The novelty comedy record is a tricky path to tread. It's fun on your initial saunter, then maybe again with a friend it might still hold some of the same appeal, but soon after these initial promenades, this little path will rarely be trodden again. This can't, however, be said for Sub Pop's most genius release to date. The HBO series Flight Of The Conchords told the story of 2 musicians from New Zealand, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement who, with the (mis)guidance of their agent Murray, go to New York to try and make it big. In the all too short half hour episodes they usually treated us to a couple of songs that really had little to do with the plot but were a sheer joy to behold. Dealing with such complex themes as ATM charges, racist fruit sellers or supernatural visits from bygone era David Bowie, the songs took on a myriad of musical genres and were never short of hilarious. Knowing that the songs came first and HBO built the series around their narrative makes this album even more valid and having just completed my 27th listen it's still as sharp as ever.
Not only is the comedy album a tough gig, but to take these songs out of the context in which they were originally experienced (i.e. the elaborate fantasy settings Bret and Jermain found themselves in in their made-up rock n roll success story), really puts their audio comedy to the test. The result is a deeper appreciation of their writing. Each song is so loaded with gags that in this format one is able to marvel at nugget after nugget of well crafted comedy. Hiphoppopotamus Vs. Rhymenoceros was an early favorite on the show and it retains its title here. With lines like Jemaine's "Yeah sometimes my lyrics are sexist but you lovely bitches and hoes should know I'm trying to correct this." and when, after Bret's statement, "other rappers diss me, saying my rhymes are sissy, why? Why? " Jemaine interjects, " be more constructive with your feedback," you start to marvel at how these two white Kiwis manage to totally ridicule a whole hip hop genre so charmingly. Other highlights include Jemaine, on Think About It, pondering the state of the world where slave kids are forced to make sneakers but the sneakers don't seem to get any cheaper, exclaiming at the top of his voice: "What are your overheads?" or the binary solo on the fabulous Robots. It's hard to pick a favorite but Business Time hits the spot every time. The phrase for letting your lover know when it's time to make "sweet weekly love" must soon find its way into the dictionary, and after making enough love for two... minutes what better way to end it than to tell your partner "business hours are over baby."
The problem I've found with this isn't its lack of repeated listen appeal but its potential to ruin just about every genre of music there is. Its spot-on parodies and razor-sharp observations will serve as a kiss of death to the afore mentioned hip-hop genre, Serge Gainsbourg, Dance Hall Ragga, Kraftwerk, The Pet Shop Boys and most certainly David Bowie. Since the TV show I've found it hard to listen to the final minute of Radiohead's Down Is The New Up, due to its striking similarities to these guys. But the destruction and ridicule of pop history is a small price to pay, so I urge you all to succumb to Bret and Jemaine's "groovitational pull" and check this out.