October 11, 2006
The Killers? Too bad Queen was already taken.
'Sam's Town' a
'OK, so I'm a Sclentologlst. That doesn't make me totally crazy, does it? Does it?! DOES IT?!?!'
BECK TELLS IT LIKE IT IS ON LATEST DISC
By Caitlin Cowan
Daily Arts Editor
If MTV's Daria, the cynical, sarcastic
cartoon teen, had been able to buy albums
in the real world, she
probably would have *
listened to discs like Beck
Beck's Mellow Gold.
In contrast, his latest The Information
effort, The Informa- Interscope
tion, would have been
more fitting for the futuristic, geometric
space teen Judy Jetson.
Since his debut in 1994, the musical
community hasn't seen Beck deliver a
real stinker. Based on the strangely off-
putting but still worthy follow-up albums
(of lo-fi earlier material) One Foot in the
Grave and Stereopathetic Soul Manure,
some had all but forgotten the quirky
songsmith by the time he released his
now-famous 1996 album, Odelay. Little
did anyone know how musically adroit
the awkward kid from Los Angeles would
Months later the shaggy-haired, skinny
white boy was openly denouncing himself
as a loser and submitting the disaffected
'90s youth to feedback squalls and broken
Spanish, declaring "I've got two turntables
and a microphone," as if that were all any
young, headstrong musician ever needed.
Even after his kitschy Midnite Vultures was
released to mixed reviews, he came back
stronger than ever when the inimitable,
dreamy Sea Change dropped in 2002.
Last year's Guero kept up the momen-
tum. The man simply cannot be stopped.
The Information is positive proof that
Beck still has plenty of whatever creative
juice he's been sipping for the past decade
stored in his basement. The album is a
lot of chunky, clunky jewelry as opposed
to the almost pretty, enameled Spanish
necklaces of Guero. Like many artists
today, Beck has something to say about
the state of the world. But don't turn away
just yet. He's managed to mix effortlessly
equal parts cool and commentary to make
his latest one sexy, spacey concoction.
The album is definitely front-loaded,
with all of the killer tracks coming before
the midsection. "Elevator Music" is way
better than any real elevator muzak you've
ever heard in your life. "Cellphone's
Dead" is a cool, outer-stratosphere jam
that's sure to win over the ears and minds
of Beck fans old and new. He spits lyr-
ics like "Give me some grits / Some get-
down shitl/ Don't need a good reason / To
let anything rip" over the layers of alien
synth beats, cowbells, piano licks and
hollow, glassy percussion.
The ethereal, ominous "Soldier Jane"
and "Dark Star" deliver exactly what
their titles promise - dark, militarized,
cosmic meanderings that beg to be added
to "still awake at 4 a.m." playlists every-
where. On "Nausea" Beck recycles one of
his favorite syncopated, dirty beats. The
first seconds sound like a "Black Tam-
bourine" remix. But who cares? Anyone
who listened to Guero knows that "Black
Tambourine" was fucking awesome.
After a sprinkle of synthetic squeals and
beeps, the end product comes out surpris-
ingly fresh and even a little erotic.
Even though most of the successful
tracks fall within the album's first half
hour, the second half, instead of flatlin-
ing, makes for an ambient b-side to the
album's hit-heavy first half. Songs like
"We Dance Alone," "1000BPM" and
"Motorcade" all meld together to create a
mellow groove. While the last track, with
its futuristic, "Donnie Darko"-esque spo-
ken word ending is as convoluted as its
name, "The Horrible Fanfare, Landslide,
Exoskeleton," it's still the perfect end to
this con puterized album.
On the title track, Beck's thesis about
the hollow state of our information-
crazed world echoes clearly. "When the
information comes / We'll know what
we're made from / The skyline rising /
Highrise eyes see for you," he warns. It
seems odd that Beck, who was at least at
one time the best hope of a musical van-
guard for a generation, would take pains
to caution his audience against the ills of
mass culture, pervasive group mentalities
and the death of individualistic thought.
It almost sounds as if he's taking a cue
from Thom Yorke.
But one of the main differences between
what Beck is discussing on The Informa-
tion and what Thom Yorke has been proph-
esizing his entire career is that Yorke is
counseling his audience from the inside
of a bomb shelter. His is the voice of the
paranoid legions of the future, a voice that
has made him a cultural paragon.
