Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Danger Doom - The Mouse And The Mask

Driving up to the massive hospital complex I was struck by the enormity of my surroundings and the problems concealed within their walls.  Two days ago I had been urgently summoned to the hospital, the psychiatric ward to be specific, to aid with a new patient's diagnosis.  A week prior this patient had appeared on the hospital grounds seemingly out of nowhere.  Amazingly the brilliant doctors working there had all come up short in their efforts to determine what sort of ailment plagues him.

"Doctor Penfold, thank you for coming."
"My pleasure Doctor.  Has anything changed regarding your patient?"
"Unfortunately not.  He still speaks in riddles and nonsensical statements that neither myself nor my staff can decipher.  Would you like to rest a moment before seeing him?  Your trip must have been rather taxing."
"Don't worry Doctor.  I was able to sleep on the plane and I have all my wits about me."
"Very well.  Right this way."

The Chief Psychiatrist led me to an elevator that took us up to the ward's fourth floor.  Upon exiting the elevator I was led down a maze of hallways under bright fluorescent lights.  We finally arrived at our destination and the door to the patient's room was opened.  I entered the room, and the strangest conversation I have ever been a part of began.

"Hello.  My name is Doctor Penfold.  What's your name?"
"Alright, when I say your name, you say here. And we will assume 'here' is short for 'Here I am, rock you like a hurricane.'"
"We can talk about music later, but right now I need to know your name."
"Yes, and I need a prehensile tail so I can grab onto things like a monkey."
"If you don't want to tell me your name out loud perhaps you'd be willing to write your name on this piece of paper?"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa...Lois this is not my Batman glass."
"Alright, we'll move on.  How are you feeling today?"
"It's like a koala bear crapped a rainbow in my brain!"
"I see.  How do you suppose that koala bear produced that rainbow?"
"You don't need a machine to make a rainbow for rainbows are made of happy thoughts and dreams and chocolate unicorns and gumdrops and licorice sunsets and fuzzy gum drop bears and chocolate covered chocolate gumdrop land..."
"Chocolate gumdrop land sounds like a magical place.  How old are you?"
"I'll be dead long before you were born and I'll be dead long before you'll be dead."
"Hmmm, that must make you..."
"Did you get...that thing...that I sent you?"
"I'm afraid I haven't received any packages today, no."
"You are expendable.  That oven is not!"

Understanding crept over me like the rising tide.  I excused myself and quickly left the room to inform the Chief Psychiatrist of my findings.
"Doctor I know what has happened to your patient!  At some point he went on an adult swim into the depths of his psyche."
"Can he be treated?"
"I am confident we can help him, but the treatment is unorthodox.  Someone get me a stereo and an auxiliary cable!"

Hey oh waveriders!  It's classic appreciation time once again.  Which album is featured inside the spotlight today?  Why it's The Mouse And The Mask from Danger Doom of course!  Yes, it's true.  I'm writing about an album that sounds just as crazy on paper as it does through speakers.  Don't believe me?  You will shortly!

What exactly is Danger Doom?  Good question.  Back in 2001 the evening programming on Cartoon Network was replaced with something new called [adult swim].  As the title suggests this new programming was intended for more mature audiences.  Slightly more mature audiences anyway.  Fast forward to the year 2005.  Producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse and celebrated emcee MF Doom collaborate directly with [adult swim] to produce an album inspired by the various shows aired under their banner.  Importantly the album contains a slew of original contributions from beloved characters from those shows.

So let's review shall we?  What we have with TMATM  is a hip hop album celebrating cartoons made for young adults featuring a guest list that is mostly made up of actual cartoon characters.  Oh yeah, this has classic written all over it!  When the album was released I remember debating with myself whether or not to pick it up.  At that time I had never heard MF Doom, and the only thing I knew about Danger Mouse was that he had put out the Jay-Z/Beatles mashup The Grey Album.  Sure I liked a couple of the cartoons on [adult swim], but I certainly couldn't be accused of being a rabid viewer.  To top it all off I was still in the infancy of my hip hop fandom.  Everything considered, I have no idea why I decided to buy this album...but I did.  Perhaps it was pre-destined?

Whatever the reason was behind my procurement of TMATM I am forever grateful.  This album is spectacular!  It was spectacular then, and it remains spectacular now nearly ten years later.  Every aspect of this album works.  The production is pitch perfect.  It's organic and varied, with a distinct vintage feel.  The rapping is creative and clever, perfectly in tune with the crazy subject matter.  Here is a taste of the insanity.

And we'll be right back, after these messages / Fellas grab your nutsacs, chicks squeeze your breastesses / We ain't all that grown, it's still funny / Like, going to the store on your own with rainbow money / Since then had an insane flow, sonny / Walkin' to the corner rhymin' in the rain, nose runny / Break dancin' maybe ten, bummy, is when SUB-ROC would run up handspring / Arabian somee! Ooh wee, like a Hong Kong Phooey kick / Or a weekend afternoon, karate movie flick / Slept good, no justice, no peace / Woody kept it hood, never discussed it with po-lice / Shot the fair one nobody ran to get the gat / Or felt they had to put it up in they raps to set it phat / And since when lyrical skills had to do with killin' a cat? / What type of chitlins is that? / The Super Villain as the bat, hide your tonic / Whoever willin' to ride, provide raw chronic

Most impressive of all is that all of the guest spots from the cartoon characters never lose their charm.  I still find them as amusing as I did when I first heard them back in 2005.  In fact one particular sentence spoken by the character Master Shake still finds it's way into conversations with friends and family sometimes.  Those recipients in the know chuckle and smile, while the others just think I'm continuing to lose my mind.  It's a trade-off I'm willing to make.

Waveriders, if you're one of those folks who already own this fantastic album then you know what I'm talking about.  If on the other hand you are a music fan who had no idea this album existed then you are in for a treat!  Get to listening and enjoy!

- Penfold

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