Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Dan the Automator: Then and Now

So, several years ago, thanks to my discovery of the Gorillaz, I also discovered Dan the Automator. And, having discovered him, I found myself infatuated with his work, and the work of the other artists who surrounded him. While producing hip hop albums for the most part, his work never shied away from releasing its inner geek, and there didn't seem to be a concept project he was afraid off.

One of his first projects of note was his pairing with Kool Keith under the alias Dr. Octagon. Their album, Dr. Octagonecologyst, walked the fine lines between creepy and cool, hilarious and just plain stupid. Kool Keith's lyrics come off as both highly intelligent and just plain juvenile. It's still widely considered a classic of underground hip hop.

But, today, I discovered that there is a new Dr. Octogon album, The Return Of Dr. Octagon. But, this time around, Kool keith has dropped Dan the Automator and instead teams with Germany-based production trio One Watt Sun.

Sadly, this second album doesn't hold up as well. More unfocused feeling, I actually think that most of the blame lies with Kool Keith, who's lyrical delivery on this album isn't as inspired or charismatic. It wasn't so much that the album stuck me as bad, but just easy to ignore. Still, a couple tracks hold up, like the opener "Trees" and final cut "Eat It." And, the track "Dr. Octagon" (just to make things confusing) features an X-men reference... so for a comic dork like myself, that get's my approval.

Kool Keith isn't the only artist who's work has suffered since they've stepped away from Dan the Automator, though. When Dan paired with Faith No More's Mike Patton (and Jennifer Charles) as the group Lovage, the result album, "Music to Make Love to Your old Lady By," was both unique and entertaining. It was an album that managed to at time be sexy while also both making fun of and deconstructing what it is to be a "sexy album."

Recently, when Mike Patton released a new solo album called Peeping Tom I was hoping to see him revisit the same style. But instead, the resulting album just seemed unfocused and almost (shudder) nu-metal. I've tried listening to it a couple of times now, and I don't tihnk I've made it through it yet. A disappointment to me, even if I'm sure hardcore Mike Patton fan were still happy.

One Dan the Automator project seems to have actually flourished in his absense though: the previously mentioned Gorillaz. Their newest album, released last year, ditched Dan and replaced him the current producer/golden boy, Danger Mouse. The resulting album, Demon Days, proved to bring the right amount of evolution and freshness to keep the "virtual band" from collapsing under the weight of its own gimmick.

Still other Dan the Automator projects continue to tool along. His and Prince Paul's Handsome Boy Modeling School released a second album last year too. And while White People didn't recieve the same critical raves as their first album, So...How's Your Girl?, I still maintain that its an entertaining album. Listenable, if at time unexceptional.

Now, if Dan and Del the Funky Homosapien would just release a follow up to Deltron 3030, possibly his best album, I'd be happy.

Dr. Octogon's "Dr. Octagonecologyst"
Dr. Octogon's "The Return Of Dr. Octagon"
Lovage's "Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By"
Mike Patton's "Peeping Tom"
Gorillaz's "Gorillaz"
Gorillaz's "Demon Days"
Handsome Boy Modeling School's "So...How's Your Girl?"
Handsome Boy modeling School's "White People"
Deltron 3030's "Deltron 3030"

Egad! That was a long entry. Sorry about that.

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