LEGENDARY musician Frank Zappa once asked in an album title "does humour belong in music?".
He certainly thought so (don't eat the yellow snow!), but humour in music is dangerous territory as it often leads to the novelty song - that funny-at-first type of track that generally becomes annoying and ultimately forgettable. After all, a joke becomes less funny each time you hear it.
But some humourous music stands up to repeated listens and so, in honour of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Musicology would like to honour five musicomedy albums that not only remain funny, but are musically cool as well, because, after all, that's what really keeps you coming back after the laughter has died down.
Flight Of The Conchords (2008)/I Told You I Was Freaky (2009) - Flight Of The Conchords
OVER the past decade these endearing Kiwi parodists have gone from cult favourite stand-ups to the stars of their own US TV series. Across two seasons they pulled together two discs worth of music, including a lot of songs taken from their live comedy routines. Some of the tracks worked better on the stage (namely Hiphopopotamus Vs. Rhymnoceros and Robots (aka The Humans Are Dead)), but their two TV show-connected albums are still great examples of their knack for spot-on send-ups - from faux-French pop (Foux Du Fafa), earnest Brit synth-pop (Inner City Pressure) and the works of Prince (The Most Beautiful Girl In The Room) and Bowie (Bowie) to poking holes in hip-hop bravado (Hurt Feelings), modern dance-pop (Too Many Dicks On The Dance Floor) and love/heartbreak songs (Carol Brown).
Fake Songs - Liam Lynch (2002)
PUPPETEER, director and multi-instrumentalist Liam Lynch first caught Australia's attention with this album's lead single - United States Of Whatever - which earned him one-hit-wonder status. But the rest of this forgotten album is awesome, carrying a garage-rock charm and showing off his diverse musical skills (he's plays almost all the instruments) plus a bizarre sense of humour (ie. a faux-gospel tribute to electricians). Highlights include the too-drunk-at-a-party rocker SOS and it's slurred sequel Still Wasted From The Party Last Night, plus his spot-on homages/fakes of Bjork, Bowie, Pixies, Depeche Mode and Talking Heads (hence the album title). Ringo Starr and Jack Black guest on the album and none of the songs outstay their welcome (the longest song is 2m33s). His later albums have tended to be more serious and have, sadly, largely been ignored.
Tenacious D - Tenacious D (2001)
NOT only is this album funny, but it rocks - and hard, thanks in no small part to drum legend Dave Grohl being on the skins. Part of the beauty is that a song like Tribute - the lovechild of Stairway To Heaven and The Devil Went Down To Georgia - is still an awesome rock epic once the laughter has subsided. The same is true of Wonderboy, Dio and Explosivo, and while the between-song skits becomes tiresome it adds to an over-arching story about guitarist Kyle Gass and the awesomely voiced Jack Black's tribulations on their quest to be the greatest rock band ever. The quieter songs are gold too, including the ironic ballad F*** Her Gently and strangely sweet pop-triumph Friendship, but the album's power is the (mock)rock energy pulsing through its core. Shame their movie Pick Of Destiny wasn't as good.
Monty Python Sings - Monty Python (1989)
WE'VE highlighted the best songs of the greatest comedy troupe ever in Musicology previously, and the place to find those tracks is here - a compilation of all hits, no skits. ...Sings is a brilliantly funny example of how broad Python's humour was. At one end of the scale are thoughtfully clever ruminations on existence (Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, The Meaning Life, Galaxy Song) while the other end is wallowing in a strangely educated gutter (Sit On My Face, Medical Love Song). In between is a wealth of absurdist magic (Bruces' Song, Eric The Half-A-Bee, Spam Song) and even social commentary (Every Sperm Is Sacred, Never Be Rude To An Arab, Money Song). But beyond the humour are some excellent arrangements, orchestrations and melodies, masked by some of the funniest gags ever committed to vinyl.
This Is Spinal Tap - Spinal Tap (1984)
THE soundtrack to the mockumentary of the same name, which summed up every rock 'n' roll cliche, manages to point and laugh at the naffness of rock with one hand while throwing the devil's horns with the other. The songs were constructed to rock hard before making you laugh hard and there are probably straight-faced rock albums out there that are funnier but which don't mean to be. But the genius of the Tap crew (Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and director Rob Reiner) is the subtlety of the humour admidst awesome riffs. Big Bottom is the most overt of the gags, but there's plenty to laugh about in the glam-boogie of Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight, the double-entendre-fest Sex Farm, the mystic mirth-metal of Stonehenge or the overly earnest America and (Listen To) The Flower People.