Death From Above 1979, ‘Romance Bloody Romance’ (Vice) Beck, ‘Guerolito’ (Geffen)
Back in the proverbial day, when the tyranny of the album held sway and the RIAA was warning us of the economic dangers of blank tapes, remix albums were the lowest of the low. People regarded them as quickie cash-ins and contract-fillers full of lumbering-Frankenstein versions of songs that weren’t built for deconstruction. (“Born in the U.S.A.,” this means you.)
But with hip-hop aesthetics and postmodern mindsets ruling (not to mention the wide availability of digital production technology), the remix has become a vital part of the pop dialogue. And mash-ups have rendered the idea of inappropriate remix material as obsolete as the blank tape. Now pastiche is the rule, not the exception.
So it’s not too surprising that dance wins out over noise on Death From Above 1979’s powerful remix set. On their 2004 debut, drummer Sebastien Grainger and bassist Jesse Keeler turned Big Black bass lines and distorto drumming into the wickedest disco ever to stagger out of Canada and barf in indie rock’s toilet. Their filthy dance punk is perfect remix putty. See the four reboots of “Romantic Rights”: Jesper Dahlbäck infers powerful Swedish house, Marczech Makuziak translates the notes into funktastic electro pop, and Paul Epworth cuts the thrash into dislocating stutters. Then there’s Josh Homme’s take on “Black History Month,” which folds in the stiff, robot-rock guitar that’s made him famous. Is all of this too recombinant for your basement punk ass? Check DFA ’79’s ripping cover of “Better off Dead” by obscure Boston punks La Peste and the monolithic B-side “You’re Lovely (but You’ve Got Problems).”
Beck, on the other hand, was mashing up anything that popped into his Fluxus’d head long before he pop-locked himself back into Scientology’s arms. So his music compulsively lends itself to revision. Homelife turns the stomp on “E-Pro” into blips and banjo. AdRock brings out the vintage-Puma hip-hop in “Black Tambourine,” and Air make “Missing” sound so French you want to burn a car, even as Beck’s voice soars above the aural brie. Cut Mr. Hansen up, and he reassembles nicely, but weirdly enough, it’s tough to out-Beck Beck.
Grades: Death From Above 1979, B+; Beck, B
See Also: Various artists, DFA Records: Holiday Mix 2005 (DFA/EMI, 2005)