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DisPepsi

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Album Review

Negativland wasn't trying to pretend otherwise with Dispepsi — Pepsi, along with Coca-Cola and the whole conceit of advertising, went under the gun with the band's 1997 album. The open courting of controversy didn't pan out into as much attention as U2 (inadvertently?) gained, but heaven knows the collective had enough samples from commercials, speeches, and more to work with, and did. Nearly every song has to do with some sort of corporate branding, whether it's the deadpan lyrics about things like Hi-C and Hawaiian Punch on the semi-folk singalong "Drink It Up" or the nature of the Coke-Pepsi "wars" on songs like "I Believe It's L." As with Free, Dispepsi alternates between semi-straightforward songs and elaborate sample/tape loop constructions, where overload often means more than thorough coherence. Perhaps most unsettling in context is the continual run of various snippets from interviews and speeches from industry insiders and observers about the psychology of marketing. It all comes to a head with "Aluminum or Glass: The Memo," with the Weatherman reading an advertising memo about a planned ad campaign while backed by a hilariously mock-epic tune quiveringly sung by Hosler. Though the band's general fears and contempt for advertising and branding are clear enough here to make Naomi Klein happy — not to mention Radiohead — it's the wistfully off-kilter humor of the whole presentation that sugars this particular pill. "Happy Hero" may be about the phenomena of celebrity endorsements (Michael Jackson in particular), but has a weirdly cheery groove to it that suggests a new wave ad from 1981 — likely enough the point — while also including a hilarious fake censorship bit. Meanwhile, "The Greatest Taste Around" may yet be Negativland's best and funniest "straight song" ever, with cheery descriptions of "drunkards passing gas" and nailing Jesus up punctuated with chants of "Pepsi," all driven by a merry banjo-led lope.

Biography

Formed: 1979 in Berkeley, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Some will always say that practical jokers should expect retribution at some point. Others may note that within any joke there is some human truth. Still others will just want to enjoy the jokes as jokes and nothing more. Three differing statements, all valid truths when applied to one of America's most curious, clever, and inventive bands in the last 20 years of the 20th century and beyond, Negativland. Though named after a track by cult Krautrock band Neu!, who also inadvertently provided the moniker...
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DisPepsi, Negativland
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