Feat (Decon, 2012)
by The Hood Internet
originally published at Dusted Magazine
Chicago mashers-up The Hood Internet have been beating the same drum competently enough, for long enough, that it feels irresponsible to say they’re doing anything wrong. Probably the worst you could say is that they’ve got the trap-rap-vs.-indie-rock mashup down to a science, in the sense that each of their hybrid songs appears calculated to elicit a recognition-based dopamine rush just big enough to distract from the fact that, most of the time, its two or three constituent parts have no reason to be anywhere near one another. Just go with it, you know? Ours are post-pure times.
Feat, the duo’s first album-length venture out from behind the curatorial console, essentially applies the same science to songs that hadn’t been written yet, songs that pit two or three currently ascendant B-listers (plus Kleenex Girl Wonder) against each other over Hood Internet production. The results, which are generally not very good, fall into the same aesthetic gray area as the majority of mashups everywhere: laudable ambition, misbegotten audacity. These particular songs affirm that the duo can construct some excellent club-hop bangers, and some pretty okay business-class indie-soul vamps, but suggest they still haven’t put any real thought into what, in the classical sense, constitutes a song.
Instead, that energy went into throwing a party and stacking the invite list with more guests than we could be reasonably expected to want to meet. Or, if you prefer, into organizing a music festival and forgetting to book any headliners. (The average Pitchfork album score of the participants is 6.7, which seems about right.) Surely on some level this is the point; the idea of taking a village to make a 36-minute album is, why not, one of those laudable ambitions. Musically, though, it doesn’t compute. Only the incoherent parts are what you would call memorable, and usually for the kind of ear-lurch triggered by the sudden inclusion of a rap break in a pop song or its equally ill-conceived converse.
That’s a pity for the guests involved, who for the most part make the respectable best of their 45-second intervals; some are forgettable and a few lousy (and a couple are just funny, including the Rosebuds’ raunchy turn on “Our Fine China”), but there’s plenty of above-average work here – some electro-pop preening from Class Actress, some come-hither boasting from Psalm One, a nice creep-and-scrub tradeoff between Isaiah Toothtaker and Show You Suck. What’s missing is the wisdom to combine like with like, or like with provocatively different; failing that, what’s missing is even the attempt to explain why A.C. Newman and any rapper would ever need to share a song. A sense, if you like, of how the album’s title is meant to earn its double meaning.
But then if the science holds true, Feat doesn’t really need one. All things considered, especially if you include the wry modern-life detail of most of its lyrics, this affair feels targeted very narrowly at those members of the quarter-life crisis generation whose tastes are receptive to exactly this hodgepodge of familiar-enough tropes and true-enough slogans without a master narrative. Case in point, “Won’t Fuck Us Over,” a conscious-rap thinkpiece about the upcoming election that sucks the emotion out of the hook from The National’s “Mr. November”: it’s an abomination, but there are those people who will think it’s clever and rousing and a worthy soundtrack to the next few months, and they won’t be wrong.back