January 30, 2013
Danger Doom - Occult Hymn (EP) (May 30, 2006)
In 2005, the Cartoon Network offshoot Adult Swim, in association with Epitaph Records, released The Mouse and The Mask, the first collaborative effort between producer Danger Mouse and producer-slash-rapper-slash-his own impostor MF Doom, whose name I apparently refuse to write in all caps, thereby diffusing the lone comment that will eventually accompany this post. It was met with critical acclaim, predictably low sales, and a cult following, not unlike the Adult Swim programs that it advertised, most of which are no longer on the air, but that's the risk of writing reviews on older projects, I guess.
In 2006, hoping to expand their reach into the dorm rooms of stoners the world over, Adult Swim released a free follow-up, titled Occult Hymn, because it rhymes with Adult Swim and that's funny, right? This EP was compiled using remixes, random skits that may or may not have been recorded for the original project, and a couple of original tracks that sound instantly dated, which can be a good or a bad thing, given your personal preference.
Although Danger Doom has promised a proper follow-up to The Mouse and The Mask, eight years later one still hasn't materialized, and nowadays Adult Swim is a much different channel than it was when Danger Mouse and Doom were staying up late at night watching it for inspiration. Adult Swim has since moved on to promote other artists (usually the folks whose music appears on their omnipresent bumpers during commercial breaks, such as Flying Lotus, El-P, and Killer Mike, among others), and Danger Doom has followed suit: Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton has hit production gold, working alongside such acts as The Black Keys and Jack White, while Daniel "Not Danger Mouse" Dumile still releases sporadic albums that I have yet to actually write about, none of which seem to live up to his early-career promise as a part of KMD and with his own Operation: Doomsday.
Occult Hymn is essentially what the last dying breath of an era would sound like if it were scored by Danger Mouse.
Sounds fun, right?
1. SKIT #1
An unnecessary obstacle placed between the listener and the first actual song on Occult Hymn. Maybe you'll find it interesting to hear Master Shake impersonate a character from Squidbillies, an entirely different Adult Swim program, but I don't care for Squidbillies, so this rap album intro did less than nothing for me.
2. EL CHUPA NIBRE (REMIX)
I suppose it's fitting that the first actual song on Occult Hymn is a remix to the first actual song on The Mouse and The Mask. Danger Mouse's instrumental bangs in nearly every way that the original track could not (and the first version of "El Chupa Nibre" is still a pretty decent song, mind you), with Doom's nonsensical lyrics (which, admittedly, run coherently when transcribed, but each bar hardly connects with those surrounding it) flowing like the rapids, pummeling your subconscious until you're forced to admit that Daniel Dumile just might know what he's doing behind the mic. This was pretty goddamn nice.
3. PERFECT HAIR II
The first of two original songs on Occult Hymn is a sequel to The Mouse and The Mask's "Perfect Hair", a track that was hardly demanding any sort of continuation. Doom coasts along Brian's beat, his tendency to have all the ending syllables of each bar rhyme with those on its partner coming off as more annoying as usual, especially at the very end of his performance. Just like its predecessor, "Perfect Hair II" is destined to go the way of the show that inspired it: it will suddenly vanish from your life (or your iTunes playlist) and you won't even notice that something is supposed to be missing. Bleh.
4. KORN DOGZ
The only song on this EP that is actually an original idea, if any sample-heavy MF Doom or Danger Mouse creation can ever be considered truly "original". As rap songs go, this one is pretty bland: "Korn Dogz" proves that Doom clearly ran out of steam during the original recording sessions for The Mouse and The Mask and had intended for this outtake to never see the light of day, and had it not been for Adult Swim's need to brand itself, I wouldn't be writing about it today. Danger Mouse should have kept this one locked in a vault buried within the deepest ocean on a furthest planet from Earth that he could find on short notice.
5. SKIT #2
This ridiculous skit is Daniel and Brian's attempt at putting together a goofy Adult Swim show of their own, and it is actually kind of funny, although it will get old very quickly if listened to repeatedly. The silly dialogue paired with the actually interesting musical backing lend this interlude a level of credence that one wouldn't expect: as such, this really should have appeared on The Mouse and The Mask, if only to prove to the audience that even Danger Mouse and MF Doom realized that most Adult Swim programming is inherently absurd. I recommend that you let this one play all the way through, but just the once, as you will then grow depressed that most of the notable Adult Swim programming today is live-action short-form shows such as Childrens Hospital and The Eric Andre Show, neither of which I have any complaints about, so stop spreading those rumors already.
6. SOFA KING (REMIX)
I enjoy listening to remixes as much as the next reader, but not every rap song ever made needs to be remade.
7. SPACE HO'S (MADLIB REMIX)
I'm still convinced that this is the real version of "Space Ho's" and not the remix, as it is labeled, since the lyrics on this version and from The Mouse and The Mask are the same, and Madlib is referenced as a producer on the album version (although the beat is credited to Danger Mouse). Anyway, 'Lib's instrumental instantly warps the listener to a time when all late-night talk shows had cheesy-as-fuck music playing as their respective theme songs: it's very easy to picture Johnny Carson (R.I.P.) walking out from behind the curtain to this score. But as a song, it's merely alright: since Doom's lyrics are the same, the overall effect of the track is fairly rote. If anything, it's now a bit easier to catch all of Daniel's references, I guess. And just like that, we're done.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Danger Doom's Occult Hymn EP has two things going for it: it's short, and it's free. But neither of those traits should be read as actual selling points, as there isn't any real reason for Occult Hymn to exist. Had Adult Swim pressed up copies and placed this EP in stores, I would consider this to be a cash grab-slash-tax write-off. Danger Mouse's new beats hardly reinvent the wheel: only one track, the remix to "El Chupa Nibre", proves that there's still life in the Danger Doom concept. The rest of Occult Hymn is as tired as most of the now-defunct programs referenced on here. If you enjoyed The Mouse and The Mask, you may be tempted to discover just why I think this project sucks, especially since it's fucking free, but I'm going to have to ask you to turn around right now. There is nothing to see here. Move it along. Just walk away.
BUY OR BURN? Or don't walk away, I don't care which. While there is no need for this to ever fill up valuable space on your hard drive, it's a bit more difficult for me to argue against "free", so do whatever you want. Just don't come crying to me when you realize the truth.
BEST TRACKS: "El Chupa Nibre (Remix)"
MF Doom and Danger Mouse both have additional entries on the site. Click their names and read up.