Sunday, 2 March 2008

Look you stupid bastard, you've got no arms left

I've been intending for a while to start a quasi-series of entries (or several of them) for this blog about things that I have a significant interest in. One that I'd like to start is reviews of my favourite movies, taking a slightly different tack to the film reviews that have appeared on here by focsing mainly on why they are my favourites and what makes them to my mind some of the best cinematic pieces ever committed to film; I haven't done this thusfar as I'd really like to include some relatively hefty analysis, and I just don't have time to do that properly at the moment. So I'm going to now try and make the inaugural entry covering my music taste, which will hopefully become one of those quasi-series that I mentioned earlier.

I take pride in the fact that my music taste is exactly that: whatever music I like. There are very few genres and artists I will write off without giving them a fair try first. Having come from a family very much into listening to music (my dad's vinyl collection is truly a sight to behold) my music taste has come out as expansive, varied and eclectic. I do have specific areas of music that I'm more interested in that the rest, and it is these that I'd like to cover in these entries.

I'd like to point out before I get started that I'm not intending for these entries to be aimed mainly at people with an interest in music themselves. If anything, I'm writing more for people who maybe don't have as much time for music as me or don't see it as something they are really into. Part of the function of these posts will be as a starting block on discovering more about the genres and artists I mention, almost with a "beginners' guide" vibe to it, except not using that terminology, as that sounds very self-important and condescending. I urge everyone to give this and future music posts of mine a go.

The only reason I chose the Python quote for the title of this entry is the word "bastard", as I now intend to talk about one of my favourite genres: bastard pop. The songs in this genre are generally known as "bootlegs", "mash-ups" or "cut-ups", with the latter two seeming to have perforated mainstream culture more than the first, or indeed the genre name. An extensive history and explanation of the genre can be found on Wikipedia here, so there's no need for me to go through all the details. The most common form of mash-up uses the instrumental part of one song and the acappella of another, mixing them together to create a new track (generally known as "A+B" mash-ups, for obvious reasons). More sophisticated mash-ups can include DJ techniques such as sound manipulation, or might incorporate parts of several different tracks. The simplest mash-ups can often be the most effective however.

The main reason I like bastard pop so much is the simplicity of the idea that can often create some truly breathtaking results. The most impressive mash-ups are ones where it feels like the creator has made a completely new song. I'll be listing some of my favourite mash-ups later in the entry, and some of those have that effect. Others include songs of which I'm not a big fan of the original versions but love the mash-ups. I've had a go at making some of my own mash-ups with mixed results. When you create a combination which you know sounds really good it's a fantastic feeling. Playing around with time and keys is also great fun. It can be frustrating but, once again, when you get it right, the feeling is worth it.

So, if you've not experienced much in the way of mash-ups, or even if you have, here's a selection of my most favourite bastard pop tracks, with links where possible:

Dreadlock Child (Destiny's Child vs 10cc) by 2 Many DJ's - these guys are truly pioneers of the genre, and have produced some of the best mash-ups around. This one is so simple and yet so effective. It's also one of the ones I mentioned where I don't like the original (not a Destiny's Child fan really), but the combination works so well that I can't help but love it. Definitely a track to test out how you feel about mash-ups. You can find it on the album As Heard On Radio Soulwax Pt.2 - an excellent album all round - although I'd be surprised if it wasn't floating around the internet as a stream or something somewhere...

Smack My Bitch Up The Orinoco Flow (Enya vs The Prodigy) [Lenlow Edit] by Apeboy - this currently holds the position of my favourite mash-up above all others. It's just ingenious. I've played it to people before who aren't really fans of The Prodigy and/or Enya and they've been entranced by its brilliance. Another example of simplicity working to a phenomenal degree. You can grab it here, and I urge you to check out some of Lenlow's other mash-ups as he's made some pretty decent stuff.

