This week, mash-up DJ Gregg Gillis, who records as Girl Talk, surprised the world with the release of his fifth album, All Day. Gillis rose to fame in 2006 with the album Night Ripper, a 42-minute collage of sampled snippets of pop songs. All Day, which Gillis made available on Monday as a free download, follows the same template, using 372 samples to create a morphing dance party that serves up something recognizable every few seconds. Here's what critics have to say about the album, and about Gillis's unorthodox way of getting it out into the world.
- Hey Girl Talk, Where Ya Been? Gillis's last album, Feed the Animals, came out in June 2008, which for Carles at the blog Hipster Runoff might as well have been a lifetime ago. "I am not sure what Girl Talk's deal is," Carles writes, in HRO's usual faux-naive voice. "Is he relevant? Is he a DJ? Is he blggbl? Seems like he has 'been off the radar' for what seems like 100 blog years, but now he decides to 'drop' a new mixtape/album. Not sure if I will vibe hard to it ... His newest album/mixtape 'All Day' seems like some sort of effort to 'leave a mark' on 2k10 bc it is a weak musical year and he probs just wants a new album so he can go make thousands of dollars per nite on college campuses."
- Fun, If Not Deep Nitsuh Abebe at New York Magazine points out that Gillis's new album is "easy to like; the entire purpose of it is to be easy to like; there are no other dimensions." The album's not perfect, says Abebe, but "picking at this stuff seems, well, picky, especially when the new album is free. You're left with two main options: Either you find it fun to listen to, or you don't care either way, and aren't going to bother being a humorless grump and/or wallflower about everyone else finding it fun. So you download it, throw it on at your next party, and most everyone with a modern attention span will be cool for an hour."
- What If He Got Outside the Top 40? wonders Philip Cosores at Consequence of Sound. "While Girl Talk has proven to be both a workhorse and technically gifted, the limits of his music are glaring in the creativity department. He doesn't use music of the underground, or lesser known tracks by pop artists," writes Cosores. "But you have to wonder if he is using his skill for the best outcome. Where his music could help people discover new artists or bring forgotten treasures to light, he sticks with the stuff everyone knows, broadening his appeal but never really risking anything or challenging his listeners."
- It's a Step Down From the Last Two Albums, concludes Corey Beasley at PopMatters. "It's just not as easy to lose yourself in All Day's charms," Beasley writes. "There's nothing inherently wrong with having a formula ... A formula's only a problem when your audience becomes aware of the formula. Gillis's error is a in presenting a lack of diversity. Why not mash-up, say, two disparate rock songs? A slice of 1960s soul with its 1990s counterpart? Almost literally any other genre with almost literally any other genre?"
- Man, What Happened, Gregg? Jakob Dorof at Tiny Mix Tapes is similarly dismayed. "There's no shortage of loudly uninspired moments (and a real shortage of any discernible attempt at functional transitions), but the very worst theme of All Day is its clueless manhandling of classic samples: the kinda stuff that deserves better and that Gillis once could have served better," writes Dorof. He says that 2006's Night Ripper was "a frequently brilliant, nigh-impossible feat of pop cultural bricolage, and a far greater work of art than most seem to have credited it," but "for the most part," Gillis "now sounds like any old DJ making predictable crap mash."
- Seriously? This Album Is Awesome! Three interns at Paste have their album reviews, fittingly, mashed up into a collage assessment. "At his best, Gillis' combinations are better than even the sum of their classic parts," writes the three-headed beast. "Foxy Brown's 'Hot Spot' becomes softer and more accessible when paired with the soothing croons of Peter Gabriel. The chords of 'Blitzkrieg Bop' seem to be shifted into a minor key juxtaposed with 'Get Ur Freak On,' as if Gillis makes some secret connection between disparate acts ... It's nothing new for Girl Talk, really, but then again, what is?"
- Blows the Fab Four Out of the Water, Anyway Mat Honan at The Awl rolls his eyes at the fanfare surrounding Apple's Beatles announcement from earlier this week. "Meet the Beatles? We've already met," Honan writes. But "the Girl Talk album is a straight-up event, precisely because it's a moment in time. It wasn't released, as much as it was loosed upon us. You don't know it's coming and suddenly it's just everywhere—saturating its market, in full ... I'm not saying 'All Day' is better than the 'White Album,' or that Girl Talk is the greater artist. Pshaw, homie! The fervor delta has nothing to do with artistic achievement. But clearly Girl Talk won the week in terms of getting inside people's heads. Greg Gillis—not Steve Jobs or Paul McCartney or Yoko Ono—gave us this week's never-forget musical moment."
- The Internet Concordance Already Exists, marvels Genevieve Koski at The A.V. Club. In a post for the recurring feature Great Job, Internet!, Koski writes: "Considering that All Day is composed of around 250 musical bits and pieces, even the most dedicated audiophiles will probably end up scratching their heads trying to decode all the samples. You could click on over to the album's Wikipedia page, which lists them all in order, but the Internet has come up with a more interactive option: AllDaySamples.Com, which plays through the entire album with pop-up text boxes that list the samples as they occur."
- The Artist Speaks: It's Zeitgeisty by Accident In an interview with New York Magazine, Gillis takes a question about whether his music "reflects our accelerated culture." Gillis's response: "I definitely have to say that it happened accidentally. I wasn't sitting there thinking, What can I do to sum up the times right now? or How can I capture the attention of this younger generation? Since I've started, the general aesthetic has stayed the same, but I think as a culture we've moved towards more attention-deficit media. At the same time, as the album is made as one whole source of music and is intended to be listened to as 71 minutes — as attention-deficit as it is, it requires a lot of attention. In a lot of ways, it's a counter to what's happening now. It's anti the one-MP3 thing and is more intended to be a sit-down, listen-to-the whole thing experience."