As experimental and offbeat as much of Quentin Dupieux’s creative output has been over the past two decades, the French electro-house artist and film director has also never shied away from exploring more commercial material. Working under the alias Mr. Oizo, his 1999 hit “Flat Beat” did, after all, top the U.K. singles chart, thanks in part to a popular Levi’s commercial that featured both the song and a yellow, head-bobbing puppet named Flat Eric. An 8-bit-inspired rendering of the puppet graces the cover of Mr. Oizo’s sixth album, All Wet, and he’s also prominently featured in the video for “Hand in the Fire,” a song that ostensibly announced Dupieux’s intention to reach a broader audience. He packs more than half of All Wet’s 15 tracks with featured guests, and tempers his more gonzo flourishes without fully abandoning the spastic, malfunctioning video-arcade salvos so rampant on his past few albums.
The video version of “Hand in the Fire,” released on an EP of the same name last year, is a French house-pop gem. The album mix, however, chops the song up and reassembles it, ramping up a staccato burst of treble that almost drowns out guest Charli XCX’s vocals before the whole thing drops into a dissonant EDM banger. Likewise, All Wet’s title track, featuring German producer Siriusmo, lopes and thrums along without much in the way of a hook. By contrast, the album’s standout track, the Skrillex collaboration “End of the World,” serves as a rare example of Dupieux following an idea through to its completion; he pairs the computerized “Now, it’s gonna be exciting/To watch the end of the world” lyrics from one of his previous songs, “Mositif,” with a warbling, ascending beat and what is by far the most fleshed-out song structure on the entire album.
The songs on All Wet that are liable to stick with the listener don’t always do so for the best of reasons. On “Freezing Out,” Peaches repeatedly rhymes “Check on her vagina” with “Moving to Regina” over a throbbing beat, recalling Dupieux’s propensity for the puerile. On “Your Liver,” a computerized voice stammers, “Give me your liver/And I’ll give you my heart,” ad nauseam over one of the more industrial beats featured on the album, but it’s little more than a boozy novelty. Other tracks tend to grate: “Chairs” thrusts the listener into funhouse loops of honking bike-horn effects; “Sea Horses” alternates between shrill pings and meandering, amelodic deep pulses; while “The One You Buy” is 73 seconds of what sounds like a giant pendulum groaning back and forth over a loudly malfunctioning computer.
Despite the extensive coordination involved in featuring so many notable guests, All Wet too often feels half-baked, with Dupieux stirring up interesting ideas only to tire of them too quickly: While other electronic music often lends itself to sprawling textures and movements, too much of All Wet skitters out in rapid-fire fragments that end abruptly, challenging the listener to keep up with ideas that Dupieux never fully actualizes.