ason Forrest is a 21st century man; that much is achingly obvious. Let’s drag out the terms before they attempt to be interesting again, 2005-speaking. Over the last 5-7 years, computer editing and the web have dragged John Oswald’s tape loop plunderphonics into a new era where internet-swapped mash-ups offer mere seconds of enjoyment from a three-minute stitch job of Destiny’s Child and Nirvana, the kind of musical bomb only achievable by snickering teenagers. What’s this? You want to have a panel about it? And here’s where neo-plunderphonia and mash-up culture gets dodgy: the ideas and purported ramifications of it are generally at least 100 times more interesting than listening to most of its iterations. Is it an affront to the postmodern condition of schizophrenia, i.e. by recontextualizing recognizeable samples are we creating new sonic landscapes where the values of r&b meet grunge in an oversugared ADHD pop heaven? When DJ/Rupture’s Gold Teeth Thief slams Missy against bhangra and early dancehall, is he bringing the world together or just a dilettante giggling over an aural atlas, is he actually de-facializing these musics by taking them out of context and hence, histories? Thankfully, Forrest’s previous albums (one under his own name and one under the confusing Donna Summer moniker) has proved him beyond all those head games, goofin’ to the max with a crate of gnarled classic rock, a Monster’s Manual and thumbs red-raw from gaming. [Downpitched Demon-voice jockeying a monster truck rally]: You heard me, mortal, shed your lexicon and sweat!
“The Walls of the City Shake” busts the seams of the album as soon as it begins, screaming in your face, Forrest burping up Cinnabon crumbs on his laptop, scrawling pentagrams on your sister’s Lisa Frank folders; in a field of diamonds he tapdances in rollerskates, avoiding lightning bolts shredding the ground every three seconds. “New Wave Folk Austerity” catches half its breath by gargling Steely Dan before crashing into the bleeding war-cry of Monday Night Football peaking on DMT and hallucinating a flotilla of unicorns searing through the sky, spears in mouth and speed streaks at side. Five minutes in, and you’re panting.
Beyond the adolescent glitter of striving towards its title, Forrest importantly seems to anticipate the charge that the mash-up era is basically past expiration, instead attempting to make an album that sounds like revisionist pop. Shamelessly Exciting runs what hip-hop started with sampling into overdrive: songs distilled into muscular breaks clashing against each other in an idealized realm of hyper-hooks, trimmed of fat and on constant boil. Occasionally, it does seem to forsake being interesting in order to just sink into snarky spot-the-reference games or gnash another guitar solo in the interest of vapid overstimulation. It’s these moments that the kitschy conceits of his work seems to outshine the experience of the song itself, and it gets tedious. Paradoxically, it’s often when Forrest tries to break out of his typical razzle-dazzle that he seems most uncertain, like on the interesting yet total failure of “Nightclothes and Headphones,” a seadrift glitch ballad sunk by Laura Cantrell’s pretty but out of place vocals.
The emergent even ground on the album is the most compelling, like the juicy funk assault of “War Photographer,” where his reference points don’t get completely mauled for the sake of the Postmodern Maximalist Trash-Spaz assault, instead offering the kind of grandeur that made “10 Amazing Years” from 2004’s The Unrelenting Songs of the 1979 Post Disco Crash so stunning. With wide arms, the world wants to save Jason Forrest from the clutches of his time, or to at least allow him a dignity that reaches beyond the fading novelty of his approach, and Shamelessly Exciting definitely makes a few convincing arguments, in and out of the lecture hall.