Rip, Mix, Burn

Earlier this year, after completing my reading of Lawrence Lessig's Remix, I began to look more closely at the Creative Commons licenses, as well as some of the online creative collectives he used as case studies in Remix. In doing so, I stumbled upon a feature in Wired magazine from 2004 that investigated the idea of contemporary musical culture being absolutely complicit in the remix/file-sharing/sampling inclinations that the corporate music industry was fighting so vehemently to bury.

Like most Wired articles it was cautiously optimistic (seasoned pessimism does not tend to promote ad revenue) and more than a touch self-congratulatory. Along with the issue a CD featuring tracks from a number of formidable talents who were offering up a bit of their oeuvre was included. What made these tracks unique was that they were released under one of two Creative Commons licenses, thereby making them fair game for legal file sharing, mash-ups, and sampling into whatever prosaic Garage Band techno track you could muster in your off hours. There are some big names on this CD, and the tracks they've given over to the masses aren't just the pan drippings from a decade of better musical offerings— they are legitimate efforts.

Having said that, they aren't all good either. Below is the list of tracks that make my cut. If your cloth is cut with a similar cut as mine, then you might want to download these freebies and allow your iPod to give them a whirl:

Track 01— Beastie Boys/ Now Get Busy

Much more Hello Nasty than Paul's Boutique, but the sampled directive lends a refreshing pause to a pretty predictable back beat. Straight up middle-aged Beasties which means more fun than FRESSSHHHH.

Track 02— David Byrne/ My Fair Lady

No plains or rains or Spain, but a seriously cinematic sound to build up a modern reflection of the classic Pygmalion tale. I think that this is easily the best offering of the bunch and makes U2's similarly-themed Babyface (from Zooropa) sound simply insipid.

Track 03— Zap Mama/ Wadidyusay?

Hand claps. French. A cappella-esque world music syrup with a drum machine.

Track 04— My Morning Jacket/ One Big Holiday

Yeah indie rock! I don't own one of their albums so I can't be classified as anything like a fan, but there is something pure American rock about this in both sound (straight up drums and electric guitars) and sentiment (references to escaping dead end towns, California, and records). Serve with pick-up trucks and whatever indie brew is currently considered both hip and cheap.

Track 05— Spoon/Revenge!

This is a track by Spoon. It is catchy. It is smart. It is made in the USA but sounds like its imported from England. Extra points are awarded for painting analogies.

Track 09— Le Tigre/Fake French

"I've got. . . site specificity." I mean, come on, what is not to like about a band that has extensive bibliographies, flow disruption, and wildlife metaphors? Furthermore, their Fake French is way hotter than any real French I've heard lately.

* * * * *

And then there are the two tracks that I'm a bit torn over. Not jaw-dropping and not mediocre, but somewhere just this side of catchy, which is often all I require. And easy to rip (pun intended).

Track 10— Paul Westerberg/ Looking Up in Heaven

Feeble drug references and buoyant melancholy— two of my least favorite popular music conventions. And yet, this is one of those tracks that I would never seek out but also would never skip through if it were to pop up in the Shuffle. There's something so unapologetic about Westerberg's delivery that a touch of gravitas manages to sneak in. As far as I can tell from this one data point, if Bob Dylan were margarine he'd be Paul Westerberg.

Track 12— The Rapture/ Sister Saviour (Blackstrobe Remix)

Hhmmmm. . . I think I'll put some KMFDM, Kraftwerk, and Depeche Mode in a blender with cheap red wine and squid-ink pasta. Whoa! How did I manage this smoothie of blips, bleeps, and laughably echoey lyrics about hobo dreams?

Decide for yourself. . .

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