MIRWAIS – PRODUCTION (EPIC/DAYLIGHT/NAIVE)
What it takes to make a good record is a debate for the ages. In the case of this reviewer, perhaps I’ve lowered some standards, but all I ask for is three solid tracks. Anyone can get lucky with one hit and given an infinite number of monkeys and an infinite recording budget, they can come up with a second hit and, before you know it, you’ve got Fush Yu Mang on your hands. Lucky for us, the infinite number of monkeys live in L.A. and often take stage names like McGrath, Jenkins and Collective Soul. (In an interesting aside, ladies on Metal-Sludge.com report that McGrath likes to be peed on. — Careful, don’t bang on the cage bars or he may hurl feces at you.)
What I mean is that Messrs. Jenkins, McGrath, Alexakis, Smash Mouth and Collective Soul and any number of others can write a hit song — hell, they can even write two — but which among them has had three hits on an album? None. They can only hope to spend some time away from the public and return with a shabby re-write of their other hit two years later.
What bearing this has on Mirwais is slim, but I’ve wanted to say it for some time.
Mirwais produced Madonna’s latest “effort,” Music. Like Orbit before him, now he gets to release a record of his own.
As I sat down with the Mirwais disc last night, I was instantly moved, literally. The first track, “Disco Science,” is everything beautiful about Gallic house music: steady, heady drums, foggy bass, weird electronic noises and little else. Soaring electronics dive-bomb the listener through the course of the song and Mirwais introduces some guitars to space it out. There’s three and a half minutes of this and then onto track two. One could ask for little more. (Incidentally, Mirwais, so you know you’re not fooling anyone, I sussed out that “weird electronic noise” as the distorted vocal from the Breeder’s “Cannonball” as soon as I donned the headphones.)
Track Two, “Naïve Song,” is more of the same with vocals. Like some tracks on the Mirwais-produced Music by Madonna, it seems a bit formulaic. But it’s a good formula. Mirwais’s vocals are nothing as annoying as Madonna’s and are tweaked and effected enough to keep this from being a pop song. Mirwais makes the mistake of including the most insufferable track from the Madonna album, “Paradise (Not For Me),” later on Production and kills his mystique and the hope that Music was just a cash grab.
The fourth track, “I Can’t Wait,” returns to the smoke machines and disco lights of “Disco Science.” It’s a page right out of the Daft Punk handbook — drum and single note bass line on every beat at the beginning of the song. The track is dancier than anything on Music. The little outer-space noises are pretty damn cool and like “Disco Science,” it leaves you wanting more.
Unfortunately, more is not to be delivered. The balance of the album fluctuates between slow experiments — which sound like mediations with computer software — and haphazard upbeat numbers. There’s a stab at garage “Definitive Beat” which is altogether too noisy to fit in with the rest of the record. There’s the aforementioned Madonna track. And curiously, there’s “Never Young Again” which sounds like a track created out of left over Music samples. There are the drumbeat of “Music” and some of its sound effects and the sampled strings of “Don’t Tell Me.” In addition, other superfluous noises come and go. As one might expect from a five minute collage of a Madonna album, there are good parts and bad. Unfortunately, the self-referential nature of the track prevents it from being heard as its own piece.
The conundrum of being a dance-music-producer releasing an album is one that few solve in any acceptable way. So far, none of the big names have followed the route of Daft Punk and Fatboy Slim (on You’ve Come A Long Way Baby) and released a wall-to-wall dance record. Daft Punk realized that house music is little more than a steady beat and a fluid bass line and stripped their music bare save these essentials which they repeated in 5 minute doses underneath different noises. Fatboy Slim should realize the same as his new record, full of too-clever production and bereft of the fun, stupid beats of Baby, falls on its face.
Like Basement Jaxx, Mirwais suffers under the illusion that his dance music audience wants to hear him make non-dancey noises. Or perhaps that’s not fair — perhaps Mirwais’s and Basement Jaxx’s record companies suffer that illusion. Epic should release a 12″ of “Disco Science” and “I Can’t Wait” and tell Mirwais to go back to the drawing board.
For now anyway, I don’t have to amend my determination that it takes three songs to make a good record. Mirwais has got two and a half.