Default Genders
pain mop girl 2020


3.5
great

Review

by figurehead of "built different" EMERITUS
August 30th, 2020 | 7 replies


Release Date: 2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "Baby, this not the remix, this a part of the sequel"

Last year, Jaime Brooks completely blew me away with Main Pop Girl 2019, their second album under the Default Genders moniker. The starkly detailed, heart-rending emotionality of Brooks' lyrics, the way the songs all pulled off a consistent tone and sound despite willfully ignoring any kind of genre boundaries, the way they infused candy-coated electropop with a subversive, punk rock spirit- it was and still is a joy to experience overall. Sure, Brooks' very sincere anti-corporate politics occasionally took on some uncomfortable undertones when voiced through her miserable, drug-addled protagonists, but both the message and the stories were ultimately both cogent and resonant enough to withstand the friction. And, when they managed to work together in harmony, as on "Sophie (Emphasis Mine)", well… I still have a hard time not choking up.

What I'm trying to say here is that, over the past year and a half, Main Pop Girl 2019 has come to mean a lot to me. As one might with a good friend, I've grown to not only accept but cherish its peculiarities and shortcomings. The recently-released remix/covers/kind-of-a-follow-up-but-not-really compilation Pain Mop Girl 2020 aims to present reinterpretations of Main Pop Girl tracks by a variety of friends and collaborators, and the results are (in typical Default Genders fashion) messy, occasionally frustrating, and endlessly engaging, even when they don't quite stick the landing.

"Cascadia Subduction Zone" kicks the album off with a song so good it's almost a shame it wasn't saved for a full album of originals. From beginning to end it's just Brooks doing everything she does best to the nth degree, giving an effervescent, pastel-hued pop tune to a bitter, disillusioned asshole of a narrator and letting the sparks fly. The following track, "Am I Gonna Die?", is reportedly an older idea that remained shelved until now for being "too dramatic". Unfortunately, the song's age does show a bit, feeling more akin to DG's interesting-but-uneven debut Magical Pessimism 2014 than the more confident and colorful Main Pop Girl. It's a little less dynamic, a little less sticky, and the angst isn't quite as detailed or rooted in concrete events, but it's still redeemed by some typically stellar production work and makes for a more laid-back comedown after that wrecking ball of an opener.

Those are the only original tunes we get here, and I can't help but speculate that they're placed right at the beginning to act as a sort of calibrator, to get new listeners up to speed on just what this Default Genders thing is all about before veering off into other artists' reinterpretations of their work. We're led into this with Ada Rook's rework of "Black Pill Skyline", MPG's sparkling pop centerpiece. Rook slows the tempo just a bit and foregrounds the hip-hop percussion to give the track a slightly more groovy feel, and inserts some crunching guitars into the chorus for an end product that's overall a bit more punchy. Brooks' re-recorded vocals are a nice touch as well, adding some real venom to the beginning of the second verse in particular. Still, the piano flourishes that so enriched the original are sorely missed, and the choruses feel oddly empty despite a fundamentally similar composition. It's a fairly appropriate microcosm of the album as a whole: hardly short on good ideas, and successful in putting a new spin on an existing track, but ultimately not quite able to match the source material in terms of sheer quality.

From here, the album ranges all over the map, and there are undoubtedly some revelatory moments to be found. Drainpuppet's remix of "Pharmacoma" blends (among other things) grungy lo-fi pop, frenetic, jittering 808s and a full-on chiptune break into a thrilling, eclectic collage that brings welcome depth and variety to the original. Brooks herself, under the alias Snail Cream, brilliantly reimagines "Reverse Chronological Order, Part 2" as an unholy fusion of punk rock and breakbeat, and Ada Rook one-ups herself with a remix of "Reverse Chronological Order, Part 1" that features one of the slickest snap-beats I've ever heard. Most impressive, however, is Glitchlette's cover/remix of "Checking In With The Old Gang", the song that closes out both this and Main Pop Girl. Brooks has so thoroughly incorporated her unique vocal approach into the Default Genders aesthetic that it’s easy to forget that she isn't actually a particularly gifted singer, so when Glitchlette's sultry, smooth vocals come in on the chorus here, the contrast is genuinely striking in the best way possible. Brooks' pop sensibilities have always been her greatest asset, but this is the first time one of her songs has truly felt big, in that special way only pop music can.

Unfortunately, not all the experiments here pay such dividends. Despite a more richly realized chorus arrangement, Neotenomie's "Vietato Calpestare I Prati" remix swaps the original rapped vocals for re-recorded sung vocals, and loses much of the caustic snark at the core of the lyrics in the process. M Zavos strips "Secret Garden.NUXX" for spare parts to create a 5-minute techno jam that wanders around aimlessly for nearly its entire duration. Most egregiously, ang3lph4se almost completely smothers the fragile beauty of "Reverse Chronological Order, Part 1" under breathy, off-key mumbling and colorless, dreary keys. None of these (bar, perhaps, the lattermost) feel like desecrations of the originals, however. In fact, that these less-successful reworks are included at all feels of a piece with the art-as-democracy ethos Brooks repeatedly espouses both in their music and on social media. Within Pain Mop Girl 2020, even aesthetics or concepts that don't work for me personally are worth taking a few minutes to engage, and no idea is too weird or left-field to not be appreciated for what it is. Maybe some people will be more receptive to a "Heart Emoji XO" with overdubbed screamo vocals, and maybe others won't be as charmed as I was by the faux-live, coffee shop jazz rendition of "Christmas Card from a Scammer in Minneapolis". Your mileage will likely vary from track to track, and I suspect that that's more or less the intention.

All in all, Pain Mop Girl 2020 is a mixed bag of successes and misfires sandwiched between two genuinely brilliant bookends. It feels more substantial than its central conceit might lead you to believe, and if you enjoyed its parent album I suspect you'll at the very least find it interesting, if not uniformly excellent. Personally, I doubt it has the same capacity to be everything to anyone, the way Main Pop Girl was, for a time, everything to me back when it first came out. But hey, we already got that album, and for all its clunky moments and odd quirks, Pain Mop Girl 2020 makes a pretty solid case that “something for everyone” can sometimes be just as much fun as “everything for someone”.



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user ratings (3)
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Kompys2000
Emeritus
August 30th 2020


9412 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Wrote the majority of this back in April when the album first dropped, then got sidetracked by other projects before I could think of a decent way to tie my last few thoughts together. Glad I finally managed to make time to get it finished, this album definitely deserves a little more attention, even if it's not necessarily the best thing ever.

Slex
August 30th 2020


16441 Comments


Nice review, I gotta listen to this

Lord(e)Po)))ts
August 30th 2020


70239 Comments


I love this project name but I think I remember sampling the last album and not digging it

Lord(e)Po)))ts
August 30th 2020


70239 Comments


Oh yeah slex wrote a 5 review for it so now I'm certain I didn't like it

Kompys2000
Emeritus
August 30th 2020


9412 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

They used to work a lot with Grimes and that definitely comes through in the music here and there so I wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't your cuppa

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
August 30th 2020


60171 Comments


Woah woah nice rev! Had forgotten about Main Pop Girl, but I remember that having a lot of pretty great moments - might check this for the originals

Gyromania
August 30th 2020


36992 Comments


"I love this project name but I think I remember sampling the last album and not digging it"

opposite for me. the name is dumb but the music is awesome



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