Greg Gillis has risen so far above mash-up geek status that I’m not even sure I know how to accurately describe him. On his latest LP, Feed the Animals, the dude samples Temple of the Dog, for god’s sake. And that’s not even the most bizarre reference on the album. But really, it’s not those odd choices that make Gillis’s sample-crazy, laptop-aided, booty-shake tracks so striking. With this mash-up subset of the dance genre that he has helped to refine, Gillis has found a way to make music-inspired music for the sake of…music.
There is a moment—and I do mean a moment—on Feed the Animals when Jay-Z’s “Roc Boys” is mashed up with Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” and two of my all-time favorite artists share the room in a geek-out moment to end all. While listening to it, I think of all the worthless mash-ups that have previously put these two artists together, and how they rarely had the unique vision that Gillis so easily communicates. It’s not enough for the beat structures to simply have a kinship, or for the novelty of the idea to bring on the goodwill itself; what Gillis does is use his talents to create something wholly different than what was there at the start. The samples simply colliding with each other isn’t the end result, they are a means to an end. They act as his instruments, not his song.
There are literally over 300 songs sampled on Feed the Animals, with any number of them used in each one of the album’s 14 tracks. There is modern and vintage pop, classic rock, funk, metal, hip-hop, and I’m pretty sure that Paula Cole song from Dawson’s Creek is buried somewhere in the fourth track. Copyright crusaders beware though: Gillis’s label, Illegal Art, is so immersed in the “sample business,” as it were, that they’ve had defense arguments loaded in the chamber since way back when Gillis released Night Ripper in ‘06. Thankfully, they haven’t had to use any of them yet. Perhaps to further thumb their nose at the musical-industrial complex, they went all In Rainbows this time out, offering the album on an online pay-what-you-want plan. I personally paid what I could afford: $0.00. Don’t judge me. It was worth every penny.
Feed the Animals is the kind of manic masterpiece that, when you think about it, should lose its appeal with each listen. How exciting can it really be by the 10th time, for instance? But if Night Ripper (not to mention Gillis’s first two albums) is any indication, Girl Talk’s staying power is downright death defying; it’s the wealth of elements that give each album their specific identity—from the hundreds of samples to the artistry displayed in positioning each one in just the right way. It’s the lack of snobbery found within the gimmickry that helps it all rise above the gimmick, if only slightly. Gillis gives off a magnanimous vibe that indicates an intense love for music as much as it does for being a clever little laptop DJ. While the album may prove to be more than a wee bit similar to its predecessor (insomuch as the two albums’ structures are essentially the same), it really doesn’t take away any of the enjoyment. Feed the Animals, while perhaps not as fresh as Night Ripper, is a sweaty, neon-lit, seizure inducing, off-the-wall, utter delight.