Reviews

Girl Talk

Drew Fortune

Playing for a generation raised on energy drinks, TiVo, and Adderall, Girl Talk’s talent lies in the ability to seamlessly blend disparate pop songs into a non-stop, propulsive groove, achieving a synthesis of irony and innovation.

Girl Talk

Girl Talk

City: Chicago, IL
Venue: Congress Theatre
Date: 2008-11-08

“This is the biggest show I’ve ever played,” announced an ecstatic Greg Gillis to the salivating mob at Chicago’s sold-out Congress Theatre, just before hundreds of multi-colored balloons dropped from the ceiling and engulfed the venue. “This shit is ridiculous!” Girl Talk is Greg Gillis, and Gillis is a hyper active mash-up anti-DJ for a generation raised on energy drinks, TiVo, and Adderall. His instrument is a laptop, and his talent lies in the ability to seamlessly blend disparate pop songs into a non-stop, propulsive groove, achieving a synthesis of irony and innovation. Girl Talk’s latest album, Feed the Animals, is a continuation of Gillis’ fascination with the melding of club anthem hip-hop, guilty pleasure Top 40 hits, and indie rock favorites. The album’s first track throws the Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin”, Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door”, Lil Mama’s “G-Slide (Tour Bus)”, Huey Lewis’ “Heart of Rock and Roll”, Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, and Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike”, into a blender stuck on high, and by the time “Ghetto Superstar” meets Yo La Tengo late in the album, the casual listener is probably too spent to care, or even wonder who the hell is Yo La Tengo? On record, the shtick wears thin after a couple spins, but the real point to the whole venture is that if you’re not dancing, you’re missing the point. This 4,000-capacity, all ages Congress show was the biggest non-festival gig of Gillis’ career, and a testament to how far Girl Talk has come in a relatively short amount of time. Gillis has released four albums on the Illegal Art label since actively beginning to record in 2000, dabbling, at first, in small, club sets while studying biomedical engineering at college in Cleveland. Word of mouth quickly spread, with his breakout album, 2006’s Night Ripper, drawing rave reviews and prompting many to consider his use of unauthorized sampling a lawsuit waiting to happen. Gillis cheerfully disregards these charges, citing Fair Use as his legal right for sampling, and his popularity has only grown since a buzz-worthy performance at 2008’s Lollapalooza where Gillis surfed the crowd in an inflatable raft. Part of the charm of live Girl Talk is Gillis’ involvement with the crowd, with the fourth wall broken as the stage becomes flooded with crowd members who surround Gillis and his laptop. Outside of Europe, it’s rare for a DJ to draw such attention and admiration in a live setting, and before the Congress set began the crowd had threatened to smother itself, a grim reminder of his 2007 performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival when Gillis’ set was cut short as the crowd rushed the fenced in area surrounding the stage. After a brief scolding by security, the set began; Gillis surrounded by hundreds of fans randomly selected before the show to spastically strut their stuff on stage. It was simultaneously charming and sad to see teenyboppers in neon shirts and new wave knee socks, chewing pacifiers and throwing glow sticks, dancing to the well-supervised chaos. The short-lived beauty of ‘90s warehouse raves, and the flamboyant style established by Michael Alig during the ‘80s reign of Club Kids in New York, was a sense of danger and glam rebellion. As projected images of marijuana leaves and giant cheeseburgers flashed on the screen behind Gillis, it became impossible to separate sincerity from hipster irony. During his sets, there can be anywhere from two to ten loops playing at any particular time. Although it feels like improv, the material is arranged before the shows, with the transition from segment to segment propelled by a combination of crowd intensity and the whims of Gillis. My notes became a garbled mess, as I frantically tried to keep up with Gillis as he threw “Blitzkrieg Bop”, Fergie, and Kenny Loggins at the ravenous crowd. As the bass dropped out, Gillis isolated the riff from Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl”, and the place went bananas, leaving me to wonder if the young crowd actually liked this ‘80s gem, or if they would happily lap up anything their beloved Girl Talk could sample. As the two-hour set wore on, the breakneck intensity of Gillis never subsiding, I began to feel old and very conspicuous. A guy in his late-twenties in blue jeans and t-shirt halfheartedly wishing he had an ecstasy connection instead of feeling lost in the crowd like one of Gillis’ many, many samples.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.