MUSIC: Negativland


I t's nice to see our leading musical culture-jammers, Negativland, still playing with letters--particularly after their 1991 release appropriated the letter U and the numeral 2 (both still in public domain), thus bouncing them into a legal mess with the lawyers for a certain multiplatinum rock group. This time, though, they're protecting themselves. In fact, you'll have to call a special hotline to learn the actual name of the group's new record--that is, unless you can unscramble the letters yourself. (Hint: It's Dispepsi.)

But Negativland aren't just playing word games; indeed, they're engaged in nothing less than a battle for public control of our environment, fighting to liberate mass culture from the hands of commerce. And what better institution to target with their infamous barrage of manipulated media sound bites and musical parodies than the maddeningly ubiquitous advertising assaults perpetrated by the American cola industry? As Negativland note in their album credits: "All of the cola commercials that were re-used in this recording attempted to assault us in our homes without our permission."

In true "subvertising" fashion, IPSDESIP looks as much like a Pepsi product as is legally possible: The front cover appropriates Pepsi's lettering style and logo, and the back looks like a "nutrition facts" box ("total fat 0%, fair use 100%"). But, more than previous Negativland releases (particularly those culled from their Over the Edge radio show), IPSDESIP doesn't neglect its goal of making good music. Besides mocking the idiotic "cola wars" and vapid product/celebrity worship that make endorsements so effective, such fake jingles as "Happy Hero" and "Drink It Up" work just fine as catchy novelty music. And while electronic collage constructions like "A Most Successful Formula" and "The Smile You Can't Hide" graft Ricardo Montalban and Michael Jackson cameos in a manner less musical, they're still plenty fun.

The group may not be saying anything particularly new or deep--we already know advertising is bullshit. But a little reminder doesn't hurt, especially when it sounds this good.

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