Girl Talk Girl TalkAll Day
When “Night Ripper” (Illegal Art, 2006) came out, Gregg Gillis seemed to be the saviour of pop. Two years later, with the release of “Feed the Animals” (Illegal Art, 2008), for many, the joke was over and Gillis was little less than a swindler. The blogsphere, that pipe dream—what has become of it? Where are those brainy blogs the length of four chapters of “Ulysses” at the cost of zero euros that were going to change the status quo on the academic circuit by democratising authorised opinion?—anyway, it launched into a frenetic flurry of convoluted discussions about the real value of Girl Talk’s contribution to popular culture in its defence of the techniques of recycling, hypertexts, multi-referencing, and such like. I remember pompous (and ridiculous) declarations about (sic) “cultural vasectomy.” And the question is: what do people expect of a mash-up, which is basically music for drunks to have a good laugh with? A change of paradigm? If you like, I’ll quote you a passage from the Bhagavad Gita, the most sacred section of the great book of Hindu culture, the Mahabharata: “the unreal doesn’t exist, and what is real never ceases to exist.” Or to say the same thing: Girl Talk will never be able to construct a new language for pop, nor destroy the one that we know, because he based his work solely and exclusively on itself. You cannot create another person based on what you see in the mirror. He sets up puzzles, tells jokes— everything is entertaining and joking. Any attempt to find an intellectual focus obviously fails, because that isn’t what he is seeking, nor is it what his discourse demands. Putting Girl Talk into historical perspective as a saviour is like expecting Judd Apatow to become the next Orson Welles.
Having said this, “All Day” is here. In direct download format, because Girl Talk’s albums infringe on so many copyrights that the mere idea of seeing them again in CD format in a shop would be a double disaster (because fewer and fewer CDs are sold, and because there’s always some lawyer just dying to suck blood to feed the cadaver of U2 or people like that). And once again, it’s the same joke, the same diabolical puzzle of 372 samples mounted one on top of the other with a skill and patience that can only be surpassed if one is dedicated to the noble hobby of putting ships inside bottles. What I wanted to say before is that a 72-minute musical piece that is composed, like the four previous albums, of beats, choruses, riffs, and the most significant fragments of part of the most successful music (on the charts) of recent years could never be the future or the end of pop. This is like saying that a vomit, or the end of a digestion, is the future of the food chain, which will extinguish certain species—like the dinosaurs—and bring about strange mutations in the DNA molecules of rabbits. It’s as hard for me to theorise pompously about a Girl Talk album as about an episode of “Seinfeld”: I prefer to let myself be carried away by enthusiasm, guffaws, unexpected situations, absurdity, anarchy and funny stories.
Gregg Gillis asks that “All Day” be understood as a closed piece that must be listened to from beginning to end. Nothing new: all of Girl Talk’s albums are like that, they work through accumulation and they have an effect, whether of surprise, pleasure, or the desire to jump up out of your seat to dance around or bang your head against the ceiling because we recognise many of the samples that he uses and strings together masterfully, at times so imperceptibly that it seems not to be a sample at all. How else can you listen to something like that? Evidently, not in three-minute instalments, like songs on the radio. This is different from conventional pop: the demand and the discipline, the long format, the trip. But this is nothing that DJ culture hadn’t already invented. And on this occasion, getting down to musical business, it seems as if Girl Talk had leaned this time more towards street rap and MTV hits, paying less attention to the classics (of yesterday and today) of indie-rock. There are samples of New Order, U2, Ramones, Nirvana or The Rolling Stones (how original, don’t you think?), but especially there is Gucci Mane, Kanye West, T.I., Missy Elliott, Drake, Ke$ha, Miley Cyrus, B.o.B., Usher, Lil Jon, N.W.A., Justin Timberlake, Prince, 50 Cent, and M.O.P., and in this sense the predictable thing that a Girl Talk album always is multiplies and works against “All Day”. The technical execution is perfect, and the selection hits the mark, if we keep in mind that he is only looking for number 1’s and well-known titles, but it’s still a joke that we already know the ending too. You can tell a joke very well, with all sorts of gestures and voice imitations—live, remember, Girl Talk bares himself, getting into the crowd and joining the party—but if there is no big laugh at the end, the joke itself hasn’t fulfilled its mission.
“All Day” ends up leaving us with the feeling that we already notice and appreciate the skills of Girl Talk more than his ability to select music; we celebrate more the partial results—how good “Blitzkrieg Pop” by the Ramones goes with Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On,” for example, or Hot Stylz and UGK over John Lennon’s piano playing “Imagine”. But there were better mash-ups on “Night Ripper”—or maybe the novelty just made us think that they were better. “All City”, like all good jokes ingeniously created, is more enjoyable the first time. So if this is going to be your first approach to the riffraff world of Girl Talk—the laughing, the uproar—then all of that is guaranteed. If you had already enjoyed him before … it’s the same as always, but with the effect toned down by habit.
Girl Talk - That's Right