Monday, April 03, 2006


Just heard today that Gnarl's Barkley's single 'Crazy' (recorded by Danger Mouse & Cee-Lo, pictured above in A Clockwork Orange chic) has become the first single to go to No. 1 in the UK charts based only on legal downloads--31,000 MP3s in the UK. It comes out as a 'hard copy' CD this week. The hype's been generated by an ad for BBC radio DJ Zane Lowe's show. This event does seem significant as a marker for the shift in the chart protocol and for the importance of internet music. I downloaded it without legal fanfare through P2P with no fuss almost two months ago. The hype around 'Crazy' is The Music Biz's attempt to make us buy 'legal downloads', the big push in 2006, so I'm ambivalent about the song's success. I'll admit it's a great single with the verve of a sixties soul record for Northern soul dancers. Reach for the talcum powder! There is also something special about a good record that gets to number one immediately. That kind of thing usually happens with novelty shite or Elton John singles about royalty. Crazy's success reminds me of The Jam hitting number one in the first week of release in 1980 with 'Going Underground'. We felt it was an 'event' to have something brilliant and different and not all 'happy happy la-la-la' prick the charts and actually hit the top of the banal mainstream pyramid in one sweep. As a producer Danger Mouse is certainly 'on fire' as my friend Nick put it the other day after I played Crazy again on The Basement. DM's sound on the Dirty Harry track by The Gorillaz is great--those electropopping effects in the last quarter of the record just leap out of the speakers and pummel you all over. I haven't heard any Gorillaz album so can't comment on the rest of the record. The DangerDoom collaboration The Mouse & The Mask with genius MF Doom was my favourite hip hop album of last year for its surreal rhymes, animation vs. pop skits and the wide palette of breaks. I really love The Bush Boys Are Coming on DM & Gemini's album Ghetto Pop Life for its paranoia about pater and son and the middle eastern (oud) samples. The Grey Album which really brought DM to people's attention had a few captivating moments but was more important for just messing with the sacred Beatles legacy and for its deployment in the politics around copyright and intellectual property at a time of corporate lockdown. Copyright is the frontline! The Grey Album (the acapellas from Jay Z's Black Album mixed with The Beatles' White Album) was released online, pissing off EMI and living Beatles, on 24 February 2004 AKA Grey Tuesday. Then it's all the more ironic--well, predictable I suppose--that the pirates become turncoats once they're in the belly of the beast rather than snapping at its limbs. Now Danger Mouse is a playah in the industry. The Gnarls Barkley CDs were sent out with copyright protection. Check out Sasha Frere Jones blog entry with its photo of a watermarked promo copy of the album and Jones acute and ironic observation that 'music is a medium for asserting ownership, silly rabbit'. The subcultural cred of copyright violation has certainly helped DM's career. So let's look forward to more downloads of Crazy and lots of people sampling Cee-Lo's desperate vocals or that woo-ooh-ooh backing hum for their own tracks. I'm sure DM won't mind. The lucre will be flowing in if it isn't already, so no need to tell him you're doing it.

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