Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Girl Talk

  • Night Ripper [Illegal Art, 2006] A-
  • Feed the Animals [Illegal Art, 2008] A
  • All Day [Illegal Art download, 2010] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Night Ripper [Illegal Art, 2006]
Released only somewhat clandestinely in the summer of 2006, the best mash-up album since 2002's The Best Bootlegs in the World Ever suggests why there've been so few competitors. Pittsburgh-based Gregg Gillis ups the ante. Like DJ Shadow or the Avalanches, only with obvious samples rather than obscure ones, he doesn't just make two songs smell like pirate booty--he reduces the been-there-done-that factor by creating new music from many of them. But by so doing, he embraces the novelty factor. Because his samples have their own inescapable identities, the songs never coalesce into something deeper, as with Shadow, or even cheesier, as with the Avalanches. Nor is there much compounding of groove--the effects are too sequential. So we have here an entertaining novelty album set on proving that filthy rappers are bloody good fun. This idea is more useful than asserting that pop froth is as deep as Nirvana. But it's not exactly a profound truth--not even always a liberating one. A-

Feed the Animals [Illegal Art, 2008]
My body already knew what my powers of distinction told me when I replayed the Pittsburgh DJ's 2006 breakthrough mashup Night Ripper, which is that this is the one that goes for the jugular: historically guaranteed barn burners like "Gimme Some Lovin'," "A Whiter Shade of Pale," "Rebel Rebel" and "96 Tears" validating modern-day filth on the order of UGK's offensive "International Players Anthem" and Three 6 Mafia's odious "I'd Rather" (the one where Project Pat pretends he did his bid as a top). But only when I printed out Wikipedia's list of samples [Wikipedia]--good enough for downloaders, though an official version comes with the official release--did I get it. It's like reading along with lyrics no one can fully make out unaided--by the Clash, say. Mining classics like "Mickey," "Bad Girls" and "Mama Said Knock You Out" for beats you can't ID without a scorecard, chipmunking such totems as the Band, Radiohead, Sinead O'Connor, Styx and the Beastie Boys, marching Kelly Clarkson to Nine Inch Nails and Britney Spears to Air, fabricating duets by Trina and M.I.A. or Public Enemy and Young Leek, Gregg Gillis has plenty to say about music. What he has to say about life, which is that "I'd Rather" equals "Gimme Some Lovin'," remains more limited. Nevertheless, sequences here give me hope. In my favorite, Ice Cube's "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted" turns into Hot Chocolate's "Every 1's a Winner." A

All Day [Illegal Art download, 2010]
Less fun than Feed the Animals because the sample pool is less obvious, but deeper, if stolen party music can be deep, which in his shallow way is what Greg Gillis believes. With the predictable scad-and-a-half of exceptions on an album that claims 373 sources, the strategy is to provide verbal content via the most unpoetic strains of hop-hop--marginal Dirty South club records, say Project Pat's "Twerk" or Young Berg's "Sexy Can," of which most fans from outside that world were unaware--and beats/grooves/IDs via canonical rock: U2 and the Ramones, Iggy's "Lust for Life" and Miley's "Party in the U.S.A." Of course, since these won't necessarily provoke enough partying in the U.S.A., there are also actual beats a level below, drums and that sort of thing. Multifarious posteriors notwithstanding, the lyrics are less raunchy than on Feed the Animals--rated R, not X. As a result, Gillis's vision becomes less orgiastic and more humanistic. Track 10 features Springsteen and Nirvana, track 11 Ice Cube's "It Was a Good Day," and the finale goes out on the daily double Gillis could have conceived the entire record around: the tough-guy sentimentality of UGK's gangsta threnody "One Day" over the mods-versus-rockers universalism of John Lennon's late-hippie hymn "Imagine." Suffused with hope that someday we'll join him and the world will live as one, Gillis dares Yoko Ono to tell him otherwise. A

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