Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Death of Super Mash Bros

As the first real post on the Muzjiks blog, I (DJ Swine) present to you a lengthy review of Super Mash Bros' live "performance" at Davidson College on November 20th, along with a more general criticism of the duo. At this point, the following is merely a collection of thoughts, but I intend to combine and edit them into one cohesive whole at some point in the near future. For now, I just wanted to get these ideas out in the open...

  • The DIY mashup movement of the mid- to late-2000s is the DIY garage rock movement of the 1970s with the Troggs and Question Mark & the Mysterians updated to the digital age and stripped of legitimate musical talent.
  • Now, I am aware that between the two of them, Super Mash Bros have significant technical computer know-how and traditional musical training (Interview with Tha Good Life), but the fact of the matter is that anyone could do what they’re doing with a free afternoon, an iTunes library, and some pirated software—read eight pages, and you’re Super Mash Bros (How to Make a Mashup)! Last time I checked, all reading 8 pages about Jonny Greenwood or Jimi Hendrix or David Gilmour’s guitar-playing style gets you is a history lesson; if you’re lucky you learn a particular pedal that they’re fond of, but it’s not like you’re all of a sudden as adept as the professionals in a mere eight pages. In contrast, if you or I spent those few hours fiddling with mp3s, we’d be on the same level as Super Mash Bros, the so-called professionals of the genre. For goodness sake, their entire career stemmed out of a friend’s dare; you could double doggy dare me with sugar on top and I couldn’t be Bob Dylan if I tried.
  • In the musical genre evolutionary tree, Super Mash Bros should be placed as a offshoot of nerdcore.
  • What the 12-year-old cool kids listen to—the ones whose mom serves the sweet pizza rolls when you come over for sleepovers and playdates.
  • Where has this generation’s musical pallet gone?
  • Literally, the “concert” consisted of these two schmucks putting their two burned CD mixes on random and interjecting a few GarageBand default loops with some tremolo before playing an essentially unaltered current pop song in attempt to pawn off their live show as incorporating “new material.” For instance, what I suspect many people would consider the highlight of the “performance” came when Super Mash Bros had the whole crowd chant “U-S-A, U-S-A” (probably just long enough for them to type “Miley Cyrus” into their iTunes search bar) and then “Party in the USA” came on to a roaring crowd response. Problem is, it wasn’t a new mashup or anything; rather, it was the original song that they gave a heavier bass line so that it would bump a little more—again, something that could be accomplished in two minutes on GarageBand. Granted, there was a brief segment where the Miley instrumental was mashed with “Drip Sweat,” but that only lasted some twenty seconds before the song was played by itself. What I found most entertaining, however, was how there was about two seconds of silence between the end of “Party in the USA” and “Kisses and Thugs” from All About the Scrillions came on (@1:23). We’re literally witnessing the two-second gap between songs on a burned CD. Also entertaining is the crowd behavior during this time as they collectively stop (even the cameraman’s hand steadies) and wait for the track change.

  • As I listened incredulously, the duo also played Girl Talk’s mashup of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” and dropped the beat at the same exact part, except the “beat” was not a masterful musical collage of Nine Inch Nails, Egyptian Lover, The Zombies, MC Hammer, and Tone Loc, but rather another GarageBand that served only to thicken the bass. Super Mash Bros were quite blatantly attempting to steal what is usually considered the climax of Girl Talk live shows and make some contrived recreation.
  • Davidson College and colleges all over America are dropping some $6K at a time so that two Pokémon-playing masturbation addicts can plug in their laptops that grandma bought them two Christmases ago and press play on iTunes.
  • We’re not talking Dan Deacon nerdy with Nick and Dick from Super Mash Bros; we’re talking girl-who-knows-every-Weird-Al-lyric-by-heart nerdy.
  • Should be sold in record stores right next to the Dragonforce display (obviously an analogical statement because it actually belongs nowhere near a record store; rather, it belongs in little Betsy’s cute Hello Kitty CD case between Smashmouth and Jock Jams).
  • This is precisely why old-timers complain about all the “young people’s” music when only some sixty odd years ago in their youth they were listening to the likes of Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller and other big bands with saxophonists and trumpets and improvisation and rhythm sections and musical talent—and now we have this drivel?
  • I’m ashamed to be associated with this for the sake of my own musical integrity.
  • Now, it’s not fair to isolate Super Mash Bros and place all the criticism squarely on them because, in actuality, this is a diatribe against the whole DIY mashup scene at large. The whole thing is a gimmick, a fleeting fad that just plays on this generation’s nostalgia for their youth—Space Jam? Fresh Prince? Jimmy Eat World?
  • As far as the concert listening party goes, it seemed to me like a manifestation of Freudian regression to youthful tendencies. I felt like I was at my 7th grade middle school dance—you know, the one where you dress up in your nicest Abercrombie outfit and mom drops you off around the corner and you get to touch Janey’s lower torso during that snowball dance. Or perhaps (the more likely hypothesis) the prepubescent atmosphere originated in the two “musical artists”—one of which sported braces—and spread to the crowd.
  • Now every rich white elementary schooler who has taken Mrs. Fickle’s music special every F Day after recess and mid-morning snack (yogurt-covered raisins and Fun Dip day!) can be a rock star. This is the same culture where DJ Hero is on every 10-year-old’s Christmas wish list, mind you.
  • This is novelty music. It has no place being slotted between sunset rubdown and the Supremes on my iPod.
  • Transitions practically nonexistent: Whereas Girl Talk will search for that perfect two-second tidbit from an otherwise-forgettable 1980s one-hit-wonder to segue into his next musical idea, Super Mash Bros just abandon that altogether and instead opt for clunky, abrupt song changes.
  • These guys are nonsense Girl Talk imitators. To argue otherwise is simply absurd. It would be like saying that the Beatles impersonation act at a corner pavilion in Epcot is better than Paul, John, George, and Ringo themselves.
  • The only point I will concede is that Super Mash Bros’ mashups incorporate catchier tunes, but then again, to accomplish this feat, all they’ve really done is visited’s archives and searched for the top charting songs in each year, found a rap song and a rock song with the same tempo and similar BPM, and tossed them together with a humorous title.
  • I guess my main beef with Super Mash Bros is the fact that they’re considered legitimate musical artists when, in truth, they’re glorified DJs. If the “concert” was billed a “DJ set” instead, this review would be far less scathing because, in all honestly, I do find their music enjoyable, but it wasn’t—it was advertised as a concert like what a TV on the Radio or a Sufjan Stevens or another legitimate musician or group of musicians would put on.
Please feel free to comment, and don't forget to tune in LIVE to the next episode of Muzjiks on December 1 from 8-9 PM using this link.


