drewbob: Return-Path: Date: Fri, 29 Aug 1997 14:59:09 -0400 To: xian@netcom.com (Christian Crumlish) From: Andrew C Robertson Subject: Re: Dozin' at the Pepsi...Corporate blasphemy >this made me think of dis pepsi Me too. I just finished this.

As a longtime diehard Negativland fan, I was overjoyed to hear that the Bay Area's over-edged ensemble was preparing a recording on a "Pepsi" theme. But in no way did this prepare me for the riotous laugh-fest to be found on their latest CD, Dispepsi. (The title of the CD appears nowhere on the packaging or on the CD itself; to avoid possible trademark infringement problems (no doubt they are still smarting from the U2 debacle) the title is anagramically scrambled in various ways wherever it's printed.)

The first time I listened to this disc was on a work night at 1am with the headphones on (most Negativland recordings are best appreciated when heard through headphones) and there were people sleeping nearby, so I had to suppress any audible laughter. I was unsuccessful. In fact, I think I hurt myself. (I kept it together through track 4, but track 5 pushed me "over the edge", and track 6 had me in uncontrollable hysterics despite the fact I was awakening people.)

Certainly I'm not an unbiased reviewer. Negativland is my favorite "funct" (as opposed to defunct) band. I'm a completist; I have all their "major" releases (and bought 'em again when they came out on CD). I've even seen them live twice, a rare thing for an east coaster like myself. Their output has been directed primarily to a miniscule audience of noise-appreciators - people who are entertained by tuning across the AM band at night are candidates for Negativland fans. Before Dispepsi, the Negativland album cited as being their "most accessible" was invariably 1987's Escape From Noise (the cover of this album touts it as "a milestone in the evolution of the word 'accessible'"). But now Dispepsi is the recording of choice when introducing people to this bizarre group of media-skewering iconoclasts. There are no less than 4 "real" songs on Dispepsi (previously, the closest they got to a "real" song was "Nesbitt's Lime Soda Song" on Escape From Noise and "Four Fingers" on 1983's A Big 10-8 Place. And, surprisingly, these new songs succeed as songs, working musically, lyrically, satirically and parodically. It is almost as if Negativland is saying to the world "here's a glimpse of what we could have done if we'd bowed to conventional song-form...and aren't you corporations mad that we don't write funny songs to your specifications?"

Now, there's still a lot here that would upset the more narrowly-focused mainstream music fan. Some of the songs are material that could win them some mainstream popularity, but as one friend of mine put it there are "still too many honks, blats and strange noises". To a Negativland fan this is par for the course (too many? how could there be too many?) but the uninitiated may react to some of the tracks like someone once reacted to A Big 10-8 Place: "How can anybody listen to this?" There is the usual multisource noise barrage through much of Dispepsi, but the stuff they throw in there is hilarious, pricelessly so. To properly appreciate this recording (and all those wonderful honks and blats), it must be experienced with headphones. The editing and layering is masterful, and each successive listening reveals previously unnoticed subtleties. Different parts will stand out depending on whether one is using headphones or speakers (don't neglect those headphones - can't put too much stress on that...). Even the packaging is entertaining, down to the tiniest liner notes which include the new Negativworldwidewebland address (they've moved from UNC to their own server) http://www.negativland.com/, where you can enjoy all kinds of amusing and enlightening tidbits along with a discography and mailorder information.

Now, to the disc itself. You pop the top on this can of cacophonous comedy with Track 1 "The Smile You Can't Hide", a multisourced introduction that might make some think "here we go with another typical Negativland CD..." but if they can make it through those first 94 seconds they reach the surprising "Drink It Up", a wickedly clever and funny array of plays-on-beverages that Pepsico could use as successful advertising if they were hip enough. The comment that follows "how great was that? was it worth your money?" could be seen as directed to the listener, or to a Pepsi executive. Track 3 "Why Is This Commercial?" is a more "traditional" Negativland, but Track 4 "Happy Hero" is a countryesque ballad that has its tongue so far in cheek stitches might be necessary. Watch out, Garth Brooks. This has the best song ending I've heard since Zappa ended a song with the word "fade" on Uncle Meat. Track 5 "A Most Successful Formula" is my personal favorite. I don't want to give anything away that might ruin the surprises of this track, but I recommend not listening to this for the first time while driving or operating heavy machinery or you risk accident caused by convulsive hysterics (even more perilously funny with headphones). Track 6 "The Greatest Taste Around" is an upbeat Pepsi Negativanthem and this track alone is worth the price of admission. The next five tracks (7-11) are again back to more "traditional" Negativland (i.e. abandonment of traditional song form), but Tracks 9 and 11 are set to driving techno dance beats and might thoroughly screw with people's heads if played at an appropriate time at a rave or even a drunken dance party. Track 12 "Aluminum Or Glass: The Memo" manages to successfully synthesize their usual multisourcing, distortions, the Weatherman (David Wills), and a well-constructed song that simultaneously parodies and pays tribute to the form it satirizes. Then this gem of a CD concludes with "Bite Back", musically brilliant and an important indictment of advertising and the consumer culture.

There's a slim chance that this CD, like 1991's U2 Negativland, will disappear as a consequence of being too subversive. As the back cover says, "legal contents have not settled during shipping". I'd buy this CD now, rather than waiting 'til later, though I suspect they probably do have all their legal ducks in a row on this one. Ricardo Montalban might object, but I doubt it. He's such a nice man.