Girl Talk

Feed the Animals

Girl Talk is a fan. To him, it’s of utmost importance that you know and appreciate that he’s a fun dude who doesn’t mind tossing the cardigan of indie credibility aside to dig out his CD wallet, hurl the mope-eyed alt berk from the decks and just bring the party. Girl Talk is a fan, just like you and me and everyone else seems to be today – a sample-by-sample breakdown of Feed the Animals would read like the ‘Music’ section of a particularly over-zealous mySpace page or, if you’re as keen to return to the ‘old skool’ as Girl Talk seems to be, the tatty, band name graffit covered pencil case going home in the backpack of a 15-year-old boy. The tatty pencil case in your backpack when you were 15. When you were really a fan.

Most normal people grow out of that, of course, when they’re removed from the tribal pressures of the schoolyard, or when they’re overwhelmed by the revelation that there’s more to pop music than NME and T4 could ever let on, or as soon as they are able to employ rational thought during sex. If they don’t do any of that they become music journalists. But Girl Talk (née Gregg Gillis) doesn’t seem to have any desire or, if we’re honest, any real need to ever stop being a fanboy. The Biomedical Engineering graduate is touring the world right now (Norway tonight) having the time of his life mixing together tracks that, for the most part, have already proven themselves in clubland.

Sometimes those tracks sound worse than they did before, sometimes better, results vary. Opener ‘Play Your Part (Pt. 1)’ begins well, with The Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Gimme Some Lovin’ surfing nicely beneath a monologue from deceased Underground Kingz-man Pimp C, but it comes unstuck by the time fellow sizzurp champion Li’l Wayne, Twisted Sister and Sinead O’Connor are waking up awkward bedfellows, however thrilling it is to hear Ludacris’s DTP crew ‘Gettin’ Some Head’ over Sinead’s tear-jerk. Similarly, Avril Lavigne doesn’t seem to mind too much when she’s being spitroasted by T-Pain and Rich Boy on following track ‘Shut the Club Down’ and when Rod Stewart’s ‘Young Turks’ arrive at the scene things are only going to get stickier.

I could go on plucking this smut from the air for reams, perhaps spinning it out into an elaborate soap opera where Gillis broods over rutting pop tarts like some hipster Caligula but I won’t, of course, because the novelty of the thing would dissipate incredibly quickly. You fear the same fate for Feed the Animals – live, Girl Talk is a revelation; enhanced by the drink and the wet air and the loitering scent of other human beings, but the record already sounds dated – like the 2008 equivalent of those retro-fabulous School Disco nights but, well, in 2008; i.e. already. I for one don’t mind waiting a decade or two for my chequered musical past to catch up with me. Girl Talk on the other hand wants everything, now.

What follows from this is the nag that while Gillis the artisan has succeeded in cramming as many of his favourite songs into the mix as possible – 306 according to this list at time of writing – Feed the Animals doesn’t actually reveal much about Gillis himself. We know what songs he likes, but never really find out why he likes them. Personality is a regular comrade of great pop music and all that Feed the Animals says about its creator is that he’s a walking identity crisis. I tried to resolve that during an interview once, by asking what he wouldn’t consider dropping. He refused to answer, revealing that he’d throw Hitler into a party mix if the context was right. The only act deemed too offensive were The Eagles and even the original dude couldn’t abide them (‘Big Lebowski as Girl Talk’s biggest influence’ is an essay title for another time).

As a result, it’s tempting to suggest that Gillis digs so much he can’t truly value anything. Part of me despairs at the inferred lack of substance and thinks he may as well be as anonymous as Burial – the crucial difference being that the ascending dubstep producer roots his work in the architecture of one of the oldest cities in the world while Gillis bounces around the flimsy architecture of the internet, picking up MP3s here and there and welding them together because he can rather than because he feels he really should.

But then another part of me screams at itself for taking this too seriously and suggests, straight-faced, that Gillis’ may just be the biggest party dude on the planet. I guess your take on Feed the Animals rests on whether you like spending time with party dudes or if the coupling of those two words makes you want to cave skulls – take heed of the bookends that struggle to cage …Animals and ‘Play Your Part’, for whatever you want, here. In Girl Talk’s world – the world of MP3, MySpace, the Hype Machine and music ‘blogs too many to ever hope to read – it’s the fan who is the focus, not the critic. I suspect that the same concerns harry both though – buried there, deep in a labyrinth of samples, sits the same reactionary half-reliant on the work of others. Luckily for Gregg Gillis his mash-up fiestas are able to bring the party more than a 1,000 word review ever could – but while Girl Talk may have conquered the concert hall or the dive bar, on record Gillis often sounds too much like a die-hard fan himself to convince that this is the best way for him to attract any of his own.

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