Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Better Late Than Never Reviews: Turtleneck & Chain - The Lonely Island

Sorry to all of our devoted fans on Google Images - wow, y'all heads really enjoy Chinese food, huh - for a slight break in content. We were on a short hiatus for the July 4th holiday, but we are now back for what is going to be a veritable explosion of content.

First up is a review of the second album by comedy rap trio, The Lonely Island. The group, consisting of comedians/comedy writers Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer, is almost certainly more famous among the populace for the digital shorts they create for Saturday Night Live, but on their sophomore effort they prove to be just as deft with their ability to manufacture strong hip-hop beats.

Several of the songs will already be familiar for people who watch network television at 11:30 p.m. on the day before Sunday. "I Just Had Sex" is a hilarious paean to the thrills of coitus, featuring Akon in a well-executed guest spot. Michael Bolton makes a terrific impression on "Jack Sparrow," a thumping club track with frequent interruptions for the formerly long-locked troubadour's feelings on the obscure art-house flick starring Johnny Depp and Keira Knightly. And then there's "Threw It on the Ground," an uproarious take-off on many rappers' tendency to drum up paranoia over innocent societal mores. For instance, the narrator gets incredibly peeved when his girlfriend hands him a cell phone and tries to intimate that it's his Dad. Obviously, Samberg, in the rapper role, gets very inflamed because his "Dad's not a cell phone." Completely understandable miscommunication.

Of course, these songs have the benefit of coming with a visual, which helps drive both the jokes and the music home. How effective would their work be if not accompanied by a video? Well, as was the case with their first full-length, Incredibad, the boys prove quite capable of making enjoyable stand-alone tracks. The closing duo of "After Party" and "No Homo" is particularly strong. The former, which features a guest spot by reggae-influenced songstress Santigold, would not seem out of place on pop radio if not for the lyrics about finding a giant fish and f*cking his brain out. Meanwhile, "No Homo" is an extremely effective satire of macho rap culture with the authors defensively claiming "no homo" while making proclamations like "I like the way your shoulders fill out that shirt" and "I know every line in Mystic Pizza." Also, it has an extremely thumping, rearview-mirror-rattling beat.

As for songs that offer more comedy than backbeat, I found the purposefully cloying "Japan" to be a highlight. The song about "three white d0uchebags in Japan" apes kiddie pop via a band shooting a video in Tokyo just so they can see the city while diverting the expenses to their label. Also effective is "Mama," which masquerades as a typical hip-hop ode to Moms, only to devolve into a free-for-all when the rappers' Mom keeps poking her head in to see how the recording is going.

One quick word about the worst part of this album: Every time you get into the consistenly listenable tracklist (did I forget to mention the title track, which is both hilarious and catchy as hell, with a solid contribution by go-to guest rapper Snoop Dogg), it seems you are forced to listen to a dreadful skit. Most rap skits are useless at best, abhorrent at worst, but these guys seem to be especially bad at creating funny ones. Since the skits on Incredibad were also a debacle, I suspect that this is meant to be a meta-comment on the horribleness of rap skits (on the other hand, if they just think this stuff is funny, they need to check themselves). But all it serves to do is detract from the trio's better-than-expected lyrical and performing chops. As a friend recently said to me, "songs" like "Falcor Vs. Atreyu" and "Watch Me Do Me" are the absolute reason iTunes was invented. Unless you are a completist, you will want to delete this nonsense from your listening device.

I stopped watching Saturday Night Live a long time ago. Maybe it was the fact that their "skits" were proving to be pretty dumb as well. As for their side jobs, the output that these guys continue to put on the proverbial wax merits continued monitoring.

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