Hitsville USA

By MATT ASHARE  |  October 11, 2006

The Information (Geffen) offers yet another surprise. In the wake of the Dusted funk of Guero he has, as expected, returned to Godrich. But this is no Mutations or Sea Change. It turns out Beck is every bit as comfortable laying down the bass-heavy funk and letting poetry flow with Godrich as he is with the Dust Brothers. “Elevator Music,” with its phat bottom, odd samples, two-turntable scratching, and hip-hop flow, wouldn’t be out of place on any of his Dust Brothers discs. And that’s the real tone setting on The Information. The melodic “Think I’m in love but it makes me kind of nervous to say so” hook and an almost Beatlesque refrain complete with pizzicato strings bring “Think I’m in Love” closer to what you’d expect from a Beck/Godrich collaboration. Beck the singer-songwriter with rockist values also emerges from time to time, as in the almost Stonesy “Strange Apparition.” But then there’s the electro-funk groove and brisk delivery of “Cellphone’s Dead” and the slide blooze of “Nausea.” If there’s a running theme here, it’s the integration of all the various Becks we’ve met over the past decade. And if there’s such thing as a singles album recorded by an album artist, well, this is it.

Outfits like Evanescence, the goth-metal band fronted by piano-playing Amy Lee, are almost by definition album artists. It was an accident of fate — the inclusion of two of the more accessible tracks from 2003’s Fallen (Wind-Up) on the soundtrack to Daredevil — that put the Little Rock band in the spotlight. But oh what a happy accident: “My Immortal,” with its dark lyrics, pounding piano, and emotive vocals, was the hit Tori Amos has yet to write, in part because it came backed by a band who weren’t afraid of a little hard-rock power-balladry or even rap metal for the masses.

Evanescence have been through some major changes since Fallen. The most significant was the departure of Lee’s former songwriting partner, guitarist Ben Moody (who’s done just fine for himself penning tunes with Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson), and the arrival of former Cold guitarist Terry Balsamo. Lee and Balsamo may not always be on the same page (Evanescence’s roots are in Christian rock, a very specialized market that Balsamo has helped them outgrow), but he does seem to have a way of fanning Lee’s passions, because she doesn’t hold back on the new The Open Door. The result is the best kind of metal — heavy with as much melody as muscle, unabashedly grandiose, and devoid of showy solos or anything that might take the spotlight off Lee. Evanescence continue to toy with industrial/electronic programming touches, and along with strings, there’s a full choir on “Lacrymosa.”

Pretentious? Absolutely. But Lee and Balsamo come down to earth often enough — on the power-driving single “Call Me When You’re Sober,” for example — to allow for a few indulgences. Besides, what distinguishes the album artist from the singles artist is just that: the willingness to take oneself seriously and indulge. And never underestimate the power of metal. Indeed, don’t be surprised if The Open Door outsells The Information and Sam’s Town.

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