DJ TB said...

great insights. i was also disappointed by Friday's "concert." Though I thought many had a great time, for those who expect more from artists as they tour, it was a bit disheartening to find out that it was just the cd being spun in the 900 room. Again, i think (and hope) that the Mash Bros. have more in them than what they showed on Friday.

Colored Commentator said...

While the show was entertaining, I go to this same show at the court every weekend. You have your average mashups of today's best pop songs, your freshman girl dancing with whoever she can find, your 20 guys standing in the corner looking at the hottie, and 2-3 dance floor makeouts. I saw nothing spectacular about this show at all. What happened to the days when the Union Board got performers like The Roots, O.A.R., and Afroman?... well maybe not O.A.R. but the other two.

Manilakilla said...

Nice, but even if you think it's REALLY easy to make a mashup, it's the ideas of what goes into making those mashups. They intergrate the songs so that each one goes well with each other. It is very difficult to match 10 to 13 songs together and make them sound nice. It's the thought of the mashup, not the execution

Anonymous said...

haha what a jealous fag

tenaciousDJ said...

i agree with manila killa, not every harry potter-loving bastard out there can make a musical collage like these guys. it takes skill. btw manila killa i like your work.

Anonymous said...

Haters gonna hate.

manila killa said...

thanks tenaciousDJ!

The KiD said...

Amen! Took the words right out of my mouth.

Anonymous said...

maybe you were unaware that nick can play every instrument in an orchestra, has played live rock, jazz, and classical concerts, has written classical scores for theater productions, string quartets and operettas. you're entitled to your opinion, but know the facts, many people who have trained him consider him a musical genius. Can you claim that you are a genius when it comes to music reviews or anything else?

Anonymous said...

He is "aware that between the two of them, Super Mash Bros have significant technical computer know-how and traditional musical training (Interview with Tha Good Life)"

Wildcat said...

Hey Steven-
I'm a Davidson student as well and I just found your site randomly.. I think it's incredibly insightful and well-written.. I love the wry humor in this article; I laughed out loud at the line stating that any "Pokémon-playing masturbation addicts can plug in their laptops that grandma bought them two Christmases ago and press play on iTunes"

I agree that super mash bros weren't all that great at Davidson.. I was unimpressed to say the least

Anyway, keep doing what you're doing; you've done a great job combining your superb writing ability, sarcasm, and overt love of music :)

Anonymous said...

The only, and I repeat the only, way for this article to be effective would be for its author actually to make a mash-up track of his own. He can't just CLAIM mash-ups are easy; fucking do it yourself/ Otherwise, he just sounds like another Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, etc.-reject who landed his pretentious ass at Davidson and the best he can do to stick up for his intellectuality is pretend that his musical integrity still lives on.

Anonymous said...

str8t jealous poos, still on that haterade, you should make a 2:30 song which incorporates about 10 songs, and make it sound concert worthy.
see how long that takes, and write another article which doesnt sound like someone complaining

Chris De La Cruz said...

Thank you so much.
I saw these guys play at Dillo Day just last night and thought the exact same thing. I wondered as everyone sang to Party In The USA or "Space Jam" underlayed with every melody that had the same BPM if I was the only one in the crowd to see how hard they were exploiting the mash-up genre that Girl Talk has made an art. You're completely right. They are glorified DJs and if they left it at that I could have understood why they played "a few more tracks" rather than played an actual mash-up set.
Thank you again.

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