With their first two albums, Flight of the Conchords established acoustic parodies, multiple musical genres and outlandish songs as their signature style. They belted out jams on everything from robots taking over the world to ’80s rocker David Bowie trapped in outer space. And while they’re still using these crazy antics to write songs on “I Told You I Was Freaky,” the soft acoustics of previous CDs are noticeably absent.
On their first EP album, “The Distant Future,” an acoustic guitar and soft melodies were their go-to styles. Beautifully flowing chords graced most tracks (see “The Most Beautiful Girl In The Room”), with unexpected and uproarious lyrics following after. And while these types of songs are still present on their most recent album, the overall theme is digital, using their famed 1983 Casio DG-20 guitar and a recurring synthesizer.
Throughout this techno-esque CD, resident comedians/songwriters Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie maintain their keen sense of humor, making blunt and utterly hilarious observations. And while the genre of music they’re playing differs, the self-proclaimed “fourth most popular folk-parody duo in New Zealand,” keep their straight-faced comedy on hand in each song.
This humor is evident from the beginning with the first track “Hurt Feelings.” Reminiscent of the song, “Muthauckas” on their self-titled second album, this track is one of the catchiest and funniest on the CD. And it earns this because it equals out on a simple, yet effective equation that has consistently shown up throughout the Conchords’ song writing career — Funny lyrics + unexpected instrumentals = hit song.
Throughout the track, Jemaine and Bret rhyme about friends bailing on them, not complimenting their meals and not calling them on their birthday. While an artist like Jay-Z rhymes about his “99 problems” and the ladies he picks up, Jemaine states with that soothing New Zealand infliction, “No one thinks about the way I feel, nobody compliments the meal,” as he refers to his friends neglecting his cooking ability. In a time of rap songs reliant on cussing and boasting, it’s comforting to hear this rap that teases and laughs in the face of hard-core songs. It’s not only comforting, it’s downright hilarious.
The Conchords used the “let’s rap about everyday things” strategy on their first albums with the songs “Hiphopapotamus vs. Rhymenocerus” and “Boom,” but are lacking these types of tracks in their most recent. Instead, they are replaced by songs that sound like they belong on Lady Gaga CD, with plenty of heavy synthesizer hooks and whiny lyrics.
These faux-Lady Gaga songs have gained popularity on iTunes, but may upset true Conchords supporters. But even if they lose a couple of dedicated followers, their modern and youthful approach to comedy should bode well with fans.
In the ninth track, “Too Many (expletive) (On the Dance Floor),” this new approach is instantly made noticeable with a deep synthesizer intro, setting a futuristic, dance club tone for the rest of the song. While the heavy beat echoes, Jemaine proceeds to rant about how there are too many men on the dance floor, and not enough women. With each contorted word that escapes from their mouths, the humor builds. Sounding like a New Zealand T-Pain, Jemaine proclaims, “the only boobs I’ll see tonight will be made of origami.” Each word he says oozes with the band’s undeniable originality, as they make this comedy work in a seemingly electronic jam.
The techno strategy is spot on in this track, but it is ineffective in others. In the song “Fashion is Danger,” the humor is ultimately lost because the repetitive beat becomes tired and annoying as the song goes on. Consequently, it becomes a song you should skip. Throughout the album, there are many boring and comedy-impaired tracks that fit in this same category.
The main reason they earn this title is because the comedy doesn’t translate from their HBO series to the album. Some of the humor is lost when not seen in the context of an episode. But luckily, there is an abundance of songs that are relatable and universally funny, without the aid of live action.
One notably solid track is “Carol Brown,” which returns Bret and Jemaine back to their classic form, singing a soft yet humorous ode to Jemaine’s failed relationships in the past. The cleverly written lyrics truly make the song, just as they do in the bonus track, “Pencils In the Wind.” Like a classic Conchords love song, this track compares relationships to office supplies.
These soft love songs, not to mention the upbeat rap songs, never fail in producing laughs, but the cutting edge material receives mixed results. But despite the few poor tracks, the dry and utterly hilarious sense of humor overpowers all. And although I enjoyed the first albums more than this one, the third installment of the Conchords music saga is still worth a buy.
I mean, it’s only a few bucks, doesn’t the “fourth most popular” band deserve that much?