Sunday, November 16, 2008

Po-mo ear candy

I've always been a fan of the cut-and-paste sample technique employed by musicians since the mid-80s (my two favorite examples being the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique and Beck's Odelay). I've lately become interested in "mash-ups" where bits of music are spliced and/or layered together to create re-contextualized sonic landscapes (check out Dangermouse's Grey Album (a mash-up of Jay-Z's Black Album and the Beatles' White Album - torrent here) or the disappointing Beatles mash-up Love). Stumbling upon Girl Talk's Feed the Animals, however, has taken my interest to a whole new level.

To call this composition jaw-dropping is to sell it short. Feed the Animals is quite simply the most compulsive listen I've acquired in at least the last ten years. With literally over a hundred different pieces of pop ephemera sampled for this album, it's fun just to try to pick out all the songs you know from the mix - and you'll know tons. Greg Gillis (the computer jockey with the world's most awesome record collection who is Girl Talk) draws equally from 60s pop, 70s arena rock, 80s and 90s alternative, and even some modern pop hits to anchor a smorgasbord of hip-hop rhymes (some of which I even recognized, thanks to long hours in the GTFF office with dave). On paper, an album which samples Twisted Sister, Salt 'n Pepa, Kenny Loggins, L'il Jon, Chicago, 50 Cent, Argent, Tone Loc, Phil Collins, Busta Rhymes, and Huey Lewis would seem like an unmitigated disaster. In Girl Talk's actual execution, though, it's sublime.

After the novelty of the first few listens, Feed the Animals reveals itself as more than the sum of its parts, becoming a cohesive whole where the constituent pieces seamlessly blend as if they were meant to be together. The various splices and layers are remarkably, if ironically, conversant with each other. Hearing Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" mixed with Nine Inch Nails' "Wish" and MC Hammer's "Too Legit to Quit" is hilariously good listening. Youngbloodz and L'il Jon chanting "If you don't give a damn we don't give a fuck" over the iconic organ riff from Procul Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale" works on a number of different levels. But when I heard Salt 'n Pepa's "Push It" layered over Dee-Lite's "Groove is in the Heart" and Nirvana's "Lithium," I knew I was in the presence of genius.

The album is a 53 minute bacchanal frenzy. I read somewhere that if you like music, you'll love Girl Talk. I heartily endorse this. And the best thing about it? It's available at a name-your-own-price fee over the internets. Fair warning: you will have to justify being a cheapskate and trying to pick it up for free. But seriously, kick the guy down some corn to keep him in business - I paid the $10 plus $3 s&h so I could get a copy of the CD in addition to the mp3 download, and I've gotten my money's worth several times over.

A final word to those who believe that because it's a bunch of samples mixed on a computer "anyone can do it." You can't. Fuck off.

Bonus fun fact: this is post #666.

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