Girl Talk

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Secret Diary (2002), 6/10
Night Ripper (2006) , 6.5/10
Feed the Animals (2008), 6.5/10
All Day (2010) , 5/10

Capitalizing on an old idea by Coldcut, Pennsylvania-based laptop musician Gregg Gillis, disguised under the moniker Girl Talk, offered hyperkinetic and hyperdemented "plunderphonics" for the dancefloor (in other words, infectious dance music created from snippets old pop hits) on a series of albums starting with Secret Diary (2002). Solex and many other musicians had done this before (and probably a lot better) but Gillis was the one who turned it into a new genre.

Night Ripper (2006) possibly represented the peak of Gillis' collage art. His gimmick works best when it transforms a genre into another one, for example Once Again turning hip-hop music into progressive-rock Bounce That turning orchestral disco music into heavy metal, or Smash Your Head turning rap-metal into a pop rhapsody, and when it amounts to a rhythmic effect, as in Hold Up, Ask About Me, Peak Out, and especially Hand Clap.
It was Freud's free-association technique applied to a turntable. The difference with John Oswald, Solex and all the others who tried this idea before is that Girl Talk music was pure fun for clubbers, with no intellectual or existential frills. The biggest limit of his method was the over-reliance on hip-hop beats and raps.

Feed the Animals (2008) used more than 300 song snippets, and the juxtapositions were even wilder, with, for example, Nine Inch Nails pasted next to Yo La Tengo next to Beyonce (Like This). At the same time the collagist seemed to organize his sources in an emotional palette. Thus the whirlwind of Play Your Part (Pt. 1) ran the gamut from Merseybeat to Sinead O'Connor in a way that created a sentimental mood and not just a goliardic gag, just like the disco delight of Set It Off represented a tribute to musical hedonism. Shut The Club Down went back and forth between jovial and sinister simply by juxtaposing and sequencing stereotypes of each mood. The Procol Harum's anthemic organ immediately propels Still Here into a tragic territory, and the disjointed montage that follows only adds to the poignancy. More tension builds up in What It's All About, sandwiched between the driving progression of the Police's Magic and metal riffs. Here's The Thing exudes romantic strain via a progression from shrill Sixties bubblegum (prominently the Mysterians' 96 Tears) to a cubistic deconstruction of more recent hits. Even when the message remains cryptic (as in the way vocal harmonies evolve into a techno apotheosis in Give Me A Beat, or in the way In Step drops a grunge anthem, Nirvana's Lithium, into a jungle of disco anthems), one sense a dark intelligence at work, not just a court jester.
The fragments on this album are more "classic", thus making it easier for the listener to identify with the emotional shifts that they represent. At the same time the whole album flows like an organic unit, and the separation into tracks feels largely like a recording artifice.

All Day (2010) was another carefully-scripted nostalgia-drenched hyperactive danceable collage and mock opera, packing 373 ephemeral samples in 71 hectic minutes, beginning with Black Sabbath's call to arms in Oh No It is still terrific party music but obviously the novelty is gone as is the magic as is the sociological underpinning. Jay-Z is the protagonist of Let It Out. And so forth. There are uplifting moments here and there, as a popular hit pulls out of the crowd and invite you to hum along. Then, of course, anybody can make this "music" as long as they have the right software on their laptop (and have studied the history of rock and dance music). The main reason to listen to This is the Remix is to listen to Simon and Garfunkel's Cecilia and dance to Inxs' groove. On and On begins with the classic riff of Cream's Sunshine of Your Love. Down For the Count has the charming idea of coupling Belinda Carslile's Heaven Is A Place On Earth and the piano melody of Derek & Dominoes' Layla. And Keith Richards must be delighted to hear a rap superimposed to his guitar work in the Rolling Stones' Paint it Black. But for each moment of genius like this one there are several minutes of irrelevant mash-up. Often Gillis seem to enjoy juxtaposing the rock music of the 1960s/70s and the hip-hop music of the 1990s/2000s, two generations that have little in common but that his sampling machines can synchronize and harmonize. Lowest point: ending with John Lennon's Imagine.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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