By Amy Ryan
Updated December 21, 2005 at 12:00 PM EST
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Hope you were one of the thousands who got to hear American Edit during the few days it was available online. A mash-up of Green Day’s American Idiot album with countless other pop staples, it’s easily the most ambitious mash-up CD since DJ Danger Mouse introduced Jay-Z to the Beatles on The Grey Album. (In a spooneristic nod to that collection, the artists behind American Edit dubbed themselves Dean Gray. Actually, it’s San Francisco radio jock Party Ben in collaboration with Aussie producer Team9.) The album hit the Internet on Nov. 18; predictably, the copyright lawyers at Warner Music (Green Day’s label) pressured its removal just 10 days later.

On Dec. 13, Dean Gray fans organized a one-day online protest, a la the ”Grey Tuesday” action that helped popularize Danger Mouse’s similarly illicit anthology, in which the Internet was flooded with American Edit MP3s. The point seems not to have been to get the lawyers to back off but merely to give Dean Gray’s work more exposure. To publicize the event, organizers sent out hundreds of CDs to the media — at least, I think they must have, because even I got one.

Having listened to the disc, I give Team Gray credit for inventiveness and an encyclopedic pop knowledge. The tracks often go on too long after they’ve made their initial point (Yes, Green Day’s ”Holiday” has a similar beat to Gary Glitter’s ”Rock and Roll Part Two,” I get it.), but they make up for it by adding several other tracks into the mix (Turns out ”Holiday” can also mesh with the Doctor Who theme song and the Timelords’ ”Doctorin’ the Tardis”). ”Boulevard of Broken Dreams” gets mashed up with Oasis’ ”Wonderwall,” Travis’ ”Writing to Reach You,” and for good measure, Aerosmith’s ”Dream On” (via Eminem’s sampling of same in ”Sing for the Moment”). It’s all pretty funny, if over the top.

”At some points it’s laugh-out-loud funny,” Party Ben tells MTV News, ”because we’re showing people how Green Day just stole some riffs.” That’s pretty rich, an anonymous mash-up DJ and target of a a cease-and-desist order calling out musicians for stealing. Of course, when you do it creatively, it’s not theft, it’s homage. It’s easy to argue that what rock bands and rappers do with some very basic building blocks (it’s inevitable that Green Day are going to echo some pre-existing chord changes when they’re working with only three chords, which is about two more than, say, Kanye West uses) is more than mere theft. One could argue the same thing about a magpie as industrious as Ben, but not as persuasively.

In any case, I’m not sure whether Ben’s goal is a critique of Green Day, an artistic statement of his own, or just a careerist calling card. He tells MTV he hopes American Edit leads to a gig like the one Danger Mouse got working with Gorillaz. He’s already got one prominent fan in Green Day frontman Billie Joe, who tells MTV he thinks Dean Gray’s work is ”really cool.” Too bad his own lawyers don’t agree.

If you’ve heard American Edit, what do you think? Brilliant synthesis? Canny publicity stunt? Both?

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