Album Review

Negativland – ?No Business? – [Seeland]

Hunter Gatherer   7/5/2005   A Library, CD

The Bay Area’s Negativland celebrate their 25th year as a recording entity with a special enhanced CD containing a video, a 56-page essay, and a whoopee cushion. (The latter two are not included in the station’s copy.)

The subtext of the CD and the straight up text of the essay and whoopee cushion is the conflict between the common cultural domain, copyright ownership, and technology that makes sharing copies of music and video easy. Copyright infringement is a topic that Negativland is no stranger to, due to their release entitled ‘U2.’ And with the recent Supreme Court decision about file sharing, this release couldn’t be timelier.

Negativland use their trademark humor to address these issues as they take hammer and tong and editing tools to found sound, artfully splicing it to crate new (and often hilarious) meanings.

1. Old Is New – cuts up Because by The Beatles and lets us know that the arguments and controversies we are being fed are the same old ones (previously used against cassette taping, VHS recording, and lately Google Print) with a new face

2. No Business – not even Ethel Merman is sacred to these technology savvy pranksters as the lyrics twist into ‘There’s no business like stealing!?

3. Downloading – the ‘serious? piece, featuring a hopelessly square Michael Green (in Al Gore mode) talking about downloading mp3s and bringing to mind 50’s scare films like Reefer Madness as sound bites float around his speech like angry hornets.

4. Favorite Things – one of my daughter’s favorite songs becomes a paean to light bondage and nose cream. A vast improvement, frankly.

5. God Bull – After Ethel Merman it is a short step to God, Who is instructed to commit suicide.

6. Keep Rollin’ – a commercial that had the misfortune of containing the word ‘reefer?; the least funny pot humor since ‘You put your weed in there? from SNL about 10 years ago.

7. Piece A Pie – hilarious cut up radio play from the 50’s that makes perfect sense within its paranoid, circular 3:00 a.m. logic.

8. New Is Old – back to The Beatles; in sonata form this would be the recitative.

9. No Business Again – Judy Garland pre-empts Negativland by rearranging the lyrics herself

Check out the video called Gimme The Mermaid. It starts out normally enough with a cat in a suit brandishing a red stick. Then Ariel, The Little Mermaid, appears with a voiceover provided by a Disney exec who threatens and berates the listener throughout. Then it morphs into Gimme Gimme Gimme by Black Flag.

Throughout this CD you can feel the strength of their conviction. And with the ridiculous copyright laws that were passed to protect Disney and other corporations, I am inclined to agree with them. But being passionate about something doesn’t automatically mean that they are right. I’m looking forward to reading the essay that comes with this CD.
–Hunter Gatherer

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