Week 34 Review

Insane Clown Posse – The Amazing Jeckel Brothers (1999)

Bottom Line Up Front: This is a 4.5 out of 5 stars album. Critics seem to love to rip on ICP. I can’t say their points aren’t valid, but for me everything comes together to make the traveling dark carnival an incredibly fun time. At the end of the week, I was still smiling and laughing, so they must be doing something right.

Artist BackgroundThe Insane Clown Posse roots started in the mid-80s but the group didn’t use it’s current name until the early 90s. The band is made up of Joseph Bruce aka Violent J and Joseph Utsler aka Shaggy 2 Dope. The duo builds it music around the imagery and themes of the Dark Carnival. Both the name Insane Clown Posse and the idea of the Dark Carnival actually came from two separate dreams that Violent J had. ICP has a rather controversial history including a major protest of the group when they were signed to Disney records. They’ve also had several run-ins with the law over the span of their career. But despite all this, ICP has continued to build a successful following with each album release.

Album Background: The Amazing Jeckel Brothers continues with the Dark Carnival themes set up by it’s predecessors. This particular album focuses on the 9 circles of hell. The Jeckel Brothers Jack and Jake represent the duality of mankind and the internal struggle between good and evil. I’m not sure you need to know that to enjoy the album, but it does help make sense of the significance of the intro track. The album is 70 minutes long and is a combination of the genres horrorcore, hip hop and rap rock. With this album debuting at number #4, it is the most successful album in their discography. And it should have felt very satisfying for them given the intense amount of hate they received through the attention of the protests against them regarding their previous album, The Great Milenko. In addition to being successful, the album was also a major step toward being treated with more respect within the hip hop world by securing appearances by Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Snoop Dogg on the album. (Snoop just keeps popping back up on my reviews, doesn’t he?)

Favorite Track: Picking the favorite track is sometimes a struggle, but with this album it was an easy pick. Mad Professor checks all the boxes for me. First, the opening skit of the man buying a couch then being bludgeoned to death with a cartoonish-sounding frying pan is hilarious. This is then followed with one of the funniest lines I think I have ever heard delivered in an album skit: “You want my couch?…You can’t have my couch!” Couches are comedy gold for music. Two more people die during the song with additional skits, which nicely breaks up the song’s longer than usual run-time of almost 6 minutes. The song itself makes heavy use of samples from old sci-fi/horror movies, though, I couldn’t find any specific titles used. The heavy sampling and overall sound reminds me of the classic sci-hop album, Dr. Octagonecologyst by Dr. Octagon aka Kool Keith aka Keith Thornton. What really seals the status as favorite track is the ending reveals the song is actually an origin story for ICP as the Mad Professor’s creation is none other than Shaggy 2 Dope.

What Works: 

  • ODB It turns out ODB aka Ol’ Dirty Bastard gave ICP very little to work with for the song Bitches as it amounted essentially to incoherent rambling when they first received his recordings. The duo pressed on, though, and dug through the ramblings to create something that actually worked as verses. They then re-recorded their verses to fit better with the lyrics they scraped together from ODB and thus Bitches was born. The song is incredibly misogynistic but given their starting point, I think they did an admirable job. I also enjoyed them reusing the backing vocals/chanting from the Wu-Tang classic Clan in da Front. ODB is a member of the Wu-Tang Clan for those not familiar with him. Props for the beat used on this song which is very playful.
  • Story Telling ICP are such good story tellers. My favorite track, Mad Professor, is a great example of this. But so is I Want My Shit which tells the incredibly epic and equally silly story of the 200+ year old Violent J who participated in key historical events and hung out with notable figures. Violent J remains immortal until he obtains four cornerstones of the Juggalo mythology which include an oxidized axe, knowledge in the mystical art of voodoo, an overweight female companion whose given name is Bridget and nature’s sweet elixir, Faygo. Faygo is a soda line based in Detroit, Michigan that heavily featured in ICP concerts. ICP has a lot of love for their hometown and makes sure the city is well represented on their albums. In addition to the compelling comedic tale, the rock-oriented beats complement the lyrics quite nicely and help to maintain the aggression of the chorus. Play With Me is another interesting tale from the point of view from a now abandoned toy and its need for revenge on its former child owner.
  • Comedy ICP is funny as hell. In particular, The Shaggy Show, which features real life ska band, Gangster Fun, is filled with numerous moments of hilarity. I especially like the mock commercial for a Player-Hating Degree program. And, although this doesn’t fall under comedy but since we are discussing The Shaggy Show, I have to mention this. I was impressed that ICP decided to reference Violent J’s real-life panic attack that occurred on-stage in 1998 as part of the interview between the two. In addition to some very funny tracks, some of the songs include skits at the end of the song. While all of them are pretty funny, the disgruntled truck driver looking to unload a payload of male masturbators for an ICP show as part of prank call to ICP’s management team made me smile every time I heard it. The prank calls were done by The Jerky Boys and were executed perfectly. There are just so many moment in the album that I can’t help but smile. How these guys got so much hate mail boggles my mind. They do nothing but make me happy.

