By Princess Stomper
You may have noticed that we don’t give marks out of 10 here, partly because it renders reviews pointless (you just read the number, not the words) and partly because it’s not fair on the recording itself. The issue is one and the same: without the context of pointing out exactly what makes it a “good” or “bad” album, you’re doing a disservice to the band, to the listener and to the reviewer. I know why I like something, but if I don’t tell you why I like it, you’re not going to know if you’ll like it too. I could give a metal album 10/10 but if you just plain hate heavy metal, you’re not going to get past the first five minutes. Sure, you save two or three minutes reading the review if you can just get a score, but you waste – what? – an hour? A whole hour of your time struggling through something you were never going to enjoy in the first place because I gave it 10/10 and that means that obviously it must be perfect. I don’t want to waste your time or your money: I’d rather just give a few details about the listening experience and let you make up your own mind.
More problematic still is the 7/10 album. Why is an album less than 10? Because it’s mediocre? Well, that’s unforgiveable, isn’t it? Given the choice between a record that’s been branded “10/10″ and one that has not, you’re not going to bother with the latter, are you? Life’s too short – might as well reserve it for the best. But what about the ones that fail to be “the best” – not because they are boring, but because there’s one big problem marring an otherwise awe-inspiring album? Such as:
Feed The Animals is the fourth album by Gregg Gillis, calling himself Girl Talk, released in 2008, and conceived as one continuous piece. It came out on the Illegal Art label, a stable notorious for the Deconstructing Beck compilation, which was composed entirely of Beck samples and landed the label in legal trouble. Gillis put the album out under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial licence, inviting fans to donate as they please, Radiohead-style, rather than selling it for a fixed price. (Donations above $10 netted you a physical CD; downloadees paying $0 had to explain via multiple choice why they were not paying.)
The unusual licensing arrangement and pay-what-you-like distribution was out of necessity: it is composed almost entirely out of unlicensed samples. That’s problematic from a conscience level because his ‘fame’ is entirely off the backs of the ingenuity of other people. For my own part, I donated $4.99 – just below the $5 threshold for a seamless download, but enough to make a reasonable contribution for costs. I didn’t want to ‘buy’ the album because of the iffyness of the whole copyright thing – though they’ve obviously recently thrashed that out since it’s now up on Amazon as a standard album purchase.
Because it’s fucking brilliant. I was tipped off on the album by a friend who knew I loved music, so what could I possibly love more than just about every record ever all cut up and squished together, collage style? Hip-hop, metal, disco, 60s pop, nothing was off-limits. It’s the sheer variety of samples included – from Nirvana to Salt-n-Pepa, often at the same time – that makes it such an exhilarating experience. Guessing which incongruous clips you’ll hear next is half the fun – the other half is found in shuffling along to the delightfully accessible grooves he builds with these snippets – in many cases creating something much better than what he had to start with. If ever the “transformative work” argument for Fair Use has ever been made, this is the textbook example: we’re not talking Jive Bunny here; this is more than mere mash-up.
Feed The Animals works in its own right, as an exceptional new creation that requires as much original thought and creativity as someone writing an album using a synth. Sure, you can just use the presets, but that would be bollocks. The real artist puts things together in ways that nobody else would even consider. You might think of putting Rihanna together with Michael Jackson
but would it ever cross your mind to put together The Carpenters and Lil Mama with Metallica?
Didn’t think so.