of three songs remixed on six tracks.
The album reached #7 on the US’s Billboard 200, #6 in Canada and #31 on Australia’s ARIA Chart. As of July 2008, The Information has sold 434,000 copies in the United States. With listeners accustomed to hearing a brand new side of Beck on each album up to 2002’s Sea Change, critics would describe his works afterwards as being “Beck-like”, meaning they sounded more like revisits instead of reinventions. The New York Times would credit the album’s dark themes as a reflection of the world’s condition around him at the time, and felt that Beck had made that apparent on the videos released alongside the album. They felt its music was a 1960s pop-infused sound with a more driven message. The English webzine Drowned in Sound released a review that suggested The Information was a mature and honest attempt at a multiple genre production without recreating what he has already accomplished. They praised Beck’s variation in vocal style, ability to create a logical flow of tracks, and reflection of his unpredictable styles. The Village Voice credited Beck as being as detached as he has ever been and that the band was far more energetic then he. They highlighted his work with Nigel Godrich as being even more sample-heavy than his Dust Brother collaborations, and felt that the album ultimately suffered from Beck’s disconnected approach. Pitchfork Media wrote a review for the deluxe edition of the album which they felt was mostly a cash-in on an overlooked album, but they did give respect to its full disc of remixes which included covers by big name performers.
Rolling Stone magazine named it the 24th best album of 2006, while Spin magazine ranked it number 10 on their 40 Best Albums of 2006.
All tracks written by Beck Hansen, except where noted running bands for phones.
Disc one contains the original 15-track album re-sequenced with “New Round” moved from track 7 to 14, “Dark Star” moved from track 8 to 7 and “Movie Theme” moved from track 14 to 8. The disc also includes all three Japanese bonus tracks from above for a total of 18 tracks.
The third disc contains the following music videos. Most of them homemade by Beck.
It should be noted that the United Kingdom’s Official Charts Company deemed The Information ineligible to chart, as they felt its customizable sticker album art gave it “an unfair advantage” in terms of album sales.
*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone