Since about 2006, it’s been hard to really do a lot new with the mashup idiom. Increasingly, it seems like mashups exist solely to justify clever song-title combinations—ideas that sound great on paper but disappoint in execution. Gregg Gillis, through a combination of his insane live shows and ADD approach to sampling, has somehow become the exception to the mashup fatigue. And Gillis’ latest Girl Talk album, All Day, released for free last month, is an endlessly entertaining collage of samples that transcends novelty.
From the opening juxtaposition of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” with Ludacris’ “Move Bitch,” All Day works on two levels. Half the fun of listening to Girl Talk has always been identifying samples of songs you know, but Gillis somehow makes his collages work as music in and of themselves. The vast majority of the samples he uses are songs you know, but he makes you think about them in new light. And occasionally, he makes music that transcends its source material. You haven’t heard Big Boi’s “Shutterbugg” until you’ve heard it over Portishead’s classic “Sour Times”; ditto Soulja Boy’s “Pretty Boy Swag” and Aphex Twin’s “Windowlicker.”
But beyond simply being an exceptionally good mashup artist, Gillis also serves as something of a lens through which to view the entirety of the Twitter generation’s media consumption habits. Forget albums—most people don’t even have the attention span these days for an entire song. Not only that, but most people don’t identify themselves as fans of one genre anymore. This is why Gillis is so popular. Not only does he have a knack for condensing any song you could name down to its 30-second essence, but he gives equal credence to every type of music, no matter how frivolous. This is why he can get away with layering the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” over Rage Against the Machines’ “Killing in the Name.”
The irony, of course, is that the man who has made a career out of pillaging nothing but the beats and hooks from songs has made an album that works fantastically as a start-to-finish listening experience. All Day is every bit the equal of 2008’s excellent Feed the Animals. Those who weren’t sold on Gillis’ act before aren’t going to change their minds, but his records are consistently great, and All Day is no exception.