Here’s the least surprising sentence you’ll read all day: This collection of mashups is inconsistent and uneven.
Having employed some of the finest physicists and mathematicians I could locate on short notice, and without anything to offer in return other than a place to download “SexyBack”, I have scientifically deduced that mashups, as a genre, are roughly six or seven vertical feet away from comprehensively jumping the shark. How can this be, you might wonder, thoughtlessly ignoring my awesome science? The answer is simple: the stupid Internet. Like political commentary, objective news and quality pornography, the Internet has simultaneously birthed and ruined the mashup, which was a hell of a fun idea for a while.
It’s that old double-edged sword thing: Yes, the free and simple online exchange of ideas (and by “ideas” I mean “other people’s artistic content”) has allowed for a heretofore unborn genre to go forth, multiply and shake groove things—I mean, come on Grey Album. Sweet. (There is also that fan-friggin’-tastic mashup of “Oops I Did It Again” and “The Real Slim Shady” that exposes both for being the gluttonous slabs of tooth-rotting cotton candy they are; it also makes them both way better.)
But often, the worst thing about establishing a medium that anyone can access is that, invariably, they will. And now any Joe Two Turntables And A Microphone in his dorm room, if he’s got enough real estate between his Bob Marley bobbleheads and his weed, can staple mashups together with free demo software. That’s great and all if you’ve got a bottle of Malibu and a free night, but it’s led to a zany explosion that, because of its size and complexity, is impossible to access, like jazz or the process of registering to vote. Call me a mash-up snob, but I just don’t have time to listen to freshmen from Arizona State screwing Tapes n’ Tapes together with . . . with, whoever. Jim Croce. (Actually, that would be great. Bad example.)
Anyway, this brings us to The Best Mashups In The World Ever Are From San Francisco 2, a mouthful of a sequel to the often-giddy original from the land where inventive music has occasionally been made. Here’s the least surprising sentence you’ll read all day: This collection of mashups is inconsistent and uneven. But as such things go, it’s fun enough, has maybe four or five truly inspired hybrids, a handful of good ones, and another, a Clarkson / DM mash, that has the title “Since U Been Gahan”.
See, that’s why I like these things.
Of course, that’s a qualified “like”. Opener “Beethoven’s Fifth Gold Digger”, constructed by D (do not try to Google this man) makes that evaluation in three minutes: it’s schticky enough, but it doesn’t—how can I put this—actually match vocal with beat very well. “Super Holla Tricka”, a Tripp remix that involves the Beastie Boys, KC and the Sunshine Band and “Hollaback Girl”, because apparently there’s been some recent Congressional legislation that requires 40% of all mashups to involve “Hollaback Girl”, fares better—it’s concerned only with lovingly bringing Gwen and the B-Boys to an extremely sweaty backyard barbecue.
By and large, when that goal—moving the crowd with the standard unh-tiss thing—is the DJ’s only goal, everybody more or less goes home happy. Jay R’s “My Other Car Is A Beatle”, which sports Gary Numan, JJ Fad, “Drive My Car”, and one of the comp’s great titles, does this. It’s a little clunky and nonsensical, but that’s the point. Motion Potion figures out a way to implant Radiohead’s “Just” into the ubiquitous breakbeat from Jurassic 5’s “Break”. And from the obligatory files of Songs That Don’t Belong Together, Fidelski’s “Feel Like Makin’ La-Di-Da” works way better than it should.
It’s when they start to get conceptually itchy that things tend to break down. Poor M.I.A. is underserved by Jay R’s “Sri Lanka High”, whose hook—“Rock And Roll High School”—sounds amateurish in that not-good way, and the Killers / Clash riff “Somebody Rock Me” (as in “The Casbah”) never finds its footing. Matching 50 Cent’s nap-inducing flow with “Neutron Dance” has the unfortunate and startling effect of making Fitty seem more ass-boring than ever before, and Party Ben’s Snoop / Zep behemoth “Drop It Like It’s A Whole Lotta Love” doesn’t make you miss rap-metal any less.
(One exception to the preceding paragraph is The Evolution Control Committee’s “Fock It”, which uses notes from Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” to create “Axel F”, a blending of two of the early MTV era’s best-known synth jams that’s, well, something approaching genius, really).
It is at this point in the review that we should mention that reviewing mashups is kind of stupid. These aren’t exactly theme albums regarding the emotional disconnect between man and machine in this godless electronic age; they are to make you go boom, like the JJ Fad cars. In that respect, you’ll rarely be less than entertained.