Flight Of The Conchords
Music is their radar. And it is forever sending them off in completely the wrong direction. Once you’d pieced together its unconventional concepts (New Zealanders in New York? An Office-style comedy with big musical numbers in the middle of each episode?), last year’s Flight Of The Conchords quickly became cult viewing. Spun out of a BBC radio show and much-lauded theatre act, the songs weren’t just tacked-on either – the Conchords arrived bearing instruments and built their sitcom around them. Bret McKenzie even had a previous 2004 album, ‘Prototype’, released as Video Kid – “a character trapped inside an electronic arena, where love and escape do not compute”. These two believed in the lost art of the spoof song.
The pair sing about their characters’ sad inadequacies, flights of fancy and super-banal musings with a laser eye for genre, mimicking everyone from Bowie to Marvin Gaye. What sets them apart is a real intellect for using the conventions of a genre against itself. It’s not just about clever wordplay, they genuinely understand the ironies of music’s dynamics. There’s the awkward pause after The Hiphopopotamus states “my lyrics are bottomless” on ‘Hiphopopotamus Vs Rhymenoceros’; the continual use of the ‘radio edit’ silence in between varieties of fruit on ‘Mutha’uckas’. There’s also an ability to inject the most trivial stuff into the most grandiose genres: the po-faced Pet Shop Boys rap about second-hand underpants (‘Inner City Pressure’), the ‘What’s Going On’ parody (‘Think About It’) whose spiralling lyrical contortions gradually bring us to “little slave kids making sneakers… which don’t seem that much cheaper.”
It’s got flaws, definitely, with the inclusion of a few too many lady-loving ballads at the expense of a more diverse fare like, say, ‘Albi The Racist Dragon’. But in the land of comedy records anyone who can sustain interest, let alone laughter, for nearly 42 minutes, is king. Somehow, even after you know all the punchlines, the tunes are solid enough to still bear pressing ‘repeat’. Oh, and the bit in the ‘Space Oddity’- spoof ‘Bowie’ about “receiving a transmission from David Bowie’s nipple antennae” will always spur laughter of the kind that ejects milk from the nose.