1) Were you born in the 80’s?
2) Does Smash Mouth make you angry?
If you answered Yes to 1 and No to 2, then Neil Cicierega’s mash-up albums may be your new favorite thing on the planet. In 2014, Neil dropped a pair of them titled Mouth Sounds and Mouth Silence, and if you heard them and liked them, then let me just say that Mouth Moods is just as good, if not better than those two albums, so drop everything and download this thing right now.
If not, then me attempt to explain what Neil Cicierega does with these mash-up albums. Imagine someone with the editing skill of The Avalanches but the brain of those dudes who do those “Smash Mouth’s ‘All Star’ but every other word is replaced with the entire Bee Movie” viral videos. Granted, it’s not all Smash Mouth – that was the running theme throughout Mouth Sounds, but Silence and Moods both contain a bunch of other unavoidable hits you probably know every word of. This ain’t like DJ Shadow where he’s showing off his record collection, or Girl Talk where he’s showing off his impeccable taste – there’s no reclaiming of obscurities or trying to expand horizons here. Outside of some bits of original music here and there (the backing track on “Wow Wow”, though maybe I’ll be proven wrong on that), he’s working within the framework of “Stuff Everyone Older Than 25 Should Know”. It is the stuff of dreams, it is the stuff of memes.
The end result is something like a Key & Peele sketch – the premise might be dumb and gimmicky, but the execution is incredible. As anyone who has dabbled in the art of the mash-up can tell you, this stuff does not often work on its own. You have to line up samples, pitch-shift vocals, cut things down, and sometimes even dick around with time signatures. Even fusing together two fairly similar songs can be a real piece of work – the verse may be too long, the tempo a little out of whack, and something which sounds good in one section might devolve into atonal chaos the next. But Neil, by and large, does not work with songs that are similar; most of his decisions completely flip the source material on its head. If you look up what “Floor Corn” and “T.I.M.E.” are, your first reaction would probably be “no way does he pull this off”. But he does, in a surprisingly convincing manner to boot. Once you hear them, I doubt you’ll be able to hear the originals in the same way. I know this because many of the tunes on Mouth Silence were the same way – once you’ve heard “Crocodile Chop”, there goes taking either of those songs seriously. Ditto for “Wallspin”, which marks the second time Neil has utterly ruined “Wonderwall”.
Which brings me to my next point: this album is absolutely hilarious. Not just in the obviously funny, gut-punch moments (which I wouldn’t dream of spoiling), but also in the stuff that gets buried. For a comedy album it’s remarkably dense – I’m on my fifth listen and I’m still picking up on new jokes, connections, and callbacks I hadn’t gotten before. Not to mention the way the lyrics of the different tunes are often rearranged and re-contextualized into absurdity. Mostly this occurs on the more conceptual tracks – in addition to the straight A/B mashups, there are tracks like “The Starting Line” (made up entirely of opening lines) and “Annoyed Grunt” (a compilation of grunts, gasps, screams, and Larry King), plus some straight up remix work (“Bustin”, “Wow Wow”). Ultimately this is where the money is – the final track (titled “Shit”) has so much going on that it almost gets me a little emotional, much like the last track on Mouth Silence (titled “Piss”).
Ultimately all I can say is listen to it – the album is totally free (get it here) and even if you don’t find it as funny as I do, I guarantee you’ll be entertained. And while you’re at it, grab Sounds and Silence, since all three of these are great. This guy’s been making shit go viral since he was 14; it’s almost a bit scary how damn good he’s getting at it. Neil before your master.