Tag Archives: music

Elegiac Stanzas: Literary references in British Sea Power’s early discography

I’m a big fan of the local library
I just read a book
But that’s another story

So declares Yan Wilkinson in Who’s In Control, the first song on British Sea Power’s fourth album, Valhalla Dancehall. And as the very name of that album suggests, British Sea Power are a band more than comfortable with a literary reference. In fact, from just classical mythology alone they’ve drawn upon Zeus, Hercules, and the Trojan War. Listening to British Sea Power, isn’t just listening to music, it’s an education in the arts. Like reading a truly great book, it’s fun on its own, but when you dig into what it’s drawing on, you get something truly meaningful.

One of the reasons I love BSP, and maybe the reason they get a bit overlooked, is that they pick unusual things to sing about. When most bands are singing about love and relationships, BSP have sung about the history of artificial illumination, the smallest church in Sussex, and the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. You know, standard fare. And throughout these explorations, they pepper eclectic references. And if GCSE English taught me anything it’s that lots of references = very good. Or at least, it makes the songs richer than your standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-chorus affair.

Which brings us to this. For years I’ve wondered about collecting the references I’d unearthed. And finally, I’ve actually got round to doing it. I’m focussing on the first album – The Decline of British Sea Power – mostly because I know it best, but also because I think it has the highest density of these references. And I’m grateful to various contributors across the internet for helping me to fill in the blanks on some of this, especially the folks at SongMeanings.net, the Salty Water BSP fan site, and the stark-raving mad bunch on the BSP forum.

TDOBSP is also a masterpiece of an album from start to finish, musically as well as lyrically. It’s broadly about…. remembrance?  At least, that’s my interpretation. As the quote on the front of the album says (from Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey): “We ourselves may be loved only for a brief time… Even so, that will suffice… There is a land for the living and a land for the dead.

The album cover of The Decline of British Sea Power

Angular guitar riffs meet Russian literature

The album opens with forty two seconds of gregorian chanting. Because why not. But after that, the first line – spoken, not sung – is:  “Oh Fyodor you are the most attractive man”. Oh hello, Russian author FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY, on this nondescript 2003 indie rock release, what are you doing here? The song is Apologies to Insect Life, and the song supposedly draws inspiration from Dostoyevksy’s Notes from Underground – but I don’t know enough about to get the specific references.

It’s a Pixies-inspired clangy anthem that builds with frenetic energy that spills over to the next song Favours in the Beetroot Fields, supposedly an oblique reference to the dispensation Field Marshall Montgomery gave his troops to seek ‘favours’ while stationed out on the front.

BSP & Betjeman

The title of Favours in the Beetroot Fields partially echoes The Licorice Fields at Pontefract, by former poet laureate John Betjeman. Is it a deliberate reference? Possibly not. But we know it’s at least knocking around in the BSP subconscious from their appearance in the BBC documentary Betjeman & Me, in which they perform a reading of Pontefract and discuss Betjeman’s penchant for larger ladies.

Betjeman’s roots spread throughout BSP’s work, but more in tone than outright content. Betjeman’s playful poking at sensibilities pops up in a lot of BSP lyrics. And I have a strong suspicion that the song Lucky Bicycle (which you’ll be lucky to find anywhere) is a reference to the line from Myfanwy. where the poet writes of how his beloved rides around the city on a bike and he cheekily declares: trace me your wheel-tracks, you fortunate bicycle!

Shakespeare and sci-fi

The fourth song on the album, Something Wicked, is probably the best example of the album’s themes. It compares and contrasts various symbols of nature that have been co-opted by mankind for military purposes (the Oak Leak Cluster as military award, the use of camouflage) concluding that “your works of nature are unnatural”. The title is an almost-too-obvious reference to the witches of Macbeth, who foretell the bloody events to come in their warning to the king-to-be.

