Josh "DJ Shadow" Davis hasn't graced the pages of HHID for nearly four years. "Why does this fact suddenly matter?", you may be asking out loud like an asshole. Well, I feel that four years is entirely too long of a hiatus to take when trying to finish up the catalogs of hundreds of artists who I am now committed to, especially one who is such a critical darling within our chosen genre. So I figured today's as good a day as any to rectify that omission.
Of course, me being me, I'm not continuing the DJ Shadow discography by actually writing about the next album in the series, The Outsider. That project's time will come eventually. I'm betting on another four years.
Of course, me being me, I'm going with a write-up for a compilation of single edits and B-sides, after which I'll probably complain about a lack of cohesion on the album as a whole, because I'm kind of a dick.
Of course, me being me, I'm not going with the correct choice, which would have been Preemptive Strike, a collection notable for containing most of Shadow's twelve-inch tracks released between 1991 and 1998.
Nope, today I'm going with The Private Repress, a Japan-only "remix album" (Wikipedia was feeling especially generous) made up of b-sides and radio edits unleashed during the promotion of Josh's second full-length, The Private Press. (I see what you did there, album titling gods!) I don't mean that this project was merely only released in Japan, either; it was actually crafted specifically for that particular demographic within DJ Shadow's overall fanbase. As such, it isn't very easy to find in the United States. (The Interweb is your friend.)
Considering the fact that I enjoyed The Private Press (and Endtroducing..., while we're at it; hopefully this sentence will encourage some more discussion about those two albums, since the comments sections for both write-ups are relatively empty), and because I had completely forgotten this shit even existed until about an hour ago, I'm looking forward to The Private Repress as a vessel for an alternate-universe take on what a DJ Shadow album could sound like if he didn't have full creative control.
Fuck, that last sentence makes me not want to listen to this now.
I get it: DJ Shadow has a lot of fans in Japan. Can we please move on now?
2. SIX DAYS (SOULWAX MIX)
If you ever wanted to dance to The Private Press's “Six Days” but found it to be a bit too melancholy, I have just the remix for you. This upbeat number lays a much more energetic foundation underneath the somber sampled lyrics, and although this alternate take still doesn't solve the problem of the track itself not actually describing six separate days, it still fucking bangs. At the very least, this song will get you to clean up your living room that much faster, but you should throw it on at a party for its true intended effect: a guaranteed drunken lay. No, seriously, go ahead and try it. Couldn't hurt, anyway.
3. GDMFSOB (UNKLE UNCENSORED) (FEAT. ROOTS MANUVA)
The version of “GDMFSOB” that appeared on The Private Press (sharing an audio track with “Right Thing”, which also appears in an alternate form on this project) was essentially a censored instrumental, so the inclusion of British rapper Roots Manuva on this take (along with actual explicit lyrics, to a degree) already makes this version a wild departure from its source material. I'm not sure why this mix is credited to UNKLE, an act that Shadow was once a part of (but not during the recording of the original “GDMFSOB”, to my knowledge), but the beat is simple and dark (as opposed to the moody-yet-danceable feel of the original), as Roots Manuva slows down his flow to fit the music, which, by the way, was really fucking good. Shit like this is why the music nerd in me likes alternate-universe takes on existing tracks.
5. WALKIE TALKIE (EXTENDED RADIO EDIT)
Tacks on nearly a full minute extra onto the album cut, but I didn't mind, especially as it now sounds even more like a discarded Handsome Boy Modeling School outtake than ever before, thanks to the hard-as-fuck drums and billions of vocal samples laid throughout. Why, this shit sounded so great that you'll hardly miss the slickly edited-out cursing. No, seriously.
6. SIX DAYS (REMIX) (FEAT. MOS DEF)
Hilariously, this remix to “Six Days”, the second of two to appear on The Private Repress, could actually act as two simultaneous alternate takes, as Shadow elected to apply the somber lyrics to the “Walkie Talkie” beat. Raise your hand if you saw that shit coming, so I can call you out as a goddamn liar.
