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Girl Talk

Illegal Art

There’s nothing particularly new about the new album by Girl Talk, aka Pittsburgh producer Greg Gillis, which stitches hundreds of songs—classic and indie rock, hip-hop, dancehall, R&B, and pretty much any genre of pop music from the last 40 years—into a party mix to end all party mixes. It is, in a sense, just another collection of mash-ups. You remember those, right? In 2001, an English dude calling himself Freelance Hellraiser combined instrumental passages of the Strokes’ “Hard to Explain” with an a capella version of Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle.” The resultant “A Stroke of Genius” circled the world via file-sharing networks. Soon, magazines were doing trend pieces, and production crews such as Belgium’s 2 Many DJs and Philadelphia’s Hollertronix made careers out of cheeky musical juxtapositions. Even with the hype, mash-ups remained an egalitarian form, because anyone could make one—all you needed to make one was a computer and widely available software. That led, inevitability, to a problem: almost everyone did make one. Sites like the early MP3 blog Boomselection offered zillions of new mash-ups from around the globe, most of which weren’t worth listening to twice. Forgotten in the blizzard of mediocrity was the notion that, like figure skating, mash-ups hinge on degree of difficulty. Night Ripper is a triple Salchow-double toe combination, a fan-friendly mix on which many (but not all) of the samples are obvious, and the transitions are never so jarring as to annoy. There are moments of unexpected poignancy, as when Elton John’s piano from “Tiny Dancer” underpins the Notorious B.I.G.’s rap on “Juicy,” the sadness and nostalgia of the keyboard line amplifying the rapper’s early hardscrabble days. The swarm of guitar and organ from Boston’s “Foreplay” snakes under Ludacris’ “Pimpin’ All Over the World”; the guitar from the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind” backs Nas on “Hate Me Now.” Gillis’ affinity for easily identifiable snippets keeps Night Ripper from being exhausting in a bad way—after 40 minutes, you’ll definitely feel like you’ve stayed up all night, but only because you were having fun. And judging from some flagrant lawsuit-baiting here (the Rolling Stones snippet that landed the Verve in hot water when they sampled it for “Bitter Sweet Symphony” appears early on, backing the Ying Yang Twins’ “Wait”), Night Ripper may not be around much longer—legally, anyway. There wouldn’t be anything new about that, either.—Mark Richardson