Since helping introduce Kool Keith to a generation of happily freaked-out college kids with 1996's Dr. Octagonecologyst, super-producer Dan "The Automator" Nakamura has established himself as the closest thing hip-hop has to Elvis Costello. He's an incorrigible, brilliant smart-ass whose flair for genre-hopping, left-field collaborations, and reinvention suggests an expansive imagination and a severe case of musical multiple-personality disorder. For Gorillaz, Nakamura's latest concept album and supergroup, he traveled farther than usual from the hip-hop idiom, and he continues the process with Music To Make Love To Your Old Lady By, a cheeky detour into foppish pop, tongue-in-cheek trip-hop, and conceptual silliness. "Presented" by Nakamura's sharp-dressing alter-ego Nathaniel Merriweather, Music explores the world of romance, although with Nakamura in the director's chair, the album's take on l'amour has more to do with madness and death than roses and chocolates. Cleverly goofing on the already camp-inclined fop-rock of The Divine Comedy, Momus, and Serge Gainsbourg, Music casts Faith No More and Mr. Bungle member Mike Patton and Elysian Fields singer Jennifer Charles as Man and Woman in their most dramatic, archetypal form. Kim Novak and Cary Grant to Nakamura's leering, masterful Alfred Hitchcock, Charles and Patton play, respectively, a kinky femme fatale and a wolfish, melodramatic international playboy, although in Nakamura's smoke-and-mirrors world, identity is fluid and artificial to the point of meaninglessness. Charles and Patton throw themselves into their roles with lusty abandon, vamping over Nakamura's kaleidoscopic beats and Deltron 3030 alum Kid Koala's inventive scratching. Patton clearly relishes playing the role of a jaded, world-weary sophisticate, the sort of elegantly wasted lech who no doubt drinks absinthe and woos coeds at the same continental singles bar as Midnite Vultures-era Beck. As befits a quintessential producer's album, Music's best song relegates Charles and Patton to the sidelines, as Nakamura and Koala riff on the nature of love via a dense collage of soundbites on "Everyone Has A Summer," a track simultaneously ironic and strangely haunting. Terrific baby-making music for the irony-inclined, Music proves that while the left-field success of Gorillaz' "Clint Eastwood" may have made him the unlikeliest hit-maker this side of Baz Luhrmann, Nakamura refuses to play it safe or repeat himself. Given his track record, it would be foolish to expect anything else.

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