Something Wicked features some of my favourite lyrics on the album, with a couple of my favourite lines being:

And the lake was clear as crystal
The best tea I’ve ever had

There’s no such thing as a filler lyrics for BSP, and I choose to believe that these two lines are a reference to The Shining Levels by John Wyatt – a book about a man who ends up living in isolation in the Lake District (the shining levels of the title being the lakes themselves). That BSP apparently almost named their album after the book is also a strong indication. A highlight of the book is when the protagonist adopts an injured baby deer and nurses it to back to health. The same little lost roe deer from No Lucifer from their third album? Probably!

But as well as the Shakespearean allusions, Something Wicked could also be a reference to Ray Bradbury’s novel Something Wicked This Way Comes. Again, we know that BSP are fans. Their song Georgie Ray off Valhalla Dancehall, is loosely based on Bradbury – as well as George Orwell – and their fifth studio album Machineries of Joy is the namesake of a collection of Bradbury’s short stories.

The idea of British Sea Power being science fiction fans may seem odd, so let’s acknowledge that. So far we’ve brought up mythology, Shakespeare, poets, and nature – none of which suggest an interest in either science or fiction, particularly. But there’s an interesting link here, which gives some more context to other parts of The Decline Of…

Remembering Geoff Goddard & Joe Meek

At university, BSP were friends with a chap named Geoff Goddard. Despite working in the catering department at the University of Reading, Goddard had a celebrated past in the music industry, working with artists like The Tornados and Heinz. Most notably he worked with the producer Joe Meek. Meek’s album I Hear A New World is one of the most incredible (viz. weird) half hours of music you’ll ever listen to, and has been cited by BSP as an influence on their own work. And together, Goddard and Meek created hits like the chart-topping Telstar and Johnny Remember Me. So is it any surprise, then, that the fifth track on TDOBSP is called, simply, Remember Me?

Before moving on, take a moment to appreciate the video BSP made for Remember Me, where they bring to life iconic London statues to belt out the most anthemic track off the record.

The Lonely & Larkin

The seventh song on TDOBSP – The Lonely – might also be the saddest. Hauntingly beautiful, it paints a picture of isolation, of long evenings spent hunched over a keyboard playing music. Just look at how beautiful the chorus is:

I’ll drink all day and play by night
Upon my Casio electric piano
‘Til in the darkness I see lights
But not candelabra
But things from other stars

Oh, did I mention that the song is about the late Geoff Goddard? Yup! It’s a tribute song to the friend-of-the-band, which makes it all the more heart-wrenching. As a portrait of a genuine person by someone who deeply admires and respects them, it’s deeply moving and genuinely poetic.

And there’s a touch of another poet at work here. Compare Philip Larkin’s Aubade:

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:

It’s not so much a paraphrasing as an out-and-out reworking of Larkin’s original. But it’s far from plagiarism. BSP use reference as the basis for originality, not as a substitute. And I like the idea that BSP are Larkin fans. There’s something a bit punk about Larkin and the idea of a bunch of angry young men studying his works and then blasting them out on stage seems fitting.

See also “it deepens like a coastal shelf” as Larkin’s description of misery in This Be The Verse. I think Larkin was talking about the shallow portion of a continent that is submerged underwater (thanks Wikipedia), but I can hear it ring in Oh Larsen B, from BSP’s second album, an ode to Yan’s “favourite foremost coastal Antarctic shelf”. (A song about the collapse of the Larsen-B ice shelf, of course).

Now That’s What I Call World War One Joy Division

We need to talk about Carrion, the 8th song on TDOBSP, and my favourite British Sea Power song of all time. I think it’s about a shipwreck, judging by some of the lyrics and the fact that the British Maritime Museum had some of the lyrics up on a wall for a bit. It name checks Scapa Flow and Rotherhithe, has a bit about the devil in it, and the refrain is about hair pomade. So basically a perfect song.

As well as being a piece of poetry in itself, I think Carrion has some interesting war poetry allusions in it. In early live shows, the song was preceded by clips of the classic war film A Matter of Life and Death or the audio of “Returning, we Hear the Larks” by Isaac Rosenberg. There used to be a great clip of this on Youtube but I’m having real trouble finding it – if anyone out there has it I’d be truly thankful!

