By Justin Cudahy, Columns Editor
[Sub Pop Records; 2008]
Original Release Date: 4/21/08
Memorable Tracks: “Inner City Pressure”, “Hiphopopotamous vs. Rhymenoceros”, “Business Time”
I’ll be honest, I was a little late to the Flight of the Conchords bandwagon when the group was at its most popular between 2007 and 2009. But then again, I was only nine years old when the show’s pilot aired on HBO and would have certainly missed about 98% of the jokes, humor and brilliance had I watched it then. I finally got around to watching the series a few years ago and can now confidently say that it’s my second favorite HBO show after Game of Thrones (duh.)
While comedy music has always been a very niche genre, those who obtain success often find it on a mainstream level. “Weird Al” Yankovic is probably what comes to mind to most people when they hear “comedy music” and for good reason. He’s sold over 12 million albums and won four Grammys, cementing himself as a legend in the genre. Tenacious D has seen great success since their rise in the mid-1990s, including a movie deal, a television series and three full-length LPs with a fourth one on the way this year. The Lonely Island has made their presence large on social media in the mid-2000s with their musical skits on SNL including “Lazy Sunday” which essentially helped launch YouTube’s success in 2006.
American artists seemed to be the only ones making any progress in comedy music with very little to no international presence. In fact, “Weird Al” and the members from Tenacious D and The Lonely Island all come from California. So, when a comedy duo from New Zealand began to emerge in popularity and started making a presence nearly 8,000 miles away from the U.S., there had to be something special about these two guys.
Flight of the Conchord’s self-titled album is essentially the soundtrack to its own show. Each episode uses two tracks from the record in context with the show, giving it a little bit more meaning. On the surface, “Foux Du Fafa” may sound like a basic speech lesson in French, but in the show, it’s the duo’s way of impressing two girls who work at a pastry shop. The visuals serve as a second layer to the music, accompanying its funny lyrics with an equally funny music video. This formula is something that Flight of the Conchords play to their advantage, which can be attributed to their success in the U.S.
When talking about just the music itself, each track on Flight of the Conchords has its own charm to it, a lot which has to do with the different genres experimented throughout. As mentioned earlier, “Foux Du Fafa” is a French song, from its lyrics to its acoustic instrumental. The track is followed by a very 80s and synth-only “Inner City Pressure” which is the complete opposite of its predecessor. “Hiphopopotamous vs. Rhymenoceros” is a rap battle between the two members performing under their “stage names.” Set to a simple and catchy acoustic guitar, the song is hilarious to listen to as both members struggle to create coherent verses, often ending in lines ending short leading to dead air. Other tracks in the album include a parody of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in “Bowie”, an Indian-fused psychedelic exploration in “Prince of Parties” and a heartwarming piano ballad in “Leggy Blonde”.
Looking Back: I’ve certainly learned to appreciate the comedy music genre the more I think back on this album. As I mentioned before, every song in Flight of the Conchords is radically different from one another, but that’s because they have to be. Comedy music is tough to get into already, so it’s important to keep changing sounds to keep a listener interested. This is something that applies to all comedy musicians, but I think Brett and Jermaine do it best.
I’ve also found myself opening up to the comedy genre and going out of my way to explore other artists in the field who don’t get enough credit, including Garfunkel & Oates, Filthy Frank and Ninja Sex Party.
But here’s the problem: Comedy music isn’t popular for a good reason. When you hear something funny for the first time, like a joke or a scene, you’ll probably laugh your hardest if you enjoy it. But, once you start to hear it more, the joke loses its comedic value. As a result, these songs lose replay value fast. Unless you love the instrumentals, why else would you want to hear the same joke over and over again? I don’t listen to Flight of the Conchords on a weekly or even monthly basis. What started as laughing out loud has now dwindled down to breathing out of my nose harder than usual during some songs.
As I mentioned before, a large chunk of comedy relies on the visual aspect of it. Passively listening to just the audio won’t produce the same effects of hilarity as opposed to listening and actively watching the music video that accompanies it. Fortunately, Flight of the Conchords does a fantastic job with their music videos (which come from the T.V. show), but it isn’t easy to produce a visual for every song on a 15-track album.
Since the release of their second album I Told You I Was Freaky back in 2009 and the ending of their show the same year, the group has been on hiatus ever since. Why did they stop making music? Well, it’s because they grew tired of it. According to Brett McKenzie, “It basically stopped being fun. It really wasn’t a decision about money. It was definitely a decision about enjoying our lives.” As a fan, that’s the worst thing you can hear.
Don’t worry though! The duo announced a tour for this year exclusively in Europe, including a new special on HBO. Hopefully, something like this snowballs into a future U.S. tour or even a new album. The world needs more of the Hiphopopotamous and Rhymenoceros.