In no uncertain terms, this new Girl Talk is the shit. It’s hilarious, insightful and joyful in all the right places. If I know you, expect to endure this soon: “Here, let me play this bit for you…see, isn’t that crazy…the way he cut in that track is like whoa…c’mon, laugh/smile/gasp, goddamit!”
Gregg Gillis, d/b/a Girl Talk, is not really the new Eddie Murphy in any intelligible way, but his recent albums (Night Ripper and the new Feed The Animals) make me feel just like the first time I heard Raw or Delirious. Here is this continuous aural experience for what seems like hours, where every 10 seconds something happens that forces you to grin like a loon while forcibly stifling an involuntary “oh no he di’int.” It’s quite literally drugs- you want to feel like this all the time, and you want to share the experience with all your friends. But then you do, and you stand there unsatisfied, both with the reaction you’re getting and your own enthusiasm for the work. The problems are limitations we’re all familiar with in comedy: the joke just isn’t as funny the second time, especially if the second time is right after the first, and it’s awful to have to explain why it’s funny. The former is satisfied just by giving yourself a break from the material, but the latter is a barrier everyone has to surmount on their own; you really to have to recognize the samples to appreciate the “jokes.”
I really don’t mean to imply that Girl Talk just does musical jokes, though; I mean to call it comedy of the highest order. The Internet is littered with mashups that amount to nothing more than knock-knock jokes, but Girl Talk is like the Daily Show: not just funny because it’s true, but also true in spite of the funny. An amusing revelation is no less a revelation. Girl Talk pokes the tracks he samples with as sharp a stick as Jon Stewart ever wielded, but instead of lampooning, he’s celebrating. He takes out all the context and holds up the fragment, but instead of saying “look how ridiculous,” he says “look how excellent.” It’s aggressively optimistic, but it is just as trenchant as any cutting parody. He’s giving us a whole new perspective on the tracks he samples, not only by juxtaposing them so drastically, but by taking only a few bars of any one track. He’s giving you just enough to appreciate what is truly great about a particular hook or phrase, while weaving it in and out of an undeniably funky tapestry. You’re left with a renewed love for your old favorites, but there’s also a sneaking suspicion that the original artist may have grievously overused that sampled bit. It’s work in the best tradition of recontextualization, but it’s also enormously fun. Just like great comedy, you never stop wanting to laugh, or in this case, dance.
No one track does the album justice, but this one has a particularly inspired use of one of my old favorites, Aphex Twin’s “Girl/Boy Song”: Girl Talk – Shut The Club Down
Stay tuned for Part 2: the obligatory IP wonkery. It’s not for nothing that Girl Talk’s on the Illegal Art label