Monday, June 23, 2008

Pittsburgh's Finest (not Iron City beer)

Late last week, Girl Talk released his fourth proper album and the follow-up to minor smash Night Ripper, a genre- (and potentially law-)bending reinterpretation of pop music that ranked somewhere between "OMG" and "OMG Just Pissed Myself" on my list of favorite albums of all time. Anyone paying any attention to music probably knows by now that the record is in the same vein as Radiohead's In Rainbows, in that Illegal Art and Girl Talk are allowing people to name their own price.

While I'll give a brief review (I'm sure you can guess that I'm down with it), the truly amazing thing about the album is that Greg Gillis, the man behind the awful teen game moniker, finished mixing the album on Tuesday and his label had it up on the web ready for purchase on Thursday. The proper physical release is scheduled for September of this year - an amazing change from the usual music industry meme of carefully planned releases, A&R bullshit, and extensive (poor) advertising and placement on MTV or Grey's Anatomy.

The ability to go directly to the fans and bypass any price or positioning issues by effectively giving the music away for possible donations represents hope that the music industry might be taking off the Corky Thatcher glasses and moving into the 21st Century (or, at the least, the mid-90s). The rise of digital media, file sharing, iPods and even Pandora has punished the music industry, and the current state gives someone like me, who purchases somewhere between 100 and 200 albums a year, absolutely zero incentive to purchase a physical album. Moving distribution to digital (especially when lossless audio technology like FLAC encoding can be utilized to satisfy even the most dickish basement-dwelling audiophile) not only staunches the bleeding, but it should more effectively and efficiently play to the actual target of non-mainstream music. Well done, Girl Talk (and Illegal Art), and we can only hope others carry on in this vein. Radiohead may have truly changed the world, and not just through the annoying quasi-intellectual girl at happy hour who can't WAIT to break down Thom Yorke for hours while I wait interminably for a shot to have mediocre sexual relations.

As far as the album goes, it doesn't bend the mind the way certain elements of Night Ripper did, but it does show some expansion or growth of the genre. Again, the ephemeral and borderline-salacious elements of pop music are tossed in a blender and served cold - every type of cheesy pop is on display, from Thin Lizzy to UNK and everything in between. While Night Ripper played flawlessly as a "DJ set" from track to track (in fact, the listening experience is MUCH more enjoyable taken as an album instead of individual tracks), Feed the Animals shows much different pacing from track to track, giving some different moods and looks to the entire arrangement. It's subtle, but the formula is a little more broad than "rapping over a beat lifted from a '70s karaoke staple" - and it's a welcome shift.

Of course, the "Eminem rapping over that Yael Naim song from the MacBook commercials" parts are still pure, bizarre fun - a great summer album, and a more-than-worthy successor to Night Ripper. Plus, you can pay literally anything you want for it - if it's not worth your $2.50, I'm not sure what to tell you, other than it might be time to pick up a bartending job or something. Seriously, the economy's rough, there's no shame.

Grizzly Bear - The Knife (Girl Talk Remix)

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