Daytrip To Never Never Land (Michael Jackson vs The Beatles) by Go Home Productions - GHP (aka Mark Vidler) is my favourite mash-up creator. Being as he is a professional DJ his standards are hard to beat, but he also has a great sense of humour in many of his tracks. This track in particular is one that always makes me smile when I hear it. Again, the simplicity of the idea of it is one of the strengths of the track. GHP has recently made his entire back catalogue of bootlegs and remixes available for download on his website. If you fancy a fairly hefty but consistently high quality introduction to mash-ups then I can't think of a much better way to do it than download all 16 albums of Mark Vidler's tracks, but if you wanted an easier way to get into his stuff, there's also a "best of" compilation - This Was Pop (2002-2007) - which can be downloaded as two halves here and here. The track I've named above isn't on it though; you can get it on this compilation. The next few tracks below are all also available on the GHP website.

Ray Of Gob (Madonna vs The Sex Pistols) by Go Home Productions - this one actually sounds like a new song. It's available here.

Backstab Me One More Time (Britney Spears vs The O'Jays) by Go Home Productions - Great fun and a combination I doubt many people would ever fathom. Here's where to find it.

Pinochiohead On LSD (Walt Disney vs Radiohead vs The Beatles) by Go Home Productions - a truly eclectic combination, and another that I love despite disliking one of the original artists (Radiohead). Oh, and the misspelling of Pinocchio is not my mistake. Get this one here.

Let It Beast (Beastie Boys vs The Beatles) by dj BC - dj BC is another mash-up artist worth checking out extensively. He's currently made two albums consisting entirely of Beastie Boys vs Beatles tracks which used to be available here but are currently not online. They shouldn't be too tough to track down on the 'net however. This track I've picked out as one of my favourites, as it's one of the tightest all round from both compilations.

What More Can I Say (Jay-Z vs The Beatles) by Danger Mouse - I realise this list has been pretty Beatle-heavy so far, but they're just one of the most utilised mash-up artists. Plus I'm a Beatles fan. Besides, the album this track comes from - The Grey Album - is one of the most important in the entire bastard pop genre. The production is second to none, the combinations are fab. The Grey Album isn't available anywhere specifically currently because of legal issues, but once again, look around on the internet for it and it'll make itself known to you.

Marshall's Been Done To Death (Eminem vs... ) by The Freelance Hairdresser - purely comic mash-ups come from The Freelance Hairdresser, alter ego of Soundhog. This one always makes me laugh. Again, its simplicity is one of its main strengths. It also plays off the fact that the acappella of Eminem's Without Me, as well as most other well-known Eminem songs, can be put over pretty much any backing and sound all right. Look around the internet and you'll find hundreds of Eminem mash-ups that have no doubt been made in ten minutes or less. That's what makes this track so funny. Just download it and have a listen. Here's the rest of The Freelance Hairdresser's tracks.

American Jesus (Green Day vs... ) by Dean Gray - another one off a whole bootleg album, and I recommend you get hold of the whole thing. The track's here, and the whole album seems to be available here at the moment, but this is another one that had legal complications when it was first made available, so I'd grab it sooner rather than later. Some incredible combinations and high-quality DJing is evident throughout the album, with the opening track American Jesus as a tour de force of bastard pop.

Gwen's Electric (Gwen Stefani vs Oasis) by BamBi - yes, this is a shameless plug for my own mash-up, but I'm quite proud of some of the tracks I've made recently and I'm keen to get people to listen to them. I've received some positive feedback on this track from fellow mash-up enthusiasts and creators for which I was grateful. Incidentally, the Get Your Bootleg On forums are a good place to get hold of a wide range of bastard pop tracks. And all my mash-ups are available here.

So, there you go. A fairly hefty post in the end, so I'll curtail things there. The tracks I've listed I reckon are a good starting point as an overview of what there is within the bastard pop genre. If I think of any more I'll make a follow-up entry and continue the list. And although this entry has taken far longer than I intended, I've really enjoyed writing it and will try to do another one of these music posts on another genre, or maybe an artist, in the near future. But for now, get going on the mash-ups.

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