A former rallying point for "fair use" thanks to a legendary row involving U2, Casey Kasem, and a little dog named Snuggles, Negativland has lately had its copyright-terrorism thunder stolen by crate-robbing DJs like Girl Talk, not to mention the many other culture-jamming cut-ups it's influenced. Perhaps that's why the group's new Thigmotactic, a primarily solo effort from collective leader Mark Hosler, adopts the iffy "conventional is now subversive" philosophy by offering its first-ever album of genuine songs. Hosler has dabbled in balladry before—mostly in pseudo-jingles like "Nesbitt's Lime Soda Song," "Drink It Up," and "The Greatest Taste Around"—but it's still a bold move, considering that fans of Negativland's signature collage of context-free sound bites probably weren't clamoring for an entire record of musical interludes. And to his credit, Hosler is an imaginative arranger: Thigmotactic's schizophrenic blend of nitrous-oxide psychedelia, glitchy electronica, and bent indie falls somewhere between Yerself Is Steam-era Mercury Rev and The Halo Benders, providing an appropriately quirky background for his stream-of-consciousness lyrics about waffles, cows, and Herb Alpert. But nothing grates faster than quirk, and while the album's best moments still come from misappropriation—punctuating the lead-off track "Richard Nixon Is Dead" with Tricky Dick's exhortations of "poppycock"; dropping in a talk-radio squabble on "It's Not A Critique"—the substitution of preciousness for prankishness is destined to disappoint diehards and confuse newcomers.

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