Returning to the text itself, as it were, the line “Can stone and steel and horse’s heels / Ever explain the way you feel?” seems to me to be a TS Elliot reference. His Triumphal March is an inventory of the instruments of war, beginning with “Stone, bronze, stone, steel, stone, oakleaves, horses’ heels”. Oh, and there’s those oakleaves again from Something Wicked.

Do you like my historic rock?

Let’s march on to the end of the album then. At just under 14 minutes, Lately is the climax of the album. The lyrics require close interrogation, and a lot of it I can’t place at all. The song breaks down both lyrically and musically to the end, with Yan just screaming variations of the same line:

Do you like my megalithic rock?
Do you like my prehistoric rock?
Do you like my teutonic rock?
Do you like my priapic rock?
Do you like my neolithic rock?
Do you like my sterile rock?
Do you like my megalithic rock?

We’d see this again in the title of their third album – Do You Like Rock Music? But the song begins a lot more sedately:

Lately, you seem like another language
Are you in trouble,
Are you in trouble again?
And you know how they say,
The past, it is a foreign country
How can we go there,
How can we go where we once went?

Very typical BSP; themes of memory and isolation. And of course “the past is a foreign country” is a quote by LP Hartley which in full reads: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” But it’s interesting that BSP would explicitly call this out as a reference (“you know how they say…”). Reference itself as a form of remembrance.

I really like this verse too:

Replacing Hercules, with the heroic sounds of Formby
Remove the tunics touch, stood aside from the putsch,
Stood aside from history

There’s the Greek mythology, with the heroic athleticism of Hercules ironically displaced by the saucy northern entertainer George Formby. Then there’s a bit I assume is a Hitler reference with the Putsch.

But BSP could never stand aside from history. They’re too obsessed by it. The ringing from ten minutes of guitar feedback has barely dissipated when the final song of the album begins. A Wooden Horse may be the closest that BSP come on the record to writing a traditional love song. “When wooden horses were in use / I would have built one / And left it for you” sings Yan. But even this sentiment is framed within the context of Greek mythology and history. They just can’t help themselves.


Conclusion

So what does this all mean? Just because BSP have written an album densely packed with literary references, both oblique and obvious, does that alone make it any good? Well, of course not. Other bands have drawn upon history and literature in their music; The Decemberists deserve an honourable mention here for being particular great.

But the way that BSP have done it is unlike anything I’ve ever seen any band do. And it’s not just the scale of it, or the way it’s made me obsessively crawl over every word, and spend hours researching this essay over an entire Easter bank holiday weekend.

What makes the album great is the way that these references reinforce the theme. As we’ve said, this is an album about remembrance, of looking back and appreciating. The album is called ‘The Decline Of…’ for a reason. We look back with fondness at things in the past, but we also displace the old with the new. We reject old myths for the modern, we reject the natural for the mechanical, we forget people and things.

In referencing the obscure and the forgotten, BSP make us remember. Geoff Goddard died in 2000 but he lives on in the music he left behind, and in our remembering him through BSP’s music.

Returning back to the quote that adorns the cover of the album..

We ourselves may be loved only for a brief time… Even so, that will suffice… There is a land for the living and a land for the dead

Please enjoy this selection of All Star meme videos

There was a trend early last year of making meme videos around Smash Mouth’s 1999 hit “All Star”. And today I want to revisit some of the best content that came out of that trend.

2018 memes are pretty boring for me. They’re standardised to the point of redundancy. I’ll write a longer blog post about this at some point, but I’m sick of seeing ‘three thing’ memes consisting of a trifecta of me // thing i like or should do // thing i don’t like or shouldn’t do. Literally they all follow this format: distracted boyfriend, ‘off ramp’, ‘bowling’, ‘gru’s plan’, ‘Jason Momoa Sneaking Up on Henry Cavill’, ‘is this a pigeon’. It’s all awful and contributing the internet hellscape we are all living in.

