Beck The Information (Interscope) After 2002's maudlin masterpiece, Sea Change, Beck cheered up and released last year's immeasurably more upbeat Guero, which was hailed as a return to the quirky form that shaped his late 1990s career-defining Odelay. With The Information, Beck appears to have gone even further back into his career and plumbed his rap-folk ragamuffin vaults for Mellow Gold. Full of the pseudo rap and twanging southern guitar that made his debut so indispensable, The Information shows Beck at the top of his game more than a decade after the world was blown away by his wonderful breakthrough hit Loser. One of the most appealing things about Beck is that he rarely does anything without tongue planted firmly in cheek, and here he can't seem to take anything seriously. On This Girl That I Know, for instance, he meets his love at 'a Commodores show', following a line of songs based on chance meetings in dull places - remember Debra from Midnite Vultures, whom he 'met in JC Penney'? Elsewhere, the slacker king is on truly gross-out form on Nausea. Every Beck album has at least one killer track, so catchy and haunting that it stands head and shoulders above the rest. This time that track is Soldier Jane, which will have you humming from the moment you hear it. The one big drawback to the set is that Beck has suddenly gone all religious. Halfway through he delivers a rambling speech about space travel and the brainwashing Scientology cult to which he subscribes. It was only this overtly indulgent pile of dross that spared The Information from earning full marks. Had it not been for that, this set would be a strong contender for album of the year.