What Doesn’t:

  • Abrasive I listen to albums on repeat during work but also on my commute. Some of the mornings were particularly brutal due to the over abrasive sound on some of the ICP songs. Bring It On is probably the biggest offender of being overly harsh due to the multi-layered screaming of the chorus. Multiple times I found myself thinking it is way too early in the morning for this kind of music. And I’m the kind of guy who will head bang to AC/DC’s Back in Black on his way to work. So it’s really saying something when I think they need to dial it back for some parts of the album.
  • Length At 70 minutes, I think the album is too long. The second to last track, Echo Side, was actually meant for a different album with a different group that ICP is a sub-set of and I think the album might have better pacing without it. I will say the song is interesting with the inclusion of what I think are backward lyrics but it’s not essential. Overall, I think a lot of the songs would’ve benefited from trimming off some of the excess fat. Quite a few songs go past the 5 minute mark and some run into 6 minutes. Don’t mess with Mad Professor though.

In Conclusion: The Amazing Jeckel Brothers is probably not for everyone. Sadistic rapping clowns that regularly denounce racism, bigotry and child abuse while telling vulgar stories of violence and demonic darkness probably doesn’t have universal appeal. I get that. But I think if you go into it with the right expectations, you’re going to finish the album feeling better off than when you started. ICP has never been and will never be lyrical geniuses. But I do think they are very creative with their Dark Carnival concept and do a wonderful job creating a fun, playful environment with dark gritty overtones. I’m not sure just anyone could pull off the balancing act ICP does, so unlike some others, I have a lot of respect and appreciation for this album.

Music Video Links:
Insane Clown Posse – Another Love Song (Official Video)

Streaming/Purchase Links:
Amazon Music
Google Play
iTunes
XBOX Music
Spotify

Information Links:
Wikipedia Artist
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ikipedia Album
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Week 30 Review

Girl Talk – All Day (2010)

Bottom Line Up Front: This is a 4.75 out of 5 stars album. Saying Girl Talk aka Gregg Gillis is at the top of the mashup scene is an understatement. He’s more like Zeus atop Mount Olympus throwing remixed thunderbolts at all the mere mortals. Describing him as anything other than a god is an insult to him and the perfection he has achieved of his craft. He’s that damn good.

Artist BackgroundGreg Gillis aka Girl Talk didn’t enter the music scene using the stereotypical slacker path. He studied biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University with a focus on tissue engineering. Girl Talk released his first album in 2002 while still in college. His early albums were of the glitch genre which to me sound like you’re listening to an Atari game on acid. Don’t expect me to review any of those. Eventually he quit his engineering job in 2007 to focus on music full-time. But how did I hear about Girl Talk? Rip: A Remix Manifesto, of course, which you can watch right now if you click on the link. I highly suggest watching it. It’s very entertaining and is a great introduction to remix culture. It’s probably even more relevant now than in 2008 when it was released.

Album Background: The album, All Day, clocks in at 1 hour and 11 minutes and is considered to be part of the mashup genre. If you don’t know what the mashup genre is, I’m going to yet again encourage you to watch Rip. That’ll explain it way better than I can. It’s divided up into 12 tracks buts it’s really meant to be listened to as a single continuous experience as each track flows seamlessly into the next. Want to listen to whole album? Well, you do all that by clicking here. It’s available as one continuous track or split up into 12 tracks. And it’s even available in FLAC if MP3 isn’t your bag. All Day was released for free in 2010 and his concert tour sold out shortly afterward unsurprisingly. So he definitely has found his audience. You can also find some videos on Youtube where people match up the music videos of the original songs with the mashed up versions. Here’s one I found. They’re pretty entertaining.