So 2017 Smash Mouth video memes an oasis of purity in this desolate wasteland of content. Let’s start off with something simple.

‘All Star’ by Smash Mouth, but all notes are in C

This is fun! I love when people take songs and mess around with the keys and stuff, like the major version of REM’s Losing my Religion.

This is especially fun because of how annoying it immediately gets. You’re so used to hearing the song rise and fall in pitch that hearing it entirely in one key is extremely frustrating. Good luck making it through the whole thing.

All Star but the melody is digitally remastered to be 200% more depressing

Actually quite moving.

SMASH MOUTH – ALL STAR BUT IT’S 1 BEAT OFF

This is so so so annoying. But it must be the hardest thing in the world to do, so I have nothing but respect for it.

“All Star” but it’s Sweet Home Alabama

This is when things start getting real good. Changing Smash Mouth to fit a different song. Especially when it’s a song as stupid as Sweet Home Alabama.

All Star but it’s Walking On The Sun by Santana feat. Rob Thomas

But it doesn’t have to be another band’s song! In this video, All Star is crunched up to fit into the lyrical tempo of another Smash Mouth song: ‘Walking On The Sun’. And in the video it’s played by Santana feat. Rob Thomas for some reason.

“All Star” by Smash Mouth, but only using the sounds and beats on my synth (and Ten Second Songs)

Here it is in a whole bunch of different genres! How fun!

All Star but it’s Donald Trump saying “covfefe”

Lol, I’d forgotten about the whole covfefe thing. Was that ever explained?

All Star by Smashmouth but every other word is reversed

Now we delve into the sub-genre of “but every word” videos. In this one, every other word is reversed. Why not every word? I don’t know!

“All Star” by Smashmouth but every word is someBODY

Sure, make EVERY word somebody. Why not? God is dead.

Allstar but every word is in alphabetical order

They sure do say “All Star” a lot.

All Star but the words are ordered by scrabble score

Just very very good.

All Star but “star” is replaced with Gordon Ramsay insults

Lmao. I love how long some of the clips are.

All Star but it’s played on the sharpest tool in my shed

Does what it says on the tin.

All Star But It’s Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in C Minor (1st mov.)

Similar to the ‘Smash Mouth mixed up with other pop songs’ genre, there’s another genre of All Star in the style of classical music. Sorry to all musicians.

All Star but it’s a Bach chorale following the conventions of the Common Practice Period

This is the one that convinced me All Star videos would be the greatest meme of all time. Not only is it a fantastic idea, but it’s perfectly executed. It’s not just a cheap joke, it’s fully backed up with knowledge and expertise. Kudos to the creator.

“All Star” by Smash Mouth but it’s Pachelbel’s Canon

The absolute pinnacle of the form. A modern masterpiece. The perfect bridge of modern and classical music. The zenith of human creativity and perfection.

And an honourable mention goes to…

Steamed Hams but it’s All Star

Delightfully devilish!

My Spotify playlists are awesome and you should follow them

I’ve got a bit of free time, so I thought I’d write something about music. But since I don’t really know anything about music history or the current ‘scene’ I thought I’d instead write about what I do know. And that’s me.

I’ve spent years curating my own playlists in Spotify. They’re my own little babies. Some of them are totally stupid, but I love them all. So here they are.

discovery
This is a basic list of everything I’ve “discovered” in Spotify since August 2011 (coincidentally the month I began to work at a certain music streaming service). It’s really interesting to me as a history of the music I’ve come across over the years. They’re not songs that are new as such, or even ones I hadn’t heard before, but ones that sort of became surfaced in my consciousness for some reason. So probably not that interesting for anyone else (1 follower though!).

musique
Apparently I started this one in 2010. Nice. It’s a collection of songs sung in French. There’s something about them that makes me happy. They also tend to be kind of 60s new wave things as well, so maybe it’s just an idle nostalgia for that time; back when Eurovision wasn’t the horrific spectacle it is today.

nostalgia
The title is probably ironic. These are songs that sound old. They’ve got that old crackly analogue recording sound to them, which instantly takes you back. Not that I recall listening to, say, Frank Sinatra or Billie Holiday, as a child. But it’s a kind of false nostalgia, a longing for a better time in the past (Golden Age fallacy, I know right).

