Attempting to explain Girl Talk's Feed the Animals and identify what succeeds or fails with the set can’t be done on the level of an album in its entirety, it’s hard to even approach each track on an individual basis considering what they are. Mashups aren’t anything new, nor is Gregg Gillis’ mix-heavy approach, but what’s detailed on this album is a new offering that exceeds everything that is out there, even 2006′s Night Ripper. And while attempting to explain the album may be difficult, explaining why it succeeds is not – Feed the Animals may have a lot more to do with the direction our culture has taken and how the definition of music as an art is changing than how it sounds.
With Tha Carter III‘s release I wrote that I felt Lil’ Wayne’s album was reflecting “the nature of the environment which he is a product of – a society riddled with various revolving doors continually making it harder to focus on a single idea for more than an instant.” While I’ll stand by that statement, it’s far easier to stand by those thoughts in the context of an artist like Gillis. The end product of his work is a piece of music that is almost impossible to recall, a piece of music that is fresh every time it is heard because of the fact that it passes the listener by with lightning-like speed. The fantastic Wikipedia page that has been assembled for the release counts some 274 samples which collectively make-up the album. Falsely judging our society’s shift towards a clip-heavy viral video addiction and suggesting that we’re collectively on a path to that depicted in Mike Judge’s Idiocracy might be a bit much, but the essence for the debate remains – we are slowly shifting towards becoming a nation demanding instant gratification, no matter the vehicle. There stands a partial reason for not simply the existence of mashups and mega-mix styled releases, but the reason they continue to exist and a suggestion as to why the material on this album succeeds.
Mashups are often, to some degree, kitschy, sugar-coated regurgitated second generation pieces of music lacking any substance whatsoever; and I should know, I love them. When done well they are fantastic gems that reflect not simply pop music as a whole, but some of its finer moments. The club culture that Gillis is submerged in isn’t necessarily conducive to mashups however – often they are fun pieces to listen to but just as often they only serve as momentary answers to irregular “what-if” questions (Question: What would it sound like if you tried to combine Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” with some sort of disco-based club track? Answer: Shit.) That being said, Feed the Animals works – not just as a collection of intellectually curated, professionally mastered mashups, but as a piece of music that excels in a club atmosphere.
As much as I try to fight the urge, ever since the mid-90s when the Chemical Bros./Fatboy/Prodigy contributed to taking electronic music to a whole new level of popularity I’ve been a fan of that sort of music, whatever you’ll call it. And while I tend to suggest that I enjoy music with more face-value substance, I love a lot of what’s out there in the clubs these days. The club culture has evolved into something just as unique, innovative and forward thinking as anything else on the pop music’s radar… nothing could help push that statement further than last year’s amazing reception of Justice’s Cross and Daft Punk’s insane festival draw. By propelling his project with the same intensity that these electronic artists demand of their music Gillis has prepared his output for an inevitable acceptance within that culture, it just so happens that he uses the term mashup as a vehicle for what he creates.
It’s not that Feed the Animals uses as many samples as it does and it’s not that it brings mashups to the mainstream or even invites people to further search within the genre. Feed the Animals succeeds because there may be an unspoken demand right now for such an exciting, terminally scatterbrained album. While Night Ripper was a solid release, there are contemporaries out there that are also solid – it just happens that with Feed the Animals, Gillis is the first to offer a release of such caliber. I still don’t know what Gillis’ aim was with the album or even how to critically describe what it is that I’ve been listening to for the past few days, but I can say this: the bar has been set, and it has been set high.