18 June 2006

Dangermouse & Klosterman

My man Chuck Klosterman has in the NY Times Magazine a good profile of Danger Mouse (ne Brian Burton), D.J. Auteur. I've been an ardent Dangermausfanatisch since he let fall Ghetto Pop Life and the so-called Black-White album. Klosterman extends an interesting argument, i.e., that Dangermouse, not Cee-Lo, Albarn, Jemini, MF Doom, Jay-Z, Ringo et al., is the primary creative force behind his work. Of course, Klosterman makes it all sound more interesting and tendentious.

Yet even while "Crazy" is Cee-Lo's song, it's still Burton's design. It's the product of a singular vision, which is (more or less) the whole idea. The music of Gnarls Barkley is collaborative, but not in a creative sense; the goal of this collaboration is to reproduce the music that already exists inside Burton's skull.

In this way, Danger Mouse is something like the structural device in Joyce's Ulysses, which is sometimes called the arranger. The Mizzo has an intentional aesthetic stance toward the material to which he applies himself. That is, he applies himself to his work with an intentional aesthetic stance; but the interesting point is that his work qua DJ and producer is a sort of meta-work put into someone's primary artistic creation. Consider his production of the Grey Album. He's given the Beatles' eponymous album (popularly called the White Album) and Jay-Z's swan song, the Black Album. By cutting up the Beatles' tracks to make beats for Jay-Z, Miz-to-the-Izzo puts to lie to Wordsworth's much-quoted saw, "We murder to dissect." If by murder you mean Django Mousehardt absolutely kills every track on the Grey Album (in the colloquially [borderline slangy] parlance of rap music, to kill a track is a good thing), then you're absolutely correct. He's a lot like Rivers Cuomo of Weezer who has since the mid-nineties kept a three-ring binder full of rock song analyses that he calls the Encyclopedia of Pop. By dissecting the tropes and figures of music, both artists (auteurs?) make sophisticated, lowest-common denominator pop music.
It appears to me that Joyce does a similar thing with Ulysses. He worked with what he was given: Newspapers, memories, accounts, reports, maps, stories and books. Anyone (well, not really--but for the sake of argument, let us say) could have arranged the exact same data in the exact same way; for the most part, much of the information of Ulysses was at least available. But no one arranges data like Joyce arranges data; and that's his particular genius. DM seems roughly analagous to Joyce in the sense that mostly all DJs and remixers are similar to Joyce in that they all engage in a similar project: To rearrange found content in an interesting and aesthetically pleasing manner.
Speaking of interesting and aesthetically pleasing things, that Chuck Klosterman has to be my favorite new sports writer (!) in all of the Internet. Since the end of 2005, Klosterman has been writing for ESPN's Page 2. Much of his writing is unavailable. [Why do on-line publications deter people from reading their website by charging to read archived articles? I fall squarely in the hate-the-new-New-York-Times-on-line-layout-and-tightwad-pay-scheme camp] But be sure to look for his work there in the future; most of it is too technical and shows too great an understanding of sports history for me to really follow; but that's the point. He is the typical white sports dork. He's endearingly like David Foster Wallace in his sports writing, sometimes. And his book, Fargo Rock City, which I purchased for, like, a dollar in an Ames that was going out of business when I was in college, the one that I read over a whole semester whilst taking craps in our increasingly olfactorilly suspect bathroom with the dingy, somewhat greenish tiles in the shower, you know, the ones right by the handles because there's some sort of reaction between water, metal and tile that causes that greenish tint, like, maybe they had some copper in them or something, like how the Statue of Liberty looks, except that one has nothing to do with tile--but there's a helluva lot of water! I read that book, which was about all these 80s hair metal bands that I'd never really knowingly heard; and it made me really appreciate hair metal in new ways. Klosterman's columns on Page 2 make me feel the same way about the ABA and baseball.