Wes
A simple one. Every song on Spotify featured in Wes Anderson films. Not as straightforward as you might think though, since not all the soundtracks are uploaded and have to be reconstructed manually (it took me a while to track down the right version of The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra for the Moonrise Kingdom section).

DAMN, SON. WHERE D’YA FIND THIS?!?!
Deliberately the most ridiculous playlist. This contains the most outrageous dubstep I’ve come across on Spotify. Some people confuse this with a dubstep adoration, but it’s more of a study into the excesses of the genre (particular via the ‘brostep’ subgenre). Wubs and drops are thrown together in the most audibly offensive way imagineable, taking it to almost an artform. Fascinating.

Glaze
An attempt to kind of focus in on a particular sound I like. Technically, it’s a shoegaze playlist, but it verges into anything kind of long and noisy. It’s called “Glaze” as a shoutout to its shoegaze origins, but also because it contains songs like The Jesus And Mary Chain – Just Like Honey and The Smashing Pumpkins – Mayonaise. I like the idea that it’s these big heavy dollops of sound coming at you through your headphones. Super pretentious, yeah.

Breeze
When I Met You
Jelly
LJBB
Four similar playlists. Just playlists of DJ sets by The Avalanches and Lemon Jelly. Finding the samples and arranging them in the right order is strangely satisfying.

It’s a rap!
My rap playlist. I don’t know anything about rap, but I know what I like.

it’s a live! (version)
Live versions of songs I like by bands I like.

ha.
Comedy bits. Playlists don’t just have to be just music! I should really add more to these.

Talk To Me
Songs that have talking in them. Either as a sample or just as an introduction or something. It’s always interesting when songs do this. Bright Eyes – Firewall is a good example – that opening insane monologue is just a killer.

Covers
Covers! I love covers. Everyone loves covers.

QQ (why can’t I hold all these feels?)
Like a kind of playlist of sad songs. This is like a necessity on Spotify. Music to weep to.

‘intensity’
I keep changing the title of this one. It’s meant to be a reference to Lost in Translation, but that’s not at all clear. Anyway, this is songs that have a sense of urgency about them. It’s an interesting sound and I like how it’s presently differently across the genres.

Broadside Ballads
My cheesiest playlist. Mostly just a way for me to have easy access to Bonnie Tyler, etc. But some of them are ok.

seen live
An odd playlist, since the actual songs themselves don’t matter. This is just a way for me to keep track of all the bands I’ve seen live (which I previously did with a Last.Fm tag – ouch).

Music for my bookshop
One day I will have a bookshop. And this is the playlist that will play in it. I’ll probably need more than seven, so I should expand the scope beyond songs about books I suppose.

yehaw
Cowboy songs. After seeing Django Unchained I kind of went off on one with this. I should probably review this at some point.

electro-swing
This is such a tiny subgenre, pretty much dominated by Parov Stelar and The Correspondents. I’ve tried to find some other stuff, but it is all more or less the same.

coolkid
Songs that have children singing in them. A ‘challenge playlist’ because there’s not as many songs as you think.

jimmy unrustler
My relaxation playlist. This is the playlist I like to listen to in the bath. Lovely stuff.

S.P.E.L.L.I.N.G.
Another challenge playlist. I try to find songs that have people spelling things out in them. More than you think.

poetry
Poetry on Spotify! Who’d have thought there’d be so much? Anyway, these are my top picks.

disnizzle
Samples from the Walt Disnizzle mixtape.

short but sweet
Songs under two minutes, an idea I totally stole from my friend Jamie.