Favorite Track: Like I pointed out earlier, there aren’t actually 12 tracks on this album. There are dividing points to allow you to get to a certain part of the album easily. I could talk about the entire album in great detail since that’s the only favorite track I could pick or I could go with something a little more sane which is to talk about a couple standout moments for me. The album starts out really strong by combining Black Sabbath’s War Pigs and Ludacris’s Move Bitch. They’re both pretty intense songs that get your heart pumping right away which is really helpful if you’re going to a Girl Talk concert. That place will be overflowing with non-stop energy until Greg closes the lid on his Windows notebook. The combination of Jay-Z’s Can I Get A… and Tenderness by General Public works well because of the contrast between the two songs. ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky and Juicy J’s Twerk mashup work for much the same reason. Combining Radiohead’s Creep with Ol’ Dirty Bastard rapping the lyrics from Shimmy Shimmy Ya was something I looked forward to on every play of the album. The ODB should have been a part of the band. So much lost potential there. Later on Aphex Twin gets paired with Soulja Boy. I think I like that one because the idea of them together is hilarious. I also loved the pairing of Nicki Minaj and Blue Oyster Cult every time I heard it. Her voice works really well with the music. But I think my most favorite pairing on the entire album is combining Rolling Stones’s Paint It Black with Wiz Khalfia’s Black and Yellow. Brilliant.

What Works: 

  • Nostalgia Listening to a Girl Talk album is probably the most intense nostalgia trip you will ever take. It’s just off the charts. He covers quite a few decades in this album so it’s going to be pretty difficult to be immune to it unless you’re a 5 year old. In which case, I’m very impressed with your reading and comprehension skills. But anyways, nostalgia plays a huge factor in the appeal of his albums. It’s incredibly addictive once you start listening to it.
  • Everybody Having attended a Girl Talk concert with my editor, I can say without a doubt that he attracts a very wide audience. You will see the biggest music nerd standing right next to the most stereotypical sorority girl you could imagine. They might like Girl Talk for completely different reasons but I bet they enjoy him equally. Knowing this album can appeal to such a diverse audience while being part of a niche genre makes it that much more enjoyable for me. All Day is all about having fun regardless of who you are.
  • <insert here> I think the part I love most is noticing the little things that Greg throws into the album. Some samples can last well over a minute and they are really the heart of the music, but I love the samples that appear and disappear in a beat or two. I try to listen to a lot of different kinds of music and I didn’t even come close to knowing all of the songs used to make this album. When I could recognize an obscure lyric or note that quickly passed by, it gave me a little music nerd high. Like I said, his music is addictive. And I’m not the only one interested in figuring out what was sampled and when. Decoding the album was a pretty big thing when it was first released. For those of you who want to know, here is everything.

What Doesn’t:

  • Pony No, not the song by Ginuwine. Though it is actually sampled for this album. I’m talking about the fact that Girl Talk is a one trick pony. That’s probably the only valid complaint against this album which is that it’s the same thing over and over again for over an hour: take a rap song and combine with a pop or rock song. Repeat. But I won’t make that complaint because I think it’s like somebody complaining about being tired of eating chocolate too often. I’ve never heard anybody say “You know, I’m just really tired of eating chocolate chip cookies.” And I would say the same thing about Girl Talk’s music. Enough is never enough of the stuff.

In Conclusion: I couldn’t give this album 5 stars even if I wanted to because his prior album, Feed the Animals, is better. Coincidentally, that album is featured on Rip which is another reason you should watch the documentary. FtA is packed with even more nostalgia and fun, if you can believe it. However, I think All Day is technically superior in terms of actual mixing. Greg is always improving his skills and it’s clear he has advanced quite a bit between the release of the two albums. This is one of only a handful of albums that I’m going to be reviewing that you can go download for free right now so go take advantage and get ready to have some incredible fun.

Music Video Links:
Girl Talk – All Day (Official Video)

Streaming/Purchase Links:
DOWNLOAD IT FOR FREE

Information Links:
Wikipedia Artist
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ikipedia Album
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