(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

CD review - The Kleptones, 24 Hours (2006)

I've been meaning to review the Kleptones for quite a while. DJ "Eric Kleptone" creates mashups of pop, rock, and rap songs, with generous amounts of movie and TV sound thrown in. While there are tons of talented, witty mashup artists, the Kleptones stand out as unique, especially for their album focus.

My introduction to them was through Yoshimi Battles the Hip-Hop Robots, which was a song by song mashup of the Flaming Lips' Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots mixed with artists like 50 Cent, Blackalicious, and the Beastie Boys. A Night at the Hip-Hopera did a similar thing with music by Queen. This review will focus on their most recent disc, 24 Hours, which is a concept album where the songs represent the course of a day. Running through the hours, the collection tells a whole story, ending as it began in a dream state.

This is a double album (day and night) with 33 tracks, which is a bit more than the Moody Blues used for Days of Future Past. So, there are so many hot tracks that it's difficult to narrow down the list. The source songs cover a good 40 odd years of music, including artists from John Lennon to White Stripes. There an undercurrent of subtle self-deprecation and irony, with references to theft ("...even if it's for a worthy cause") and lame DJs ("...anybody could whip (this) up in 10 minutes with GarageBand). Sound bites from the movie Waking Life provide another common thread.

Here are a few highlights: 0810 - Down on Bennies is beautifully assembled with the vocals from Elton John's Bennie and the Jets paired with Rage Against the Machine's Down on the Street. The chords are nothing like Bennie, but they work with the vocals perfectly. I'll never listen to Elton John the same. 1100 - Casbah Ain't Easy layers David Bowie's It Ain't Easy onto Rock the Casbah by the Clash. The peak of disc one is 1600 - War of Confusion, with pieces of Stevie Wonder's Superstition, a couple of Peter Gabriel songs, and Edwin Starr's War. Except for the sound bites strewn through it, this sounds like it's of one piece. It's heavily political with bits of George W Bush's State of the Union address.

Disc 2 moves into the evening with a stop at the bar. Stevie Wonder's Uptight (Everything's Alright) rocks over Jet's Get What You Need to create 2100 - Uptight Jet. Things turn darker later on when 0205 - Drunk Machine crashes to an end leading to 2245 - If Not For the Ambulance Driver. The latter is a sweet balance of George Harrison and the Flaming Lips. Near the end, 0610 - We All Fall Through the Air provides a nice dreamy groove, bringing back Elton John, this time with Air.

Even if you're on the fence about the whole mashup thing, give the Kleptones a listen. Because of intellectual property issues, Kleptones CDs are not available in stores but you can download them for free from their site. If you like what you hear, you can contribute to them as you see fit.

What to drink? Black and Tan, of course.

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