Yasiin Bey Mos Def doesn't
really add much to this remix (which also appeared on the soundtrack
to The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift, apparently) aside from the
experience of hearing him shout over some loud sound effects, but the
mash-up of “Six Days” and “Walkie Talkie” was interesting
enough, so hey, it's nice to know that this thing exists in the first
place, at least. But please, Shadow, fucking leave “Six Days”
alone now, okay?
The lone track on The Private Repress that isn't a remix or a re-imagining of previously-released material (it was originally a B-side found on the single for The Private Press's “You Can't Go Home Again”) is alright, but it's not real. Shadow lays down the samples fairly thick, composing what should be a dark, but hopeful, melody, but he crams a few too many electronic effects into the proceedings, causing “Disavowed” to ultimately go nowhere. It isn't the worst think DJ Shadow has ever recorded or anything, but we've all heard much better from the guy, so even though the experimentation on here is sound, this track is ultimately a nonfactor. I wonder if the song title is a reference to how Shadow actually feels about his own work on here. Hmm...
8. INTERLUDE (BY DJ KRUSH)
No, there is no actual musical backing from DJ Krush. Nothing to see here, folks.
9. RIGHT THING (TOKIO GHETTO TECH REMIX)
Starts off sounding like a third-tier Peaches song and then nosedives even further into complete irrelevancy. As a club song, this wasn't awful, but as a remix to The Private Press's “Right Thing”, this shit sucks: the only element this track shares with its inspiration is the title. I realize that Shadow didn't necessarily have any control over how other acts reinterpret his work, but he should have maybe “accidentally” tossed the master recording of this remix into a nearby body of water. Moving on...
10. MASHIN' ON THE MOTORWAY (RADIO EDIT)
Right, because this song would ever be played at any radio station outside of a college.
11. RIGHT THING (Z-TRIP'S “GET THE PARTY OFF” MIX IN THREE PARTS)
DJ Z-Trip fares much better in the “remixing 'Right Thing'” competition, because he not only honors the whole process that Shadow undergoes with each album (during the sampled monologue at the very beginning) and pays homage to Shadow himself with a few carefully-placed audio cues, but also because this shit was actually entertaining. The whole “in three parts” concept is pretentious at best, since it forces the listener to unconsciously isolate the different elements of the song and mentally create dividing walls instead of accepting it as a cohesive work (this ain't no “B-Boy Bouillabaisse”, after all), but that's really the only problem I had with this remix.
So I'm done, right? Can I go now?
The Private Repress doubles as an enhanced CD, containing the music videos for “Walkie Talkie” and “Six Days”, if you're into that sort of thing. Film buffs should take note: the clip for “Six Days” was directed by In The Mood For Love's Wong Kar-wai.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Well, that was interesting. DJ Shadow's The Private Repress proves itself to be an entertaining-enough trifle, but it's still a trifle. Hearing Mos Def rhyme over a modified Shadow beat may work for some of you, and the rest of you two may be enthralled by DJ Z-Trip's work, but for the most part, this is for diehard fans only. A couple of the remixes are decent, although they barely contain enough of the source material to even be classified as remixes. However, none of these songs accomplish what many folks like me have been able to do with Endtroducing... and The Private Press: the tracks presented here won't encourage you to write anything. The music rambles on, exceedingly annoyingly at spots, but none of it will ever get you into a groove, and the creative juices just won't flow. The Private Repress is the equivalent of the free CD artists used to send out to their fan club members in exchange for a UPC code and a check for shipping and handling; it's nice to have, and it shows that you absolutely are a much better fan of DJ Shadow than the next guy, but is it something you really need to have?
BUY OR BURN? It depends. If you're into picking up import CDs filled with radio edits and b-sides, then by all means, you should give this a shot, since a few of the tracks are just great. However, if you're part of the forty-seven percent of the country who believe that they are entitled to free music, then a burn may suffice. Besides, imports are expensive. I'm sure DJ Shadow will forgive you, as long as you promise to pick up a fourth copy of Endtroducing... to make up for it.
BEST TRACKS: “Six Days (Soulwax Mix)”; “Right Thing (Z-Trip's 'Get The Party Off' Mix In Three Parts)”; “GDMFSOB (UNKLE Uncensored)”