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Dangerdoom - The Mouse and the Mask

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Artist: Dangerdoom

Album: The Mouse and the Mask

Label: Epitaph

Review date: Oct. 10, 2005

Listening to Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton's work, one might guess that he cut his teeth on underground mix shows, and one would be right. Around the turn of the century, before he'd collaborated with an MC, Burton hosted a wildly eclectic program on WUOG in Athens, GA, which got a class of pasty Pavement devotees hooked on M.O.P. rarities and Agallah's "The Crookie Monster." A similarly ambitious series of compilation CDs and dance parties followed. Soon after he graduated, the Mouse catapulted to world-wide fame with Ghetto Pop Life (which brought back the charismatic shape-shifter Jemini) and The Grey Album, a Jay-Z/Beatles mash-up more notorious than any remix since Negativland's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" (less so only because Burton didn't martyr himself over it).

The Mouse and the Mask may be Danger Mouse's furthest-reaching work of appropriation to date, but this time he's got his samples cleared. And what a haul of samples. At its rhythmic base, DM's music goes all the way back to DJ Premier's confrontational minimalism (try it at home: put a coat hanger in a dryer), but a dense world of information lives on top of it, and a flurry of random business rains down on that. This time, he leans heavily on samples from (and references to) Cartoon Network's Adult Swim (for which Burton was, at one point, employed). The scatological surrealism of MF Doom gets the catbird seat – who else would and could do battle with Master Shake and Meatwad? – but the disc boasts an all-star cast, from Goodie Mob's creepy, soulful Cee-Lo ("Benzie Box," with its "His naaame's…. Doooom" chorus) to Wu-Tang's pulp storyteller Ghostface ("The Mask") to the controversially smug Talib Kweli ("Old School," on which Talib boasts about not being a thug… finally!).

Like Paul's Boutique, The Mouse and the Mask is at times frustrating in its top-heaviness. Thank god it's got Doom. While Danger Mouse provides the creative juice, Doom anchors this thing aesthetically and psychologically. Those who know his solo records know his M.O. His delivery remains blunt and artless, invoking Notorious B.I.G. (with the blustery self-confidence replaced by un-self-conscious weirdness). His lyrics skip from stream-of-consciousness doo-doo jokes to goofy cruelty to absorption in the simple pleasures (food, sex, food) to wordplay such as "We'll be right back / After these messages / Fellas hold your nut sacs / Chicks squeeze your breasteses." To wit, he's childlike, more so than any artist geared toward today's adolescents. Adult Swim is the same way. Thus, The Mouse and the Mask transcends horizontally integrated marketing and becomes, like a mix show, a comparison of similarly disparate, deeply similar notions.

By Emerson Dameron

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