Forever the godfather of art-school cool, David Byrne sticks his head out for the first time in years, championing the allegedly "new" sound of blip-hop on his Luaka Bop record label. And in doing so, he opens himself up to the questions of sincerity vs. opportunism that he faced in much of his world music endeavors. The first matter to raise eyebrows is the title "Blip Hop," clearly appropriated from the Bip-Hop series of CDs released by the label of the same name. The statement The Only Blip Hop Record You Will Ever Need, Vol. 1 is hopefully a cynically reversed admission of guilt to those familiar with the more underground label. Second, the liner notes, written by Byrne, contain an extensive academic look at the sociological motivations behind this supposed musical trend. And while certain points are valid, much of the argument seems daft, particularly the basic assertion that the inward nature of the music is based upon the harsh climates of its breeding ground of northern Europe -- this despite the fact that the most high-profile artists found here, such as Germany's Mouse on Mars and Pole, England's Doctor Rockit, and San Francisco (!?) native Safety Scissors, all work in climates less severe than Chicago. Furthermore, none of these artists are particularly new to the music landscape, and their styles have been more or less accepted into already existing styles and subgenres. So, the question remains: Is Byrne toying with listeners? Is he really as arrogant and out of touch as it may appear on the surface, to believe he has uncovered a startling new musical movement? Or is he playing with the packaging in the same way these abstract artists play with the listener by contorting their difficult sounds and beats into a mechanized notion that denies the basic rhythmic and or melodic/harmonic patterns that are favored in almost all human music? The Only Blip-Hop Record You Will Ever Need makes things easy, whether you are an electronic music enthusiast eager to slam an old codger like Byrne, or merely a genre tourist looking for the simplest explanation as to why this is "cool." Either way, if the aggressive packaging opens this much-ignored genre to a wider audience, without ever compromising the music, then it should be considered a victory for both sides.
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AllMusic Review by Joshua Glazer