All Day (Illegal Art)
The most interesting thing about the newest Girl Talk album—aside from a distribution strategy by label Illegal Art that embraces free-and-clear download, much to its servers’ dismay—is that Gregg Gillis finally seems to be slowing down a bit. It’s clear from All Day’s opening Black Sabbath/Ludacris salvo that Gillis’ ass-shakin’, copyright-infringin’ pop mashups haven’t yet given way to a more personal statement, but his attention span has grown noticeably since his breakneck breakthroughs Night Ripper (2006) and Feed the Animals (2008). This time he’s more prone to linger and let songs interact in deeper ways. Or at least that seems like the plan.
There are moments where the expansiveness pays off, most of them the sort of textbook Girl Talk highlights that draw exhilaration out of disparity. Jay-Z’s “Can I Get A...” is doubly infectious with a General Public undercurrent, while Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” proves an irresistible backbeat to the Beastie Boys’ “Hey Ladies.” (And who would have pegged Simon and Garfunkel and the Ying Yang Twins for such an appealing foursome?) There are even a few songs, like Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s “First of the Month” atop Supergrass’ “Alright,” that end up illuminating each other harmonically, making as good a case as any for Gillis’ bona fides beyond just beat-matching and collecting CDs.
But a looser outlook also means longer stretches without top material, and though All Day is arguably the smoothest of the three records it’s also the least enthralling. For every clever, restrained choice there’s a would-be crowd pleaser like “Single Ladies” shoehorned in, and the missteps are harder to ignore without gonzo pacing to disguise them. Further lapses in inspiration abound, and attempts at poignancy—previously one of Gillis’ overlooked strengths—most often fall flat, leaving songs like “Layla” and “Imagine” floating around in a manipulative stink. The groove persists, and All Day goes to plenty of exciting places; if nothing else, it’s worth the free download. But as the project tentatively breaks away from pure novelty, it’s harder to deny that novelty is still most of Girl Talk’s appeal.