Review Summary: Imagine if rock candy had the nutritional content of brussel sprouts.
Girl Talk - Feed the Animals
The cover art for Gregg Gillis' most recent creation, Feed the Animals
, is a nice avatar for Gillis, considering his Girl Talk oeuvre. The image of a typical, suburban house, with ample lawn space and a two-car garage invokes all of the banal trappings of the pop music that is likely listened to by the residents of that house. However, when we see that suburban scene through the lens of Girl Talk, those platitudes are transformed into an ostentatious and flaming night scene. The corresponding pop music also morphs into something edgy, intriguing, and wonderful. Gillis has effectively given an otherwise innocuous image his own brand - literally. Technically, this musical morphing means sampling a wide range of music spanning genres and decades to create entirely new compositions that both embrace and defy pop music.
What does this mean for Feed the Animals
though? Gillis' first two albums were notable for how different they sounded from his breakout album Night Ripper
, though they all have the same Frankenstinian spirit. Before the album's release, Gillis promised (see my interview with him here: http://www.sputnikmusic.com/feature.php?id=4981) that the album would be more detailed but also more continuous and expansive than anything he had composed before. However, the resulting sound is only a shade off from the songwriting paradigm established on Night Ripper
. There are only a few sections where it feels like Gillis really trying to establish a less vacillating song flow, particularly in the first half of the album, and the highly detailed sections feel akin to those on Night Ripper
and not the fractionally divided samples found on Secret Diary
. That's not to say that there aren't expansive passages and that there isn't highly detailed sampling work to be found on Feed the Animals
, but fear not fans, it's neither too schizophrenic nor too static. It's the Girl Talk you all know and love (because let's be real, 95% of GT fans are on the wagon because of the success of NR
) and Feed the Animals
will forever be held up against Night Ripper
, and maybe even seen as a continuation.
In some ways though, Gillis' sample-length doesn't matter in the face of his sample-choice. The samples he decides to throw in are what characterize the overall flavor rather than minute tinkerings to his method. Feed the Animals
contains both expected and unexpected appearances. The album has its usual pop classics (Jackson 5, Earth Wind and Fire, etc.) against jangly modern rap and R&B (Soulja Boy, T-Pain, Ray J) and rap antiques (LL Cool J's "Momma Said Knock You Out" and Dre's "Bit
ches Ain't Shi
t" being two of the most polished). There are also those little indie artist shout outs. On Night Ripper
we got Neutral Milk Hotel, The Pixies, and M.I.A. On Feed the Animals
, we get Of Montreal, Yo la Tengo and, once again, M.I.A.'s obligatory perky and marble-mouthed jive. However, some of the nicest additions are not what make Feed the Animals
feel like the sequel, 2NightRipper2Furious
, but what separate it from Gillis' flagship release. There is a lot more rock all over the board. There's Radiohead, Queen, The Band, Nirvana, The Cranberries, The Cure. There are tracks that are more indebted to classic rock (Thin Lizzie's "Jailbreak" against Soulja Boy is inspired) and others that tend towards shoegazing and 80s post-punk (I'm loving the way The Cure and The Cranberries fit onto this album). Even the meatheaded metal of Metallica's "One" works as a strange bedfellow to Lil Mama's "Lip Gloss." On the other end of the spectrum though, there's also much more low-key and lo-fi facet of the album. The pace of the opening tracks is languid at best, and a big reason for this slow start is because of the presence of more ambient, pensive, and chill excerpts from Pete Townshend, Temple of the Dog, Aphex Twin and Sinead O'Connor. Though these stymie the album's initial acceleration, they ultimately are welcome additions because they expand the sonic palette of the album, which is always a plus on an album that draws its power from creating an eclectic pastiche. Ultimately, inclusiveness only increases the did-he-really-just-do-that factor that propels the most compelling moments in Girl Talk's collection.
There is yet one final test for Feed the Animals
. We all know that it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing, and this album delivers on the mark. Feed the Animals
, despite its tentative start, is chocked full of the same bombastic booty-shaking moments that defined Night Ripper
. This album is so fresh, in fact, that songs that are still in rotation and inspiring molasses-thick grinding like Usher's "Love in the Club" feel rejuvenated, as if they were in dire need of a new coat of paint. In short, this album is nearly perfect. Maybe in future releases, Gillis could be yet more eclectic, maybe even delving into jazz and classical, if only in tiny segments, to expand his soundscape further. As a parting note, I'd like to draw attention to a small part of the album. On the track "Still Here," at around 1:17, Gillis gets his beat from Radiohead's "15 Step," the first track on In Rainbows
, an album that has since gone down in history as the first major "paypal for play" album. Hopefully, Feed the Animals
will help cement this tradition if only so we can get more Girl Talk.