Release Date: February 27, 2015
Label: OWSLA Mad Decent Atlantic
Skrillex and Diplo surprise-dropped an album last week as Jack Ü, a moniker that takes half a Prince song title and adds umlauts — perfect. These two have all the subtlety of Mötley Crüe after all, and principal lothario Diplo at least somewhat lives up to the hair-band lifestyle, leaving a little less bro in Sonny Moore’s step so he can focus on killer wub-tar riffs. Think of Diplo as the Pharrell of Jack Ü, the off-key frontman who can’t resist the chance to insert his mugging self into works by 2 Chainz and Missy Elliott, while Skrillex is Chad Hugo: the secret weapon, the silent anchor, the Ludwig von Bassthoven conducting sidechained symphonies from his spaceship.
Last year, Skrillex’s long-awaited full-length debut Recess was a surprisingly rigid stab at artistic respectability, but Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü returns him to classic Bangarang territory: 35 minutes of all the ADHD-riddled dance music and off-the-wall guests you can stand. Leave it to Diplo, the 36-year-old human embodiment of the entire Spring Breakers movie, to return Skrillex to his roots — laying perfectly corroded, blue-screen-of-death synth pretzels under the clap-happy statement-of-purpose “Beats Knockin'” and the bleeding-amplifier reggaeton of “Jungle Bae.” Even the trolololololol Justin Bieber PBR&B showcase “Where Are Ü Now” comes outfitted with an addictive bent rainforest flute thing that wouldn’t sound out of place on, say, M.I.A.’s Kala.
Right, those guests; they make or break these grab bags. (Just ask Future Brown.) Kiesza sounds fine on two versions of hyper-ravey single “Take Ü There,” but the project’s biggest get, a throaty Missy Elliott (!), is the one who really takes üs there on the remix, rhyming salaciously like she never left and crooning the bridge like an Adele ballad just because she can. Bunji Garlin keeps your hands in the air throughout “Jungle Bae,” and best of all, 2 Chainz steals the show with one perfectly stupid hook on the mangled exotica of “Febreze”: “Yeah, I’m the shit / I should have febreze on me.” Even the party crashers in AlunaGeorge provide a serviceable springboard for Sonny Moore’s beat-twisting charms on “To Ü.”
There’s no instantaneous party classics on Jack Ü – no worthy successors to “Turn Down for What” despite its obvious influence, but maybe a “Bubble Butt” or a “Big Bad Wolf.” As a guileless continuation of the escapist, dub-tinged blowout that Diplo effortlessly pursued with Major Lazer, it’s one of the beatiest prizes of the year so far: a proud celebrity fiasco with audio popcorn galore snapping every which way. And those Skrillex riffs provide the soul — they’re the MS Paint dicks drawn on the face of starfucker beats that smile in their mugshot and deny everything in their deposition.