Today in chance encounters:
And what about the calmly lascivious hayseed who provides the voice-over on the untitled funk fragment that goes in its entirety: “Maureen’s got five sisters. They all got ass. One of ‘em has eyes as big as Jolly Ranchers. Beautiful girl, she’s a beautiful girl.” What the hell is that, you wonder. What does “eyes as big as Jolly Ranchers” even mean? For that matter, what does the whole track mean? Why is it here? Yet the guy and his trope are both so paradigmatic, so weirdly normal, that after three or four plays you find yourself greeting it as warmly as the hook of “It Takes Two.”
But since one of the things that makes Endtroducing an art-rock record is its attention to placement, there’s no knowing whether the same bit would be as beguiling somewhere else. Its organic absurdism follows a selection from Shadow’s famous “What Does Your Soul Look Like?” and right afterwards comes the lyrical first theme of the very multipartite “Stem / Long Stem,” picked reflectively on a guitar or a keyb in drag. Heightened by the contrast, the theme’s yearning for the good and the beautiful is then accented with a triangle — only to be bombarded a minute later by a drum-machine chain explosion, interrupted by a sub-Lenny Bruce monologue about getting locked up in Long Beach (I now smack my lips over the strange phrase “while I’m awaiting to be heard on my traffic offenses”), then developed yet again. At 7:44, a nine-second pause precedes a piano coda that you keep waiting to evolve into the theme track and never does. And I’m leaving stuff out. And that’s just one track.
What I’m describing is a highly potent species of musical structure […] Shadow didn’t compose these melodies, and [to] call them “found” would be too easy—“discovered,” maybe, although it’s more accurate to say they’ve been accessed and reimagined. Because they’re so anonymous, they carry none of the wink-nudge intertextual referentiality of quoted bricolage, and though they’re nothing special to start with most of the time, they now give off the kind of direct aesthetic emotion that’s so hard to come by in this hyperconscious cultural era—an emotion you’d hardly expect to arise in such a formally pomo context. It’s plain enough that Shadow loves the disconcerting beats and impolite sounds of hip-hop and is no stranger to other ways of coping with musical alienation. But it’s just as plain that in his encyclopedic store of obscurities he recognized dreams and aspirations from another cultural place, dreams that want nothing to do with alienation except to vanquish it. I have no idea whether his ability to realize these dreams is a promise of cultural health or a mark of individual genius.
– Robert Christgau, Grown Up All Wrong: 75 Great Rock and Pop Artists from Vaudeville to Techno