Comedy and music are wonderful bedfellows – witness the zany, seminal humour of Monty Python’s songs or the off-the-wall ditties sung on The Mighty Boosh – and Flight of the Conchords are just the latest in a long line of comedic groups to dabble in music. After working together for more than a decade, Kiwis Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement have become seriously hot property in the comedy world, thanks to their HBO series The Flight of the Conchords, and key to their success is that they’re not just able to trade witty repartees, but they’re adept at writing songs that musically stand up on their own (Bret is even a former member of The Black Seeds). With the first FOTC album, the songs had been many years in the making, as was the basic idea for the TV show in which they were used, which was in turn based on their BBC radio series. But with this latest album, all 13 songs come from the second TV series and the majority have been written only in the past year or two, and in some cases shoehorned into the episodes.
Where the men’s strengths lie is in their musical ability and being able to transfer this to aping bands and genres that they are a fan of. It’s easy to pick out which songs are supposed to sound like which bands – -We’re Both In Love with a Sexy Lady’ – R. Kelly; -Demon Woman’ – Cliff Richard; -You Don’t Have to be a Prostitute’ – The Police – and in this way, each of them is extremely effective. However, this can be quite problematic, as it means that FOTC don’t actually have their own -sound’ – sure, most bands are a mishmash of their influences, but in this case FOTC really wear their influences on their sleeve, and it’s hard to see past them.
Then there are songs like -Petrov, Yelyena and Me’, an old track which could be seen as nothing less than throwaway. If there was no TV series to back up these songs, this would be a very curious, messy album. But as it is, it’s hard to listen to a genius track like -Too Many Dicks on the Dancefloor’ without recalling Jemaine’s awkward dance moves during the scene where this song is played. The Conchords are extremely funny dudes – this is a given. And they’re very good musicians too. But their focus is on their TV show, and not on making albums – and it’s hard to see past that.
If, like me, you’re a FOTC fan and think that the songs are fantastic taken in context, you’ll really enjoy listening to this album and reliving your favourite moments. But if you’re expecting an album proper, you may be somewhat confused. Still, any men that can sing ‘All these bitches/checkin’ out my britches/put -em in a trance/when I wear track pants’ (-Sugar Lumps’) are cool with me.