Monday, January 19, 2009

Music Review: Feed The Animals by Girl Talk

In an era where mash-ups, remixes, and mixtapes are plentiful, it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd. Girl Talk (aka Gregg Gillis) certainly does so on his newest album Feed The Animals. Drawing from an unbelievably wide variety of songs and genres, Gillis has not only crafted a great party album but also one of the best albums released in 2008.

For those who are unfamiliar with Girl Talk's work, his style of music involves combining elements from many different songs into something new. It would be easiest to describe it as a "mash-up" but it's really something quite unique. While most mash-ups are meant to be singular tracks, the songs on Feed The Animals are really meant to be listened together as a cohesive work. Each one flows easily into the next one, like a DJ mix.
However, with over 300 songs sampled across the entire album, it's a lot more intricate than most mixes. Many dance/DJ artists sample obscure tracks or make familiar samples unrecognizable. Girl Talk does neither. If you have been a fan of popular music at any moment in the last 20-30 years, you will probably be able to recognize at least one or two of the songs sampled.

All the samples used don't matter unless the music made with them is good and fortunately, Feed The Animals is very good. It's immensely entertaining from start to finish. The music is always changing and songs progress in unexpected ways. Some of the album's best moments come from successfully combining hip-hop tracks with ones from very different genres. "Set It Off" pairs Jay-Z's "Roc Boys (And The Winner Is)" with Radiohead's "Paranoid Android" which gives Hova's lyrics a darker tone than the original celebratory beat that surrounded them. One can't help but laugh at the combination of Eminem's raunchy "Shake That" with Yael Naim's sweet, Apple-approved "New Soul" in "No Pause." The hard-hitting drums of Lil Mama's "Lip Gloss" are replaced with the hard guitars of Metallica's "One" on "Like This" for a combination that works far better than it should.

While the clever combinations of samples are what drives the album, it's the actual construction that makes it great. A lot of the samples used on Feed The Animals are small and are used to transition to the album's larger moments. The opening drums of "In The Air Tonight" by Phil Collins lead to the Busta Rhymes/Police combination on "What It's All About." A very short clip from OutKast's "Ms. Jackson" leads to the Vanilla Ice/Jackson 5/Rihanna/Queen sequence that ends "What It's All About." It's these smaller elements that keep things moving and help make everything else seem that much better.

No matter what kind of music you like, Girl Talk's Feed The Animals will keep you moving. It makes unfamiliar genres palatable whether it's classic rock for a pop fan or heavy metal for a hip-hop fan. It's the perfect album for the music lover who is likely to have anything and everything on their MP3 player. It's detailed in its construction but still insanely fun to listen to. If you haven't heard it yet, it's worth checking out.

Feed The Animals is available in a variety of formats from Illegal Art.

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