Saturday, December 05, 2009

BIBJ Playlist of the 2000s entry #18: Smash Your Head by Girl Talk

Photo via Flickr
When Night Ripper was first released, it seemed like virtually every article about Greg Gillis mentioned that at some point, Gillis would likely be sued by every record label/band/rapper on the planet.  This has proven to not be the case at all.  Despite my best research, I couldn't find a case where anyone had taken legal action, and there's clearly a big sample size to choose from.  Granted, the fact that Gillis literally gives his albums away on Illegal Art's website means he's not breaking the bank from his studio outputs, so he's not flaunting riches in front of those whose work he drawing from.  Still, it seems kinda amazing that members of Kansas or Steve Winwood's attorneys haven't tossed out any cease and desist letters.

As Gillis himself pointed out last year, this exchange of media and variety of remix has developed to the point where it no longer contains the shock value of 2 Live Crew battling Roy Orbison over fair use copyright.  Today, original sounds are remixed or mashed-up and thrown onto youtube at record speeds.  And yet, as the number of amateur mash-up artists has exploded, Gillis's reputation has only grown, as his attention to detail and interplay between subjects has left the standard "slap one set of vocal over a different music track for a few minutes" schtick obsolete.

Indeed, while most mash-up song productions end up seeming far longer and unimpressive than the sum of their components, Gillis quickly mastered the art of leaving the clips short and keeping them moving.  I still get a little pissed whenever I hear Pixies riffs in Girl Talk songs, if only because I know they'll be gone in eight short measures or so.  And yet the disappointment is just as fleeting, as before you know it you'll be reminded of how much you truly enjoy Heart, or trying to figure out which one of your friends can come up with the Sophie B. Hawkins reference first.  Seriously, throwing on a Girl Talk album for a road trip is like a ready made trivia game, and far more fun than trying to spot a Missouri license plate.

When dealing with literally an infinite pool of resources, not all the combos work (the Jay-Z/Radiohead sequence off Feed the Animals is surprisingly underwhelming), but the low points disappear just as quickly as the successes, and the misses never leave the lasting impression that the hits seem to.  The Biggie/Elton John sequence on "Smash Your Head" has become Gillis' "Free Bird," a trademark result of the perfect mix of genres and eras, delighting all who hear it.  But  nearly as impressive is the slow grower that precedes Elton and Biggie, where Nirvana sear through Young Jeezy.  Not every second is brilliant, but every second is pretty damn fun, and that's more than you can say for a lot of albums. 

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