Andy Smith: The Document II

John Davidson

Andy Smith

The Document II

Label: Ubiquity
US Release Date: 2003-09-30
UK Release Date: 2003-09-15

Strange as it may seem, less than 20 years ago a generation of ardent young men had to play music rather than merely spin vinyl in hopes of scoring with cool-scene chicks. DJ's then were seen less as hip cats toting slick record bags than as reclusive bedroom nerds with badly permed hair and an extensive record collection. Indeed, to describe oneself as a DJ was to court ridicule, a confession of endless Saturday nights spent in the company of the tearful and drunk, nights bearing witness to the full human comedy, gazing out at newlyweds shuffling across floors polished with cake and ale, the inevitable scratch and hiss of Gerry and the Pacemakers' "You'll Never Walk Alone".

DJ cachet has come a long way, baby.

Back then, only the obsessive record collector with a haphazard penchant for gooning might draw within near distance of fame, parlaying his considered "talents" into a radio career. This was the breed Morrissey famously disparaged with "Panic" ('86). Ironically, that song being the first notable indication of Morrissey as an artist, and indie as a genre, was falling out of step. Within a couple of years the Smiths would be gone, and music culture would usher in a decade in which the DJ, contrary to being hanged, was honored as King.

But that's another story.

For those who haven't been paying attention, the cult of DJ peaked several years ago and its demise continues unabated. Over the past couple of years, not a single "Superstar DJ" has emerged within the dance music culture (nor, for that matter, outside of it), and the days when reverent club kids spoke of a skilled vinyl artist shaping and moving a room seem long ago.

The Document II, a new compilation from Andy Smith, epitomizes the no-mans land that the present day record-shuffler finds himself in. Smith originally garnered a reputation supplying samples and opening live sets for Portishead a decade ago, and previously released an album in 1998 titled, oddly enough, The Document. With its release, he emerged as one of the first DJs to champion eclecticism in his sets, moving away from formulaic selections tied stringently to genre. Instead, Smith pulled unexpected choices from his crate, mixing pop, soul and hip-hop, creating sets far removed from the prevalent monochromatic diets of house and trance.

The Document II continues in similar vein, but plays as mood-less mélange rather than inspired eclecticism. Twenty-four tracks are spaced over seventy-three minutes, but frankly, the tracks feel more like fifty in number. There are good selections, some more familiar than others, yet the overall is undermined by a lack of cohesive focus.

The opening track is Kate Bush's "The Man with the Child in His Eyes", selected both for its beauty and as an expository introduction: it doesn't belong here. To drop beats over such delicate beauty for even a moment is to destroy it. Later, with Serge Gainsbourgh's "Requiem Pour Un C" and Jack Jones's "I'll Never Fall in Love Again", the choices are too cute and precious. While it may be true that no one else has considered pitting such unlikely tracks within minutes of a veritable hip-hop classic like Black Sheep's "The Choice Is Yours", one has to acknowledge that there may be an entirely logical reason for that.

For the greater part, the album attempts to blend a '60s soul sensibility with '90s hip-hop, an idea David Holmes pulled off with considerably greater élan last year on Come Get It, I Got It. Holmes mixed-in additional production work, but his album was also much tighter conceptually, and certainly it never had the feel, as this one sometimes does, of a CD sampler fallen from between the pages of a music magazine.

One may admire Smith's vast expanse of music reference points, and he mixes beats well, but the latter at least is a given; mixing is the most elemental of DJ skills, and there are thirteen year olds across the land quite adept at it by now too. As a simple party soundtrack this fails, it's attention span too flimsy.

Simply put, there's too much competition for our ears, so that a pleasant listening experience is not nearly enough anymore. "Pleasant" resides in different country from "compelling", and no matter how hard I try, I fail to imagine myself listening to this record three years from now. As an artistic statement, it tends to suggest that for DJs, the way ahead is far from clear. The choice of roads may appear endless, but legitimate options seem few.





Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


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 .


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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