Beck, on the other hand, doesn't seem
to be quite so worried.
The overwhelming feeling the he crafts
on The Information is that he knows how
quickly our speed, efficiency and infor-
mation-crazed age could go awry. But
he's not letting it get the best of him.
Instead, he's drawing on what has become
a common idea to create an uncommonly
By Abby Frackman
Daily Arts Writer
Vegas-based quartet The Killers
had a good year in 2004. They lit
up the music
scene with their * *
lar debut, Hot The Killers
Fuss, with lead Sam's Town
singer Bran- Island
making the ladies swoon with his
dreamy vocals, stylish duds and,
of course, that eyeliner. Now two
years later, we have the synth-heavy
follow-up, San's Town, in which
Flowers and gang have ditched
their pretty-boy looks in favor of
a scruffier, dirtier image. Their
appearance may have improved,
but the music is a significant down-
grade from their debut.'
The album's first single, "When
You Were Young," is a showy
mixture of crashing drums and
tight guitar licks. Flowers' obses-
sion with good-looking boys
(recall the "boyfriend who looked
like a girlfriend" from Fuss's
"Somebody Told Me") continues
as he sings about a "beautiful
boy" who "doesn't look a thing
like Jesus." His voice is thin and
quivery through the whole song
(and most of the album), a trait
that was thankfully absent on Hot
Fuss. The song certainly grows
more appealing after repeated
listens, but Flowers's odd vocal
presentation is unattractive and
Pumping bass and heavy, pro-
pulsive drums make "Sam's Town"
a solid opener. The danceable beat
and layered vocals are a welcome
addition that help mask that ever-
present Flowers quiver. The sen-
timental violin at the end adds
a nice touch, as does the back-
ground noise, presumably from
Sam's Town casino in Vegas.
The work of producers Alan
Mould and Flood (Deoeche
Mode, U2) is most evident ooh
"For Reasons Unknown" and
"Bones." "Reasons" is dark ana
haunting, reminiscent of Depech'
Mode circa 1990's Violator.'But
the lyrics are repetitive and lame
("I pack my case / I check my face
/ I look a little bit older / I laslk
a little bit colder"), which shed$
the track of most of its appeal.
"Bones" is better by comparison,
and the varying tones and styles
of the vocals should be enougl
to hold attention throughout,
but there's one bone that should
be picked (pun intended) wQh
Flowers regarding this song/He
claims that he "never had solI"
but on Fuss's "All These Things
That I've Done," Flowers repeat-
edly blurts that he's "got soul."
Maybe the recording of Sam's
Town caused him to lose it.
The end of "The River is Wild"
has Flowers doing his best Jin
Morrison impression as he reciJes
some sentimental piece about
headlights while piano softy
accompanies him. The U2 sound
is alive and well on "Read My
Mind," with lush orchestration nd
catchy keyboard lines, but that~s
not necessarily a good thing.: _
Bookending Sam's Town -gre
two ridiculous filler tracks, "Enter-
lude" at the opening and "F it-
lude" at the album's close. Flo'vers
sings "It's good to have you wjth
us even if it's just for the day";on
"Enterlude" while the whole band
joins in on the same line on"Fait-
lude." These tracks are pointless
and embarrassing, with lyrjes
drawn straight out of Mr. Rogers
book on polite manners. ,.d
Hot Fuss boasted several obvi-
ous hits, daring lyrics and a front
man with style. Unfortunately,
with Sam's Town the band loseof
all of the above. In an interview
with NME magazine, Flowers
claimed that Sam's Town is '"one
of the best albums in the past 20
The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation
takes great pleasure in
announcing Fall 2006 Fellowship Awards
to University of Michigan graduate student:
Mr. Paul Podsiadlo
H ertz Chemical Engineering
freedom to innovate
Mr. Podsiadlo is one of 15
Hertz Foundation Fellows
chosen from a field of 688 applicants to receive
a five year Graduate Fellowship Award of up to $240,000
Applied Physical, Biological or Engineering Sciences.
The Hertz Foundation would like to extend its congratulations to
University of Michigan
for attracting this Fellow to their graduate program.
See www.hertzfoundation.org for more details.