Mouth Moods is extremely good

September 10, 2017

Alex Epstein

Neil Cicierega’s 2017 album Mouth Moods seems, on its face, a continuation of the usual treatment of music as meme. Anyone remotely familiar with ‘meme culture’ knows what Smashmouth’s “All Star” or Shannon Noll’s “What About Me” represent – mockery, ‘cringe humour’, a partially self-aware retrospective of the ‘00s, a decade littered with overambitious and easily-parodied music and movies.

 

But Cicierega stands apart from all of this. He distances himself from obvious and simplistic punchlines, one-watch YouTube Poops and Shrek greentext dramatisations. Mouth Moods is really, really great.

It’s an intersection of the nonsequitur and absurd, real production ability, steeped in relatable (I shudder at that word) millennial culture. Mouth Moods is really fucking funny to me, because I’m of a generation that once took this music relatively seriously.

Most of the featured music was originally produced in earnest. History repeats itself twice, as Marx said: first as tragedy, then as farce. It’s the apex of remix, a Baudrillardian simulacrum that brings consolation in a world that seems to make less and less sense every news cycle.

It’s part “fuck you”, part knowing-wink. Songs that invite parody like “One Week” or the Ghostbusters theme are put in new light, with a preservation of their core elements and what made them (kind of) good at the time.

But we are nauseatingly sick of most of these songs. Overplayed to the point that they lose their identity as music, many have become memes inextricable from the context we most commonly see them in: “Wonderwall”, insufferable-guy-at-party-with-guitar; “All Star”, Garry’s Mod Shrek videos; “Eye of the Tiger”, Rocky-mocking montage. The comedy, and the beauty, of Ciceirega’s work is in the deep ironic gap between the associations we give the songs, and their use as mere props.

But Neil is not satisfied with merely pointing this gap out. This is no amateur project or simple joke – it’s a discography that spans 3 albums, 56 tracks and 3 years. The amount of effort put into Mouth Moods, the fact that these tracks are not only listenable but actually enjoyable – it’s obsessive, and the core irony is in this gap, one that differentiates the album from mere YouTube Poop goofiness. The absolute gems of the album like “Bustin”, “Wallspin”, and “Tiger” are all fully produced, genuinely catchy tracks that invite replay.

It’s emblematic of “neo-sincerity” and “post-irony”; a fusion of gag and genuine, it’s postmodern, absurd, and at times surreal. It embraces the millennial cultural touchstones too often uncritically laughed at. It’s a triumph of “comedy music”: it genuinely, wholly synthesises both elements of the name. And for this, I say, well done.