Big Beat, Atlantic
Prod. by Skrillex et. al
Full disclosure; I’ve reviewed Bangarang before. At the time, I focused on its song-by-song merits, and I found a lot of the album uncreative, too similar to what Skrillex had done before. But time has passed, and many of the songs I so despised on Bangarang are songs I warmed to over time. It was one of my earliest reviews, and I felt it was time for a re-evaluation.
The last time I listened to “Right In” must have been almost a year and a half ago; playing it again, it’s one of Skrillex’s absolute successes, with some fantastic synth details and vocal snippets. The dubstep movement (of which Skrillex is simultaneously described as the leader and the Antichrist) didn’t dominate pop music for more than a year or so, and so over-exposure to his style clouds the record less. It’s apparent that Skrillex’s real successes were generally in his contrast of wobble-bass and his treble synthesizers and vocal snippets, not in his (un)willingness to break from 4/4 or his use of the dubstep format.
Genre classifications are usually damaging this way; in trying to evaluate Skrillex for what he had done in the past and for his genre’s focuses, it’s easy to ignore a lot of what makes the album compelling. Rather than discuss whether Bangarang is “true dubstep” or “brostep” or “electro,” or worry whether “EDM” is actually dance music, or whatever, I’m gonna establish the term “electronica” for all music mostly focusing on synthesizers.
And, in that regard, Skrillex brings some real fire to Bangarang. “Breakn’ A Sweat” is a fun, simple track invoking high-energy Doors songs (albeit with samples from “Light My Fire”) and “The Devil’s Den” brings back the darker melodic elements of Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites. He combines rapper Sirah with the frenzy of “Bangarang” to fantastic fervor.
Some things don’t work quite so well, though; “Right On Time,” while a really cool experiment, runs about a minute longer than it needs to, with a build-up running through to its close that ultimately falls flat. “Kyoto” uses Sirah less effectively than its predecessor, and it’s musically pretty boring. The metal power chords on the same song are cheesy, though they lead to a pretty good ending breakdown. And “The Summit,” a very pretty omen of Avicii’s eventual radio domination and collaboration with then-girlfriend Ellie Goulding, is overlong, running out of steam a good two minutes before its close.
Still, it’s shocking how much of the album still holds up in a modern context. I wouldn’t call it “cohesive” (the first four songs match with each other in a way the last three don’t) but it’s a sonic playground all the way through. Whether Skrillex was the Brutus of the dubstep movement or it’s taking a short slumber, he delivered a pretty slick dance record in Bangarang, and one that will likely stand as a decent reminder of why we all listened to this stuff in the first place.
HIGHLIGHTS: “Right In,” “Bangarang” (ft. Sirah),
MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: “Kyoto,” “The Summit (ft. Ellie Goulding)”
CATALOG CHOICE: Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites
NEXT STOP: Disclosure, “Settle”
AFTER THAT: Susumu Hirawasa, “Paprika OST”