Various Artists
The Best Bootlegs in the World Ever...
No Label
2002
B-

as the title suggests this is a compilation of bootlegs—not the Dick’s Picks sorts, but mash-ups of pop singles, typically the vocal track of one (sometimes sped or slowed) over the music of another. Such pop plunderphonics aren’t new, but these digital Frankenstein’s monsters separate themselves from squeaky-clean chart straddlers such as Stars on 45 and Jive Bunny or pranksters such as John Oswald and the KLF because they aren’t the work of grinning conceptualists but the affectionate punches of anonymous pop lovers.


Thanks to club nights, radio play, and the Boom Selection Web site, bootlegging has become an overnight sensation in London. In the U.S., however, bootlegs are most associated with Kid 606’s sneers. Sure, the Kid returned some of the menace to “Straight Outta Compton” in 2000, but since has been blowing chest-pumping musical raspberries (evidenced by the KLF(WA) title, The Action-Packed Mentallist Brings You the Fucking Jams), to pop producers—many of whom are making more interesting tracks than himself.


This album collects the best of the London-style boots and was assembled, appropriately enough, covertly—it’s an unofficial release on the No Label imprint. Some of the tracks, widely circulated over the past six months, will already be familiar to the file-sharing literate but are now collected in this "Now! That’s What I Call Bastard Pop" set. Among the well-known are boots from Soulwax—the Belgian duo whose “As Heard on Radio Soulwax, Pt. 2” by 2 Many DJs disc is not only the movement’s high-water mark, but the among 2002’s as well—and Girls on Top’s (Richard X) R&B diva-plus-synth noir.


Its best bits aren’t mere party icebreakers, but reveal a little something about one artist or another. Tracks such as Freelancer Hellraiser’s “A Stroke of Genius” accomplish the considerable trick of not just adding one to one and getting the sum of their parts, but a whole different track altogether. Elsewhere are both bootlegger’s favorites Missy Elliot (whose “One-Minute Man” slinks and slithers over the Cure’s “Lovecats”) and Destiny’s Child (who shake their jelly to Nirvana’s accidental anthem “Smells Like Teen Spirit”) and more unusual sources such as Celine Dion vs. Sigur Rós, the album’s only jab (and it’s not at the mannish diva).


A rare self-conscious trend, the bootleg may not last the year but it could soundtrack most of the rest of it, a fresh slice of Now that celebrates not only just how elastic pop is, but also the giddy anything-goes of file sharing and manipulation. If people are already checking their watches for the bootleg’s 15-minute mark, that’s a shame. If the trendspotters took the time to listen to the music rather than just putting their ear to the ground, they’d hear some inspired sounds.


Reviewed by: Scott Plagenhoef
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01
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