Five Years Later: Skrillex's Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites

Photo Credit: ROBOTO

About five years ago, during the time I discovered La Roux and other outside-the-box artists, I stumbled upon a dubstep EP by a producer named Skrillex. Instantly, I fell in love with the bass-heavy, obscure-sample-having project, being a child of Baltimore Club Music and the like. It was the first project under the dub genre (if you want to call it "brostep," that's your prerogative. But I still consider this project to be dub) that I listened through completely, mainly because I needed something to keep me awake during work (being 22 in an office can be tiring, regardless of who you are) and because it was catchy.

I'd listened to electronica before, had a couple deadmau5 tracks in my iPod, listed Daft Punk as one of the best groups of all time, and enjoyed other EDM-based groups and projects in spurts. But SMaNS was the one that opened the dub floodgates for me, and probably others, for better or worse (since you have "purists" saying that dub isn't real EDM, dubsteppers considering their music GAWDLY--and therefore unable to be critiqued, and so on).

So, in honor of its fifth anniversary, I'd like to revisit the project and see if it holds up or if it was a project that was, as WATTBA may be to some, more about the moment. Keep in mind that I'm only discussing the original EP, not the remixes of "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites."

The project begins with "Rock N' Roll [Will Take You To The Mountain]," which sounds like someone took country rock, dancehall, and electronica, put them into a blender and served up the results after about 50 seconds. Personally, it's one of my least-favorite Skrillex tracks, mainly because of the pitched sample, but the breakdown around 2:26 makes it worth sitting through the 2:25 before that. Additionally, the chillout around 4:00 is beautiful, since it completely deconstructs the song up to that point. It definitely sets the tone for the project: in-your-face, speaker-destroying bass, and layered tracks.

Up next is the title track. There's not really much I can say on it which hasn't already been said. It's pretty much the quintessentially early 2010s dubstep track. However, the actual lyrics lend well to the next track.

"Kill EVERYBODY," in the wrong company can make you look crazy. I mean, its only lyrics are "I...want to kill...everybody in the world...[random adlibs]...I...want to eat your heart." It's Hannibal in dubstep form. Now, I've seen interpretations of the ad libs actually saying "L O V E." So, if that's the case, it ties in with the title track. How? Both track deal with love being a scary-ass MFer (if we take that interpretation). Either way, the transitions on this track as nice and still sound fresh today.

Next? "All I Ask of You," featuring Penny/Pennybirdrabbit, who I never knew what she looked like until recently.

Yet another love-friendly song. Looking back at this EP, I'm realizing it's more about love than just "running away from the BS." Well, it is, in some ways, still about running about the BS.'s more "stop running away from the BS" versus "let's use these tracks to run from the BS and just get in our chill zone for a while." While sparse on lyrical content, this is actually a pretty mature project.

"Scatta" comes on and takes listeners from the love and drops us into a lyrical warzone with Foreign Beggars. It feels more like grime than straight-up dub, which is a welcome change from the rest of the project. I'm kind of surprised that this wasn't a single, but then...not. UK rap still has a hard time catching on outside the states, since, at times, it has more of a electronic feel than what most rap fans are used to. The irony is this: rap now sounds more electronic than ever...but, eh.

The EP closes out with "With You, Friends [Long Drive]," a six-minute chilled-out track. It's possibly the best way to close the chaos surrounding love--and this EP. We end it off with a somewhat reflective track. The melody keeps you into the song when the lyrics fade.

So, after revisiting SMaNS, front to back, I've got to say that it's a more in-depth project than some give it credit for. Yes, it's become slightly cliched, since people'll often say "oh, I love Skrillex" and assume that saying such automatically gives them a pass to be initiated into the electronic music scene. But, it's still a great project that's held up, so far, against the test of time.

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