[4 August 2009]
Aging though he is, Miguel De Pedro is trapped in the perpetual adolescence of his puerile namesake. Yes, love it or leave it, Kid606 is still Kid606, master of song title puns (“America’s Next Top Modwheel”, “Baltimorrow’s Parties”) and sonic pranks. The front cover of his latest album Shout at the Döner features a kitty version of the Radiohead bear logo with two pentagrams for eyes, a blatant reference to Motley Cruë’s not-coincidentally similarly-named Shout at the Devil album. On the flipside is a cross with some kind of meat behind it, most likely a döner kebab, which might be construed as an inverse identification with Man Ray’s “Monument à D.A.F. de Sade” photographs featuring ass cheeks behind an upside down cross. This kind of hyper-referential ironic detachment persists throughout the album, mocking both the forces of light and darkness, and damned serious in its refusal to take itself seriously, which may make it much harder for the listener to hear in Kid606’s latest goofball opus the great work, a career-best, that lies between the cutesy pentagram and the putrid orange meat crucifix.
Even as the march of fascist hipsters around De Pedro deign themselves the vainglorious murderers of postmodernism and attempt to trample the fun out of any music with a wry sense of self-awareness, the boy has persevered. And thank God… or Satan… or what have you, because Shout at the Döner is more fun than you’ll have all year listening to all the acclaimed, self-serious indie tripe oozing out of every corner of the web.
Staged in four movements, Shout at the Döner once again finds De Pedro’s playful relationship with historical rave at the center of his obsessions. This time out, he works himself closer to the physical sound aesthetic of burgeoning techno and house, particularly in his wonky synth-melody lines, all rubber WAV squiggle and liquid circuit-board meltdown like the classic acid house anthems of yore. Having replaced the machine glitchery of Kid606’s earliest work with perverted analogue-synth-sounding oscillations, De Pedro has drawn a chronologically backwards diagram illustrating electronic music’s obsession with damaged sound.
The rhythms are, for the most part, straight four-on-the-floor, with skittish drum machine hits atop, making this a primed and pumped party album. The energy is consistent throughout (save for a few sample-based pieces that could probably be properly called “skits”) and the kid nails it nearly every time.
“Mr. Wobble’s Nightmare”, the story of Robert Wobble, age 17, narrated by Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart, is a parody of 4Hero’s seminal nightmarish overdose theme “Mr. Kirk’s Nightmare”. De Pedro recasts the cautionary breakbeat after school special as a horror film. Locked in the club with no food or drink, the partygoers start cannibalizing each other. It’s an apt metaphor for what De Pedro is doing all over the album, devouring and absorbing pop culture rather than assimilating it. To boot, the songs makes some massive vibrations and fluctuations guaranteed to shake dance floors.
The two tracks that follow “Mr. Wobble’s Nightmare” on Shout at the Döner sound like they could be the soundtrack to that song’s narrative attack. “Samhain California” is a lurking, ominous, and creepy danse macabre and “Hello Serotonin, My Old Friend” is comprised of mostly bouncy blunted basses that twist and hop around like e’d up gremlins. Taken together, these tracks are like a Loony Tunes adaptation of George A. Romero directing the music video to “Powerpill Pacman”.
These tunes are of the bricklaying sort, slow-building and intensifying, which is the general modus operandi for Kid606 on this album. A select few songs though are downright epic in their scope. “Dancehall of the Dead”, catapulted by a brilliant sample of Nick Cave screaming “Hands up, who wants to die?” from The Birthday Party’s “Sonny’s Burning” (amazing that no one’s taken that one before), is one track with so many welcome turns that it should be divided into “Suites” a la a 1970s prog album.
Like prog, Kid606 is unapologetically indulgent. But unlike many of those bands, De Pedro the musician isn’t the only one having fun. The busy beats of the darkly chromatic “Getränke Nasty”, the warm cut-ups of “Underwear Everywhere”, and the wailing-diva spiritual house of “You All Break My Heart” are all profoundly entertaining, even if the album as a whole can be a bit exhausting for a single sit-down listen. There’s far too little negative in an album this jam-packed with goodies to harp too strongly on them. Even the inessential skits have salvageable elements. For instance, the drug-fueled world of rave doesn’t necessarily need another church of “LSD”, but that Kid606 decides to erect one any way seems only appropriate. Manipulating religious folks into advocating drug consumption is an old favorite, like the “Freebird” of DIY dance.
On Shout at the Döner, De Pedro makes sure he has all his bases covered, all the flesh lined up before he can cannibalize it, taking good shit and doing evil things with it, and vice versa.