Appropriation: Neil Cicierega’s Mouth Sounds Trilogy

by | Oct 10, 2017 | Show & Tell

Neil Cicierga is a comedian, artist, and musician, known for his web series Harry Potter Puppet Pals, his musical works under the name Lemon Demon, and a creating a style of flash animation known as “Animutation.”

Recently, Neil has been gaining notoriety for something else; he has been producing mashup albums under his own name that consist of almost entirely appropriated sound clips. The first and second albums, titled “Mouth Sounds” and “Mouth Silence,” were both released in 2014, while the third, “Mouth Moods,” released earlier in 2017. These have been referred to as the Mouth Trilogy due to their titles and recurring use of the song “All Star” by Smash Mouth.

The albums grew out of Neil’s discovery that the Rock Band series of video games includes separate stems for every instrument in the game, allowing him to pull individual parts out of the songs. Most of the songs on the albums involve fitting the vocals of one track to the backing of another, and a good example from Mouth Sounds is “Bills Like Jean Spirit.” The track consists of the lyrics to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” over the backing track for Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean.”

Not all tracks follow this format though. “No Credit Card” only uses Huey Lewis and the News’ “The Power of Love,” while the track “D’oh” uses at least six distinct sources.

Neil has stated that Mouth Sounds was created to make people laugh, and also to offend the fans of the tracks that he used.

While Mouth Sounds has the reoccurring element of Smash Mouth’s “All Star,” it is replaced with the song “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind in the “prequel” album, Mouth Silence. Notable tracks that use this include the opening track “Goodbye,” and finale “Piss.” Despite this, All Star is referenced in various ways. The wispy wind sounds found throughout the album are actually samples from All Star slowed by 1600%, and the Morse code found in the album’s climactic finale “Piss” translates to “Somebody once told me.”

Mouth Silence also introduced “themed” tracks to the albums, tracks that exclusively use songs that mention a specific word. My favorite is the track “Best,” which includes samples from the Rockapella’s Folgers jingle, One Direction’s “Best Song Ever,” Tina Turner’s “The Best,” and the Pokémon theme song.

On January 23, 2017, Neil Cicierga released the most recent album in the series, “Mouth Moods,” which features much more involved mixes than the first two. The average number of sources is around 4.5 per track. This album’s recurring element is “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies, though All Star and Semi-Charmed Life make prominent appearances as well.

Notable tracks include “Wallspin” (Wonderwall and You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)), “T.I.M.E.” (Hans Zimmer’s Time from Inception with Y.M.C.A), and “Mouth Pressure” (All Star and Under Pressure).

All three albums have been met with almost universal critical praise.