Okay, you might be asking: do you really expect me to read your review of a DJ on the eve of the most important election of all times? Really, dude?
Look, if you're like me, you've turned over the tea leaves obsessively enough--Karl Rove's electoral prediction, Al Giordano's prediction, fivethirtyeight.com's math, realclearpolitics.com's map, etc., etc--that you probably have enough tea leaf sludge to make one of those weird green tea smoothies at this point.
But you haven't read my Girl Talk review yet.
And let me tell you this: based on what I saw last night, the kids aren't alright.
First of all, they're not going to get enough sleep. Secondly, and more importantly, they think slogans, whether it's "Yes, We Can!" or "Country First" or "Just Do It" are bullshit. They clearly believe that, put in the right context, anything can mean anything, which means it's all meaningless. Maybe funny meaningless, but meaningless all the same.
My friends, our Republic is in grave danger.
Even if they do manage to get out of bed by noon and figure out how to vote tomorrow.
Girl Talk (Gregg Gillis), is a scrawny white dude from Pittsburgh who quit his job as a biomedical engineer to make clubs full of white people wearing glow-in-the-dark plastic jewelry sweat. Crouched down, with his long, sweat-soaked hair hanging low over what looked like a stack of laptops and amplifiers, he was accompanied on stage by roughly a third of his audience, in various stages of undress. Several of them (perhaps these were plants) appeared to be armed with gigantic rifles that could unfurl, in seconds, an entire roll of toilet paper over the mob. And near the front of the stage, there was a constant cloud of confetti emanating from an unseen source.
And when I walked into First Ave., Girl Talk was spinning the hook to "Damn!" a song by Youngbloodz. For those unfamiliar with the hook from "Damn!" this is what I was welcomed with:
"If you don't give a damn, we don't give a f*ck (HEY!)"
Well that's nice.
But it gets worse. You see, Girl Talk's style of music has been branded "mash-up," basically a 21st century hipster bastardization of the very European (i.e. very French), vaguely socialist method of Assemblage. Girl Talk "samples" several songs from several eras, but he concentrates on mixing rock music from the seventies, eighties and nineties with gangsta rap from today, tying it all together with a vicious, bump-bump heavy bass house beat. It's like music with footnotes: the resulting collage can cynically expose some lyrical meaning, comment on others, and transform the rest. (Alas, the New York Times characterized his technique as a "lawsuit waiting to happen," but so far he has eluded the fuzz. There he was, as free as Henry Kissinger, sweating on all of our young girls in our favorite rock club.)
Sometimes, Girl Talk's method seems to solely rely on the escalating frisson of "hey, I recognize that song!" playing off the "hey, I recognize that song too!" Admittedly, the sensation can be a rush: when he mashed the Clipse's "Wamp, Wamp," together with Weezer's "Say It Ain't So," I was all, "hey, I like that song!" and then, "hey, I like that song too!" But like any rush, it doesn't last. If, say, you have to stop watching for a second, maybe long enough to walk to the bar to refill your drink, and on the way you actually start to try to make sense of why he picked one particular song to mash with another, you might begin to feel like you're getting flushed into a pointless vortex where intellectualism or critical thought is too old-fashioned, too slow, too 20th century. (I think this might be what old people call "feeling old.") But seriously, I started to wonder: Was Girl Talk calling crack cocaine, the drug the duo Clipse (two former Virginia Beach drug dealers) rap about exclusively, a heartbreaker? Well, duh. Okay, a little judgy, but I'm with you, Gregg. But then he immediately followed this by mashing up another Clipse song, "Million Dollar Corner"--a song about holding down a really great street corner for selling crack--with The Band's "The Weight", which is a song about Chester and Fannie and The Devil and I'm not sure what else, but it's not really a song about moving weight, per se. But together...was Girl Talk suggesting crack should be free? And why would he so quickly contradict his previous allusion? Anyway, whether they got the joke or not, all the kids had big lungs on the chorus: "take a load off, Fanny! Take a load for free!"
Okay. It was sort of funny. But nobody else was laughing. Although everybody seemed to be having a good time, singing along and dancing. Maybe mash up is just too fast for the side of your brain that processes laughter (especially on too many pills). Or maybe Girl Talk laughs to himself. He has to: His best joke was when he mashed up "New Soul" by Yael Naim (everybody knows this as "the MacBook Air song") with Khia's filthy "My Neck, My Back." It was a desecration of the cleanest, most pristinely designed corporate message around, but it still gave way to a swell of "La la la, la-la..." at the end. It was funny. It even made me think about the future of comedy. Who will be the first stand-up to incorporate the mash up technique? Will some future stand-up mash Bill Cosby's "Dentists" to George Carlin's "Dirty Words", with "Dirty Words" as the hook? Will future accuse comics accuse somebody other than Carlos Mencia of "intellectual property theft"?
Look, I could do rhetorical yoga and try to argue that this is an interesting commentary on our post-post-race society anticipating Barack Obama and blah, blah, blah. I mean, Girl Talk is from Pittsburgh--August Wilson's hometown, a racially charged electoral micro-battleground--and he's mashing gangta rap with Journey. But this would be old news. Especially to any of the kids at the show. They grew up with both overwrought 80s guitar music and gangsta rap. Race isn't the point here. They're sort of over it. Rap is just something else to borrow for free and toss into the re-mix. They're just here to dance and have a good time. (Although, as a footnote, I saw three rap concerts this summer where the artist covered Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." It started to occur to me that rappers have only recently discovered the power of Journey for the first time--possibly because of The Sopranos finale? This might actually be intellectual yoga worth stretching for. Feel free.)
So what does this mean, if it doesn't mean anything? Maybe I'm reading way too much into this and it's just the same old song--an older person reading too much into a younger person's art. But after taking off his shoes and wringing out his socks to a massive whoop, Girl Talk performed the last "song" of the night: a mash up of Birdman and Lil' Wayne's "Pop Bottles," and Journey's "Faithfully." By itself, "Pop Bottles" is about celebrating your own wealth, "balling hard," popping champagne and wearing diamond rings "like you won the championship game" simply because you can. Ceteris paribus, "Faithfully" is about a clown on the road estranged from his lady but promising her his undying love nevertheless. So mashed up, to the ears of a 22-year-old mashing up his own Adderall and vodka red bull, maybe the two songs sound like...hope?