Review Summary: “All I wanna do is D’OH! D’OH! D’OH! D’OH! and-a YEAH BABY! and take your money”
Seven tracks into Mouth Moods
, the latest mashup album from absurdist comedy wunderkind Neil Cicierega, Cicierega delivers perhaps the perfect encapsulation of his delightfully demented approach to plunderphonics in the form of “Annoyed Grunt.” The track takes the gibberish grunts of David Draiman (Disturbed) and Jonathan Davis (Korn), removes them from the only context in which they make sense, and lays them over an instrumental foundation that shifts between Annie Lennox, Mungo Jerry, and the Home Improvement
theme. And that’s just the base; interspersed throughout the track are elements as varied as Green Day’s “Basket Case,” M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes,” stock animal sound effects, and sound bites from The Simpsons
and Austin Powers
. Any two of these elements in combination would be outrageously silly, but thrown into the pot together as they are on “Annoyed Grunt,” the result is downright ludicrous, an onslaught of what-the-fu
ckery that never gives the listener a chance to stop their delirious cackling and catch their breath.
The rest of Mouth Moods
is just as relentlessly, gloriously absurd. As is to be expected from an artist who found his first success with a Flash meme, Cicierega’s wit is surreal and meta. Whether it’s by juxtaposing Angus Young’s rock n’ roll howls with Vanessa Carlton’s sweeping piano (“AC/VC”), splicing sound bites of Tony the Tiger into an INXS/Survivor mashup (“Tiger”), or turning Ray Parker, Jr.’s Ghostbusters
theme into even more of a blatant dick joke (“Bustin”), he has a unique talent for crafting jokes that primarily elicit laughter as an expression of “What in the hell am I listening to?” And this is no easy feat to pull off. Samples need to be wildly mismatched in tone but still cohesive in the musical basics of rhythm and key, or else their juxtaposition would just be obnoxious. The rearranging of lyrics in songs like “Bustin” and the use of non-musical samples in tracks like “300 MB” risk dipping into the territory of neophytic “random” humor that grew stale years ago, so the use of such methods needs to be very deliberate. It’s a tough balance to strike, but Mouth Moods
nails it every time.
But however carefully crafted the humor is, it’s still a brand of humor that inherently yields diminishing returns with each successive listen. Eventually the novelty wears off, and the music needs to either stand on its own or succumb to an ephemeral doom. Fortunately, Cicierega’s wit is equally matched by his instinctual sense of what combination of samples sound good together. What separates him from his plunderphonics peers is that his instinct is unrestricted by regard for coolness or classic status. He doesn’t care if the prevailing wisdom is that Queen’s “Under Pressure” is too great a song to be mashed up with Smash Mouth’s “All Star”--hell, that’s half the joke. For Cicierega, nothing is too sacred or too dorky to be combined with something on the opposite end of the spectrum, and that unfettered creative spirit leads to some shockingly inspired decisions. Once you get past the initial weirdness of “Dear Dinosaur,” the gibberish chorus of “Walk the Dinosaur” combined with the bass riff from “Dear Prudence” actually sounds pretty damn cool. Tracks like “Wow Wow” and “Shi
t” easily rival Girl Talk in their danceability. And this may just be the Stockholm syndrome talking, but, laid over the melancholy of Hans Zimmer’s “Time,” the vocal track from “Y.M.C.A.” started to sound almost heartbreaking.
is a double success, a masterpiece of Internet-age absurdist humor that will also endure as an album of straightforwardly fun pop music. Given the ultimate fates of his Flash-era contemporaries, Neil Cicierega should have faded into obscurity by the late 00s, but Mouth Moods
demonstrates why he’s still relevant over a decade after “The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny” became popular: He’s just an immensely talented artist, even (especially) if he chooses to use that talent to make jokes about Ghostbuster sex.