Wednesday, February 25, 2009

we will get these swimming pools

We Became Actors wrote a new song, and this is a video of us playing it for the first time. At a bowling alley. It's kind of awesome.

Highlights include Mike breaking a stick and nearly hitting Paula with it at 1:19; the bowling ball flying by at 1:25 (setting up a spare, I think); my glasses disappearing (falling off) off-camera sometime around 1:40; and Jesse pointing to the ceiling at :21, :36, :42, 1:17, 2:14, 2:34 (almost), 2:43 and 3:18.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

why girl talk (especially feed the animals) matters more than your favorite band (or favorite album)

I'm trying to blog while I update Facebook, listen to my iPod ("Smash Your Head" by Girl Talk, unsurprisingly), and monitor work email. I also have a meeting in 20 minutes. Make that 16.

I've had a lot of sugar today. A lot. It's treat day. Red velvet cake, cookies, puppy dog tails. Coffee as well. Dark roast.

Oh, and a cheeseburger and fries for lunch. Probably should have had chicken nuggets.

This is the magic of Girl Talk represented by my day (Happy 200th BDay Messrs Lincoln and Darwin, as well as happy 29th, Ms Ricci).

You see, Lincoln and Darwin could have never had a day like the day I'm having. Sugar was expensive back in 1809. Wasn't it? Better check Wikipedia.


Girl Talk is the most modern of music. Postmodern, actually. You know Girl Talk, right? He's the Michelangelo of mash-ups. Perhaps prior to his creation of the aforementioned "Smash Your Head", specifically minute one, second thirty-six of the fifth track on Night Ripper, Greg Gillis (Mr Girl Talk himself) was just another laptop-wielding cube jockey who treated pop music like a chemistry set. But at 1:36, everything changed. Yes, at 1:36 of the best Girl Talk track (11:40 of the album as a whole), The Notorious B.I.G. makes an appearance.

Take the best Biggie verse and drop it on top of a sped-up section of Elton John's finest, and you get modern pop music's Creation of Adam.

What's important about this particular moment in "Smash Your Head" is that unlike, say, the opening of the song, which featured X-Ray Spex, or "Minute by Minute", which sampled Neutral Milk Hotel, or even the KRS-One rip in "Too Deep", Gillis took the absolute high points of two genre classics and let them rip for not quite a minute. Sublime. Pop. Genius.

Feed the Animals (number one on my Top 10 of 2008) is Gillis' attempt to replicate the glory of Biggie riding Sir Elton. On every song. For nearly an hour. He never quite makes it, but the overall effect blows away Night Ripper.

And what's important about this aspect of Feed the Animals is why Girl Talk matters more than your favorite band. As my friend Jeff Kamin said once, "Sometimes I get goosebumps from a song. I call these chill songs because a chorus or verse or bridge can give me the chills." That's what Gillis is trying (and mostly succeeding) to accomplish throughout Feed the Animals.

Every track is like the bit of a song that Toyota or Target or Apple uses in an ad campaign. It's the hook. It's the selling point. It's the reason you love that song. We live in a society that values advertisements as entertainment, so why not string as many of these together as possible? Feed the Animals is 53 minutes, 53 seconds of treat days.

We also live at a time when many of the things we crave and consume subscribe to the concepts posed in Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation. Chicken nuggets. Reality television. Girl Talk. How much more third-order simulacra can you get than a song made entirely of recycled bits of other songs, some of which themselves sample other compositions? There is no original Girl Talk song. And even the basic formula Gillis follows for Feed the Animals is a copy of one of his previous works, which itself is not original.

Of course, while we're enjoying those fine fried bits of processed chicken, we might be driving, chatting with our passenger and texting (or blogging, eating, working and Facebooking). This is the hypertasking instant-gratification generation. And Girl Talk is its soundtrack. Don't like the first lines of "Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You)" (but how could you not)? Not to worry, Birdman and Lil Wayne will be here before you know it.

Oh did I mention that Gillis gets all his samples illegally? But such is the nature of the modern media consumer. We download things from the Internet, pick and choose and delete rather than dropping $15 on piece of plastic on the chance that more than one song is any good.

An album by Isis or Radiohead or even Grammy-dominating Robert Plant and Allison Krauss can never come as close to representing the modern music listener as does Girl Talk. Raising Sand, Krauss and Plant's Album of the Year-winning collaboration, is actually pretty much as far from Girl Talk as is possible. No surprise, coming from the aging Academy.

So, Girl Talk's Feed the Animals: the defining music of the Hypertasking Instant Gratification Generation.

And it makes for a pretty damn good dance party.