mouth dreams

by benduhamel

Neil Cicierega is a titan of the internet. The name may sound vaguely familiar to you as I am almost certain you are familiar with his most popular work: Potter Puppet Pals. For many in our generation, the Mysterious Ticking Noise was the first youtube video they had ever seen, if not at least a deeply memorable one from their childhoods. I remember vividly spending hours at the family computer waiting for the dial up internet to finally load up any video within Neil’s catalogue. I’m trying to not get swept up in my love for this artist, but the resounding influence of Neil is a topic for another time. Not only do I have this deep affinity for his older works, but I have been keeping track of newer projects as well, and I am here to say the man’s genius did not end with PPP. 

Most recently is the release of Mouth Dreams, which was preceded by Neil’s 3 other “Mouth” mash-up projects. First let’s establish that a mash up is “a recording created by digitally combining and synchronizing instrumental tracks with vocal tracks from two or more different songs”. You may be wondering why name the projects Mouth Dreams, Mouth Moods, Mouth Silence, and Mouth Sounds and the answer is that all these albums contain smash mouth mashups to some degree. Now any rational human being would think “when has a mash up ever been good” or “really??? smash mouth mash ups??? You can’t seriously be recommending this.” I say this with complete sincerity: these projects are (mostly) pure brilliance. 

Now any reservations you have surrounding mash ups is warranted and a good defense mechanism to have in all honesty. However, Neil Cicierega with these projects has almost single handedly redefined the genre and launched it into an entirely new level. With careful mixing, mastering, and producing, Neil matches songs melodically, rhythmically, but also mashes in a way that elevates songs to new emotional resonances that is unlike any other mashup produced by anyone else. An example would be YMCA by the Village People over a Hans Zimmer instrumental. Suddenly the classic upbeat song has this strange seriousness and sadness to it that is harrowingly beautiful. 

Neil has perfected/elevated what mashing can accomplish(especially with Mouth Moods), but how does this newest album stack up against previous works? The album starts off with “Yahoo”, a track employing the yodel from old Yahoo!.com commercials. The first 20 seconds is like “lol funny sound” and then Neil begins folding in these pulsing waves of synth and then by the end I’m weeping real tears thinking about all the time I’ve wasted trying to be someone else when I should have just been true to myself, about how fleeting and precious life is, and how I should call my mom and tell her I love her.

This opening made me really excited for the rest of the album, but in all honesty, Mouth Dreams was really disappointing for me. I find myself skipping more than half the tracks when I listen to the album all the way through as most lose their charm the first time around or are painstaking to listen through again.Yahoo, Just a Baby, SuperKiller, Aammoorree, Where is My Mom, Cannibals, White House, Closerflies,  and 10,000 spoons are the only songs I find myself returning to still. That’s only 9 tracks off of a 26 track album that I find enjoyable. Compare this to Mouth Moods, the previous Mouth album, where there are 20 songs and the only one I have to skip is the last track. There’s a few decent mashes I guess. It’s just not in the same caliber as previous installments. This has led me to be pretty disappointed with this album honestly. Previous Mouth installments have built on the others, whereas this one has regressed quite a bit. Hopefully Neil can make up for it on the next Lemon Demon album.

Categories: ben duhamel, October 20, 2020, tunes, wt staff

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