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Girl Talk: Feed the Animals
on May 21, 2009
Greg Gillis wants to feed us: his "tigers", his fans. In May 2006, he bitch-slapped the summer into an early start by dropping the ~*pArTy AlBuM oF tHa YeAr*~,Night Ripper. Critical success was substantial, though the dubious legality of Girl Talk's artistic medium prevented the album from rolling on any major hype-machinery. Still, an underground following gave Gillis the success he needed to literally quit his day job (as a biomedical engineer no less) and tour in support of Night Ripper full time.
If Secret Diary and Unstoppable were products of a Macbook Geek's glitchy sample-obsession, ,Feed the Animals (technically his fourth "LP", if you can call it that) is a distillation of the unparalleled skill revealed in Night Ripper's mind-blowingly unexpected mash-ups. Like the hippest upstart chefs from Soho to San Fran, Gillis mixes unexpected flavors to astounding success; though it didn't seem possible to top the eclecticism of Night Ripper, Feed the Animals has in fact proven a more diverse entree, captivating the senses with mixtures of Daft Punk and Fleetwood Mac, UGK and the Unicorns (full sample list on Wikipedia).
Where Girl Talk's forebears DJ Shadow and The Avalanches went for cohesive combinations of samples from a variety of sources, Gillis takes a more streamlined approach: he tears up the entire pop canon. So instead of impressive, behemoth songs like "Frontier Psychiatrist", Girl Talk operates in "AHA!" moments, placing songs into new contexts that somehow sound more natural than their original structures. The album has you wondering whether Kanye didn't secretly conspire to produce "No Diggity" 11 years after the fact.
The endurance of Girl Talk's albums lies in the myriad opportunities to discover new dimensions of the mash-ups that are especially resonant. For now, the shining moment of the album for me is the midsection of "Like This" where the distinctive organ peels of Yo La Tengo's classic "Autumn Sweater" are paired with "Ghetto Superstar". Of course, I'll find another combination to blow my mind in a whole new way soon after posting this. Other highlights include "In Step", which spans forty years of pop history from Orbison to The Beach Boys to Michael Jackson to...Fergie?
Weezy having recently dropped the hottest album of the year with Tha Carter III (bitch!), it's only fitting that the slow-core grind of "Lollipop" would open the beginning of the end for Feed the Animals. That track (Play Your Part pt. 2) brings the album full circle, ending in a poignant comedown where Night Ripper ended in a vitriolic orgasm. And most importantly, it answers the question, "Is Girl Talk still relevant in 2008?"; this may seem an unnecessarily jaded pondering for a hot new star, but many wondered aloud if the kitsch "novelty" appeal of flavor-of-the-week singles like "My Humps" that peppered Night Ripper could sustain another album. The answer is a bass-thumpingly resounding "HELL. YES."
A friend told me on first listen that "Play Your Part pt. 2" made her tear up with joy. This unexpected, almost paradoxical [in an album sampling songs like "Put That Pussy on Me"] pathos that Greg G. can render lends an important insight: pop music can be transcendent. Favorite choruses can still evoke childhood elation, and favorite guitar riffs will still hit the heartstrings of romantic 20-something-year olds. Thank God for nostalgia. Thank Greg for "feeding" us this knowledge.
(I translated it to a 5-star review for amazon, since there's so much grade inflation in these parts).