Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Irony Isn't Dead, It Just Sits Around Waiting for Girl Talk's Newest Release

There's a moment at the middle of Girl Talk's brilliant new "Feed the Animals" during which I can't help but grin, even though I've listened to the album at least ten times in the past week or two: out of nowhere, Yael Naim's "New Soul," a gorgeous song about finding your place in the world, pops up, and after a second of the song's main vamp being played alone, a particularly brilliant Eminem verse about "[getting] buzzed, [getting] drunk, [getting] crunked" from "Shake That." There are only a small handful of rappers working with the verbal dexterity of Eminem (Ghostface comes to mind), and it's a shame that he hasn't released an album in a few years. That said, however, "Shake That" is not one of Eminem's great singles. Alone, it's just another dumb rap song about getting drunk and getting girls; when placed next to Naim's "la la la"s from "New Soul," there's something subversive about Eminem's lyrics about getting wasted.

I know I generally write about jazz in this blog (this should come as no surprise judging by the fact that the blog is called "The Jazz Monster" and the last post was about the Downbeat Critics' Poll), but Girl Talk's "Feed the Animals" is one of the most brilliant albums, jazz or not, that has come out this year. "Animals" is just as subversive as any recent album from a lefty jazz artist with political interest (whether that be Vijay Iyer's "Tragicomic" or Kenny Werner's "Lawn Chair Society"), albeit in a very different way. "Animals" is about the inundation of pop music into our lives, and he uses his sampled juxtapositions to (subtly or otherwise) highlight the ridiculousness of the music that gets played on the radio, ironically creating the best party record of the year in the process. Half of the mash-ups, as short as they are, simply sound better than the songs that are sampled (while the Eminem/Yael Naim section is the best example, there are other brilliant passages putting Jay-Z overtop Radiohead's "Paranoid Android" and juxtaposing "Whoomp! There it Is" with Big Country's namesake hit).

Although I love Girl Talk both as a person interested in decaying culture and as a person who enjoys a good party album, above all I enjoy his work as a total music nerd. Although for the most part the samples aren't quite as obscure or obvious as on the album before it, "Night Ripper," there is enough going on in "Feed the Animals" to satisfy any obsessed music fan for hours of listening. I'm not going to give anything away, but most of the best samples only reveal themselves after after a few listens; the first time through a listener can only pick up the really obvious clips. I can't recommend Girl Talk's "Feed the Animals" enough to interested listeners or pop music obsessives; that said, if you strictly listen to jazz, it's probably not your cup of tea.

Next time I'll have a review of (bass player) Avishai Cohen's "Adama," which was released a few months ago.

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