My favorite episode of South Park is the one which takes Family Guy to task for its lazy joke construction; a manatee grabs colored balls covered in words and shoves them into spaces which are essentially a mad-lib, creating a context for a joke which may or may not make sense. See below.
Many mash-up artists are like this, throwing random, disparate songs and genres at the wall to see what will stick, trying to out-crate dig the other guy by slamming as many random tracks together as possible. Super Mash Bros. is not like this. At all. Last year’s All About The Scrillions is a finely crafted, imminently listenable mash-up of old songs and current radio hits alike spanning 3 decades with the only qualification for inclusion being that they fit perfectly together.
A collaboration between L.A. DJ’s Nick, Dick, and Ethan, Super Mash Bros. brings a wicked pop sensibility to a typically inaccessible genre. Scrillions is a quilt of close to 100 distinct songs sewn together impeccably into 13 tracks, from songs you already love to songs you would never listen to on their own. It’s a great way to enjoy favorites, rediscover forgotten relics, and expose yourself to new acts. It’s the kind of album you can listen to endlessly and each time discover something new, another layer of intricacy to the musical Frankenstein. That one random line you couldn’t place before? It’s Korn; remember them? That catchy melody playing beneath Ludacris? That was the Gorillaz, and you never really liked that song until you heard it like this.
What separates Scrillions from most mash-up albums is that it doesn’t suffer from an overabundance of self-awareness. It’s not trying too hard to be obscure or make a statement. It’s just trying to be fun. Scrillions is a unicorn-filled universe in which, had Bowie decided to do a little more blow, Kanye might have been the artist to come up with the beat behind ‘Let’s Dance’. Where John Mayer and Mike Jones might form a songwriting duo. Where Three Six Mafia could ressurect Third Eye Blind’s career. Where the title to Disturbed’s new single could contain the phrase “feat. Missy Elliott, Devo, & Panic! At The Disco”.
SMB has a remarkable ability to reduce all genres and songs to a series of time signatures, instruments, and vibes, and wherever there is room for overlap, SMB will overlap them. Remember drawing stussy’s, the silly design which, while composed of multiple segments and varying levels of complexity, always connected to itself in the end? Super Mash Bros. builds those with music.
Not everyone missed All About The Scrillions the first time around. I remember reading a review the week it came out which, while complimentary, still gave me no reason to listen to it right away. Not even the fact that it is 100% free through SMB’s web site (where you can still grab it) convinced me to do more than download it and file it away for several months.
What’s more, mash-ups are a subgenre of a subgenre, and there is only room in that limited world for one critical darling at a time. 2009′s darling was Gregg Gillis, aka Girl Talk. And while I do like a good Girl Talk track, Gillis’ glitch tendencies and desire to walk a careful line between “fair use” sampling and copyright infringement makes his music the audio equivalent of a John Woo movie trailer.
Scrillions is that one friend we all have; the guy who always drunk texts you at 4am from some club yet manages to arrive at work on time in the morning and do a satisfactory job. It’s the Andrew WK of mash-ups, a guy so sincere and unabashedly fun that you forgive his foibles.
However, for overzealous genre purists and those fond of saying such bullshit as “When they named ‘rap’ they forgot the ‘c’ in front”, this is not your album. For those who abhor sampling and consider DJ’s to be more thieves than artists, this is unlikely to change your mind. But I’ve played Scrillions for dozens of people with varying musical tastes and had zero complaints. It’s just that loveable.
In this strange musical culture of traditional vs. digital artistry and flaccid arguments over what it means to be “creative”, SMB sidestep this whole debate. And they make you shake your ass. What more could you ask of free music?
If my last.fm stats are to be believed, I’ve listened to this album at least 20 times all the way through. I would actually put the number closer to 50. May you enjoy this album as much as I have.