Monday, January 19, 2009

Hard Knock Life in a Glass House

I’m a sucker for mash-ups, especially if they’re cheesy.
Like any other college rock enthusiast, I love Radiohead.
At the drop of a hat, I will recite “99 Problems” in full.

As such, Jaydiohead is everything I could ask for. New York deejay Minty Fresh Beats has added himself to the outrageously long list of mixers who cross Jay-Z with artists that they probably shouldn’t (The Beatles, Pavement, Beethoven). The trend continues when the mastermind behind The Black Album is thrown against the geniuses responsible for classics such as Kid A, OK Computer, and In Rainbows. As awkward and clumsy as this may sound initially, it surprisingly works out well. Very well.

To begin, this album is not an incredible piece of music. It’s another mash-up prominently featuring cuts from The Black Album, and it will not redefine the way you look at either artist. Regardless, it’s still an enjoyable distraction full of songs that are just to fun to listen to. Jay-Z is the star here when it comes to vocals. Minty Fresh puts a heavy emphasis on Mr. Carter’s fluid lyrics, usually only incorporating Yorke as backing vocals or for the occasional chorus. Radiohead’s front man has an even more ethereal sound here than normal, adding a cold, haunting resonance to many of the tracks. The real surprise here is how well the band’s music fits with hip-hop verses. This is made abundantly clear from the beginning as the album opens with “Wrong Prayer” and possibly shines brightest on “Lucifer’s Jigsaw.” With this set and the recent mix between “Reckoner” and Kanye’s “Love Lockdown” (also not as terrible as it sounds), perhaps Radiohead’s discography will become the new Black Album in terms of mash-up popularity. Okay, let’s not hold our breaths.

Unlike most mash up attempts, tracks actually sound good together. Absent are segments so mismatched and forced that they completely remove one from the music. The two selected cuts blend together smoothly and naturally, with only a handful of minor mistakes along the way. Some will find slight faults with the ham-fisted way Yorke’s “yeah” right before the refrain in “Dirt Off Your Android” is tossed in. Others may call foul on the slight edits to songs, most notably the timing of “15 Step.” These people should realize that Jaydiohead is nothing to be taken overly seriously.

All of the tracks have an interesting sound, and my top two or three change after every listen. At the moment, however, “Change Order” reigns supreme. While a melancholy guitar plays out, Jay-Z gives a rundown of his crime and drug expertise while Thom Yorke chimes in with the chorus, “A couple more for breakfast / A little more for tea / Just to take the edge off.” As said, don’t go in expecting groundbreaking things, but enjoy these different approaches to old favorites. This set of remixes is the ultimate Jay-Z/rock mix (apologies too all you die-hard Collision Course fans out there, all four of you). All ten tracks are available downloadable and free at

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