>10
The opposite of the above. Songs greater than 10 minutes. Lots of post-rock and things.

oOo
A ridiculously niche one. Songs that have people going “oooh!” in them. Please let me know if you have any of your own.

Females
I should probably change the title. But it’s songs I like by female-fronted bands. Female singer-songwriters don’t really count.

uni
The music I listened to in uni, back when I bought physical CDs. Since this was pre-Spotify I listened to these albums basically on repeat for three years and they’re indelibly burnt into my brain. Good memories, mostly.

plinky
Piano songs. But specifically ones that have a nice bouncy sound to them (I don’t know if there’s a proper word for that style so I opted for ‘plinky’ instead – it sounds about right).

twang
Banjo songs. The banjo is so in right now – I really need to start practising on mine again.

classics
Classical music I like. I need to put more effort into keeping this updated. I don’t look very cultured atm.

The answer is Jesus. What is the question?
A joke playlist! Based on the Stewart Lee routine of the same setup, I answer using things on Spotify.

songs what are years
As the name says, songs that are years. Obviously there are many more, but these are the ones I like the most.

There are some that I’ve had to archive since they’re seasonal: xmas (Christmas) and 2spooky (Halloween).

And that’s it! I also have about 300 other playlists I’m subscribed to or albums I’ve saved as playlists. But no way am I going through all of those.

This will be interesting for me to revisit in a year or so. So consider this a sort of time capsule. And I’d encourage you to do something similar if you’re on Spotify.

And if you’re not on Spotify, what the hell is even wrong with you.

Review: Mouth Sounds by Neil Cicierega

JAN 2017 UPDATE: MOUTH MOODS ALSO NOW AVAILBLE HERE OMGGGG

Today I’d like to do my first music review on this blog. And it’s something rather special.

I’ll be reviewing “Mouth Sounds” by Neil Cicierega. It’s a 56 minute mashup of popular culture, with All Star by Smashmouth as a recurrent motif throughout. Sounds good, right?

Give it a listen here:

The first thing to say is that I’m already a huge fan of this format. I think that The Avalanches’ Gimix is one of the greatest musical works of all time. If you haven’t heard it before, give it a listen. It’s 45 minutes of pure aural bliss.

I’m also a huge fan of Walt Disnizzle by ARKHAM.p77, a more focussed mashup piece, which blends disney songs with rap. As with Gimix, it’s all samples but the composition makes it work wonderfully.

I’ve even had a go at the genre myself, with my own 27 1/2 minute mix receiving absolutely no critical acclaim whatsoever. But enough about that.

Mouth Sounds, then, is my latest infatuation. There’s also a sister mix Mouth Silence that you can check out, but here we’re just talking about the original, created by Neil Cicierega.

But who is this Neil Cicierega anyway? Well, chances are you’ve already heard of him, but didn’t know it. Ever heard of Potter Puppet Pals? Yup, Cicierega.

He’s also the creator of The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny, one of my favourite youtube videos. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a flash animation about an all-out battle royale between various characters in pop culture. Godzilla fighting Shaquille O’Neal, that kind of thing.

Aside from being a catchy song, and extremely catchy, I loved TUSOUD for the way it called out pop culture figures. It’s like a game where you have to try and see how many references you can get (‘Spock, The Rock, Doc Oc, and Hulk Hogan’ is a fantastic line). It’s a masterful blend of these references as well as being a celebration of their fandoms. I don’t feel guilty for being able to recognise all these characters, despite them all being pretty nerdy. Instead it’s turned into something actually cool through the medium of song.

I think that last point might not be the clearest one I’ve ever made, but luckily I’ve got two great illustrations. And yes, they’re also mashups.

First up, Pop Culture by Madeon.

And secondly, the Golden Age of Video by Ricardo Autobahn.

