Flight of the Conchords: Self-titled

By | April 22, 2008 at 6:37 am | No comments | Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Flight of the ConchordsEver since Jethro Tull beat out Metallica for the best-heavy-metal performance Grammy in 1989, the Recording Academy’s decisions have meant very little to people with half a clue about the record-making business. So it was no surprise that with a five-song EP, Flight of the Conchords — not Steven Wright — managed to snag Best Comedy Album honors last year.

But let’s not blame the Grammy folks for creating this two-headed comedy monster. It wouldn’t even be right to blame HBO, which, long before any Grammy nods, rewarded New Zealanders Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement with their very own half-hour special and weekly series.

Nope. The blame should be placed on the amazingly popular act’s dedicated and longtime followers. Having formed in 1998, FOTC is surely no overnight flash in the pan. They’re here to stay, no doubt, for many years.

The question that the duo’s first full-length release begs, then, is why is FOTC here to stay?

While their musical prowess proves far superior than any contemporary musical comedy acts, they’re certainly not offering anything overly innovative to the indie music community. And that would be perfectly acceptable if, as comedians, they offered anything innovative to comedy. But they don’t.

Most of the 15 tracks on their eponymous disc — three of which are on their EP — rely on the duo’s trademark dry, goofy sense of humor to pull laughs from their listeners. The shtick gets tired way too fast.

On “Muthauckas,” the boys rap through an admittedly catchy ditty, wherein they omit all-important consonants to naughty swear words like “fuck” and “shit.” Too much to wrap your brain around? Here’s the main hook to illustrate: “There’s too many muthauckers ‘uckin with my shi.” Get it?

On “Bowie,” the duo performs — you guessed it! — a song that sounds like a 1970s David Bowie tune. They not only lampoon the sonic style but also address Bowie directly, making jokes about his love affair for deep space — jokes that are 35 years late.

“Is it cold out in space, Bowie?” they sing. “You can borrow my jumper if you like, Bowie. Does the cold of deep space make your nipples get pointy, Bowie? Do you use your pointy nipples as telescopic antennae to transmit data back to Earth?”

And so it goes as Flight of the Conchords gracefully glide through 42 minutes of amazingly average jokes set to music. It’s been a popular sport lately to question why Dane Cook is as popular as he is. We submit that comedy fans should shift their attention to this pair and ask the same question.

About the Author

Dylan P. Gadino

Dylan is the founder and editor in chief of Laughspin. He launched Punchline Magazine in 2005 (which became Laughspin in the summer of 2011) with childhood friend Bill Bergmann. Dylan lives in northern New Jersey with his wife and two sons. He hopes the Shire is real.

  • http://shutup lol

    this is a retarded-ly biased article (by biased i mean, if you don’t like something perhaps due to personal preference you tend to find everything wrong with it and nothing right) and the entire piece reads like some kind of self-proclaimed comedy connoisseur with a stick up his anus. But that’s to be expected of critics and authors, I suppose. Clearly they’re better than all of us. He didn’t even acknowledge how difficult it is to write an original “catchy ditty” with lyrics that make sense? And you didn’t even review the act as a whole, you looked at 5 songs out of their entire repertoire, i don’t even know if you bothered watching their show or their live stuff, wrote comments about two of the probably least popular songs and draw your conclusion from that. That’s not knowledgeable criticism that helps anyone, that’s like me writing a magazine article about why I think Obama makes a terrible presidential candidate based on a youtube music video someone made about him.

    Don’t be so upset that your butt-buddy didn’t win a Grammy that you feel you have to write a scathing review on an act that isn’t nearly as bad as you make it out to be (You’re comparing FOTC to Dane Cook? The guy who flails around on stage and relies on people being drunk to get laughs? Like, really?). There’s always next year.

  • Dustin Perry

    Dane Cook is as popular as he is because there are a lot of dumb people in this country who eat up bullshit, lowest-common-denominator non-comedy like so much Xtreme Doritos.

    The Conchords are as popular as they are because Bret and Jemaine kick out hilarious, musically competent jams — whether on tour or on HBO — with a subdued but sharp comic sensibility. There are more laugh-out-loud moments in the “Banter” track from the “Distant Future EP” than their are in Cook’s entire body of work.

    That the Conchords beat out Steven Wright for the Best Comedy Album Grammy is not as shocking as the complete omission of Patton Oswalt’s “Werewolves and Lollipops.”

    In summary:
    Dane Cook = Bad.
    Flight of the Conchords = Good.
    FOTC’s self-titled album = I’ll tell you as soon as I get it in the mail, seeing as how I am still waiting for it to arrive after winning it in the haiku contest/giveaway on this very Web site … but I’m guessing: very, very good.

  • http://www.punchlinemagazine.com dylan

    Are Bowie references stale?

    Steve, it’s not that “Bowie references” are stale. It’s that writing an entire song lampooning something Bowie did three decades ago seems a bit ill timed. Bowie being into deep space isn’t really an evergreen topic.

    Does something have to be innovative to be funny? Does popularity require innovation?

    You’re absolutely right. Comedy does not need to be innovative to be funny; the same thing goes for popularity. What I’m saying is that if a comedy album isn’t going to be funny, then it should probably have something else going for it— namely innovation. I will say this. The CD packaging and artwork is outstanding.

  • Bryan

    I think my favorite line from the review would most likely be:

    “Most of the 15 tracks on their eponymous disc…rely on the duo’s trademark dry, goofy sense of humor to pull laughs from their listeners.”

    I think it’s completely true. It’s just like the way Jerry Seinfeld has to rely on his trademark observational style to pull laughs from the audience. Or the way all of those other comics have to rely on their trademark styles to get laughs. If you have to explain a joke, it’s not funny. But if you can analyze a funny joke – it can still be funny.

    Dylan is taking an extremely simplified look at the Conchords’ songs. It’s true that they edit the curse words in the song “Mother’uckers”, but to say that that’s the entire punchline in the song is like saying that Brian Regan is funny because of the faces he makes. It’s part of, not all of, the humor. Flight of the Conchords’ talent comes from well written music, funny ideas, and structuring the two to compliment each other. Most stand-up comics have to find the rhythm and timing for each of their jokes. The Conchords have to do the same while also making sure it fits into the particular song they are writing. Dylan even says that “their musical prowess proves far superior than any contemporary musical comedy acts”. Wouldn’t that be considered even slightly innovative? Patton Oswalt talks about dating, celebrities, pop culture; that’s not what makes him great. It’s the fact that he finds a creative way to talk about those topics.

    And so, in conclusion, it is my opinion that Flight of the Conchords write more than “average jokes set to music”. Let’s leave that title with Demetri Martin.

  • Steve

    Sure, everyone is entitled to his own opinion. Are Bowie references stale? I personally enjoy the way the guys can turn a phrase: “drawn in by its groovitational pull”=satisfyingly funny every time I hear it, so for me, no, not stale just because it is about an aging rock star.

    I think the range of music that they parody (and skillfully play) is impressive. Innovative? Not sure. Does something have to be innovative to be funny? Does popularity require innovation? These guys have definite musical talent, are quick-witted, seem personable and charming, and are apparently funny to many people. Why does that seem to piss you off?

  • Bill

    THANK YOU! I thought I was the only one that felt this way.
    I never understood these guys, nor found them funny.
    It’s sad to see HBO wasting their time with these guys.

    And I agree – at least Dane Cook is doing comedy. FOTC isn’t even doing that.