New Zealand duo packs big laughs into little plastic disc
The Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement have already done a comedic radio show for the BBC. They’re working on the second season of a hilarious television series for HBO. And they’ve made the whole world LOL. What’s left but to follow up their EP with a full-length that further immortalizes some of their funniest songs recorded? Part of this collection’s genius is the way the two Kiwis effortlessly weave between musical genres—past and present—while celebrating the catchiest and most instantly recognizable clichés of each.
On the Pet Shop Boys ode “Inner City Pressure,” Clement and McKenzie slip into their most flamboyant British accents to sing about lower-middle-class urban poverty and the confusion that goes along with it. Background synthesizers evoke the ’80s while McKenzie sings, “You don’t know where you’re going / You cross the street / You don’t know why you did / You walk back across the street.” The deadpan delivery and ridiculous wordplay of “No one cares, no one sympathizes / You just stay home and play synthesizers” elicits an audible chuckle on even the fourth listen.
The sonic quality of the disc is absolutely impeccable thanks to McKenzie and Clement’s exceptional musicianship and the production of Micky Petralia (Beck, John Cale). The music essentially acts as the “straight man,” and because the instrumental performances are are so faithful to their source-material inspirations, the playfulness of the lyrics tickles the funny bone with extra precision. If the quiet-storm funk of “Business Time” and lyrics like “I remove my clothes very, very clumsily, stripping sensuously over my pants” don’t get you, the sing-along chorus will undoubtedly win you over. This is top-flight stuff, and not just because I needed to glancingly reference the band’s name before signing off.