What do these all have in common? Well, they throw together dozens of short clips from various sources in an exciting and entertaining way. Just like a cover of a song can breathe new life into it, these mashups re-present elements we’re super familiar with as part of a new, larger arrangement. “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!” as the refrain of TGAOV works perfectly, but in the most unexpected way – for instance.

And placed into the wider context, the samples become a celebration of the genres they’re taken from. Pop Culture is great for this. The clips are all from pop songs, which tend to get a pretty bad rap. And sure, I don’t like a lot of the original source songs. But arranged together in the way they are, they become part of the best pop song ever. Likewise with TGAOV, we assume an overall perspective over the whole of video/film, and can see what is is we love about it: crazy characters, badass moments, excitement and fun.

Going back to Ultimate Showdown for a second. That was a celebration of a more specific culture: cult followings. Things like Monty Python and Big Trouble in Little China have dedicated cult followings and this video is a great showcase of them, but also for the concept of ‘cult’ in general. We watch it and feel great about Godzilla and Jackie Chan, we’re so lucky to have them! Screw the haters, this is a love letter to anyone who’s ever loved something out of the mainstream. Nerd culture can be beautiful too.

It should be pretty obvious then how this ties back into Mouth Sounds. You see, Mouth Sounds is another example of a cultural mashup. Here are a few of the things it samples:

  • Smashmouth – All Star
  • Modest Mouse – Float On
  • Homer Simpson
  • Austin Powers
  • Dave Matthews Band – Ants Marching
  • Talking Heads – Once in a Lifetime
  • Sir Mix-A-Lot  – Baby Got Back
  • Will Smith – Men in Black

And that’s just the first ten minutes.

At first glance, it might look like the focus here is less targeted than the above mashups. And sure, the range is wider but I’d argue that it’s because the target here isn’t meant to be a specific band of popular culture – but instead popular culture itself.

That’s why we get clips from music, film, television (one song ends with just the outros of various TV networks) and the internet (of course Chocolate Rain makes an appearance). The source of the samples matters just as much as the samples themselves. And the achieved effect is a greater appreciation of how all these things entertain us in their own ways.

I should also point out that it’s funny as hell. The mashup is playful and teasing in parts, such as playing the theme from Full House followed by an Alanis Morisette song, before segueing right back into Full House again – which, as flamboyant saxaphone fills go, is hilariously jarring in its own right. And the lack of an obvious theme makes this even more effective – you never know where the next sample is going to come from so it hits you even harder when it does.

All Star sung to the tune of Imagine by John Lennon? You couldn’t predict that, and it’s just the best thing ever. I feel bad even telling you that actually, like spoiling the ending of a good book, the surprise is so effective throughout.

Why the focus on All Star though? Well, I’ve written about Shrek in popular culture before, and I’ve  argued that Shrek has become a fundamental part of our cultural zeitgeist. I’ve even gone so far as to argue that All Star was the song of the decade it came out in. It seems that there’s an echo of this in Mouth Sounds. Most the samples do come from the 90s/early 00s (though not all) so it’d make sense for the song to be as prominent as it is, should my theory concerning Mouth Sounds as a cultural retrospective be valid.

All Star is just a great song too, as well. It seems to go with everything.

Mouth Sounds also has the element I enjoyed from TUSOUD of playing the game of trying to spot all the references. It rewards frequent replays and a keen attention to the detail of the songs. I spent ages trying to track down the original source of the Full House theme used (it’s like an instrumental version of one of the outros, from what I can tell), and had a great time doing so.

So in conclusion, Mouth Sounds is a fantastic achievement. The pure technical skill in location, arranging and mixing the samples alone is at least as impressive as anything done by The Avalanches, etc. Added onto that you’ve got the skill of making something that makes me laugh every single time I listen to it.

It’s also an important work of art in terms of making a statement. The statement it makes, as far as I can tell, is that our popular culture (specifically, western media in the late nineties and early noughties) may be crass, kitch and just plain dumb, but that’s great. It’s put us where we are today and we shouldn’t shy away from our cultural heritage.

Not when it can sound this good.