Mr Oizo, oh Mr Oizo, it's Mr Oizo. I saw a tweet from Mr Oizo at some point in time before today (let's just say this one to be done with it) that said this Charli XCX collaboration called Hand In The Fire was going to drop sometime soon and well, yeah, it's today. It's arrived today, 14 days before Christmas, ho-ho-ho.
The headline and USP of this EP is the Charli XCX-featuring bit and it's what everyone's gone with:
- Pitchfork: Mr. Oizo Teams With Charli XCX for "Hand in the Fire"
- Stereogum: Mr Oizo – “Hand In The Fire” (Feat. Charli XCX)
- Pigeons & Planes: LISTEN TO MR. OIZO AND CHARLI XCX’S “HAND IN THE FIRE”
- The FADER: Mr. Oizo And Charli XCX Share "Hand In The Fire"
- Idolator: Charli XCX Returns To Springy Electro-Pop On Mr. Oizo Collab “Hand In The Fire”: Listen
- Beatport: HEAR MR. OIZO’S CURVEBALL COLLABORATION WITH CHARLI XCX, “HAND IN THE FIRE”
- The 405: Charli XCX features on Mr Oizo track, 'Hand In The Fire'
- NME: Charli XCX teams up with Mr Oizo – 'I was inspired by Ed Banger'
- Paper: LISTEN TO MR. OIZO'S WARPED TROPI-LEANING TRACK FEATURING CHARLI XCX
- DIY: CHARLI XCX IS WORKING WITH ED BANGER’S MR OIZO
- FACT: Stream Charli XCX and Mr. Oizo’s ‘Hand In The Fire’
And so on and so forth in different languages on multiple sites and blogs around the world (one of the middle ones, The 405, I wrote that one). Oizo and Charli XCX, boom, ruling the world and whatever. It shows that MR OIZO can produce for pop, that's one thing that it shows, and very well at that, of course of course: bass booms and cold skeletal low-end melodies and skiffly swaying beat with orchestra hits exploding, raw tom rolls for extra flavour, plus the hook in FX'd vox wah-wahing in the appropriate places.
Mr Oizo has collaborated with singers before, twice on Lamb's Anger (2008): with Uffie on 'Steroids' and with Carmen Castro, whom Oizo calls "a mysterious person", on 'Two Takes It'; and more recently with Marilyn Manson on 'Solid', which scared and worried me but it was fun nonetheless. None of these, however, overshadowed a whole release, which is the case with the Charli XCX collaboration – three other tracks appear on the Hand In The Fire EP, one of which is an instrumental version of the Charli-featuring title track so what's up with that?
What is up with that? What is the actual problem here? Is there even a problem? Maybe, maybe there is. Like, the instrumental version, although it's a nice instrumental like I said a couple of paragraphs above, does not excite me a great deal, like it's definitely been made with a conscious effort of leaving space to putt a vocal on top, making it with a cyclical formula in pop song format. The actual song 'Hand In The Fire' feels weird: here's a different scenario: This is a Charli XCX track and then it's revealed that the producer is Mr Oizo, nice yeah, it's a catchy tune, jostling and slithering — somehow that feels cooler and more natural than this in its actual obvious collaboration state. Why?
Because the other two tracks on the EP are sooo Mr Oizo you'd be a fool to miss how typically Oizo-sounding they are, and how similar they are in feel and speed, which many publications indeed seem to have overlooked, drooling instead over the "curveball" (misfit???) collaboration itself because Give Pop A Chance and because Pageviews Mean Prizes and because Dat SEO.
I mean, there's 'A Rekurd', which with all its unrelenting repetition of the eponymous sample – "a record, a record, a record" – and mad sirens is an intense dance track, ending with a simple juggernaut of overdriven crunchy kicks and the vocal sample itself, filled throughout with familiar creeping atonal arpeggios. But sitting above this both actually in terms of track number on the EP and also in my esteem is 'Being Flat': yaaaaa! This one is nuts, perfectly nuts, wtf does nuts even mean, it just came out, I'm sorry. It's that blaring dissonant menacing groove that is so comfortable and yet so nerve-singeingly body-affecting that you can almost feel the tiniest hairs on your body vibrating with it.
It's those little ad-libs to the beat, a slicing hi-hat thrown into the pattern; it's that ambient soaring synth break providing liquid gentle oasis between the hard jittering notes of the second part and the delicious substantial bass patterns of the first half. It's the robust sounds in the beat, thumping and full of texture. It's the crowd noises in the background, which add depth and effuse the placebo effect of feeling like you're at an actual party.
When these two tracks finished, and the instrumental 'Hand In The Fire' began to play I paused it. I PAUSED IT. Now all I have in my head is the Charli XCX collab and I'm confused at why I don't like it all that much if it's in my head? I guess labelling things really does change your opinion even before you've sampled such things.
"The medium is in the message": in this instance the message is Charli XCX song, clearly that is the case. The medium, however, via or as part of a Mr Oizo release, loads it with meaning and expectations. Association kicks in and, being a human being, I cannot help but be influenced by how things are packaged; everyone's perception of something changes depending on its delivery. If you don't know Mr Oizo, then cool, Charli XCX is working with someone; do a little google, oh yeah, this Quentin Dupieux, he's done some cool stuff, he's pretty well known – therefore Charli is held in even higher esteem. But for those who know Mr Oizo, or know and like Mr Oizo's music rather, having a Charli XCX song delivered through his musical output feels jarring, even wrong.
This leads me to conclude that this song, this EP with its typical and more digestible Oizo sound outside of the title track, is meant for those who are not well acquainted with the French producer or his music. At the same time, it's sort of fan service because both these tracks do not exactly push new ground for Oizo, serving as a nostalgic vessel for pre-existing Oizo-lovers; indeed as of this current moment, 'Being Flat' has had more plays than 'Hand In The Fire', showing that fans will find their way to the morsel they like the most and play it maybe a few times cause they love it and they gotta show someone else, too. Oizo fans get to see Oizo tackle pop production, and he does it well – perhaps the reason why the instrumental version is also included.
Charli XCX fans, on the other hand, get to hear a new and unique somewhat Santigold-sounding song and then, hidden behind the cover story, there's these other tracks from the same producer, buzzing but not too abrasive and instantly addictive for those with an ounce of dance-leaning tendencies in their souls. Everyone's happy.
Quentin Dupieux aka Mr Oizo also created a short film (seven 7 minutes) for RBMA entitled 'Being Flat' which is funny to watch, stars Flat Eric and Steve Little (from comedy series Eastbound & Down) and features the track of the same name, you can also watch that with your eyeballs below these words.