Kiwi duo’s creative integration of comedy and music will leave no side un-split, no foot untapped
By Tegan Phillips
Artist Name: Flight of the Conchords
Album name: I told you I was Freaky
Genre: comedy, folk, sub-pop, rap, indie
Released: online, to iTunes only
“Some people say that rappers don’t have feelings. We have feelings. Some people say that we are not rappers. We’re rappers. That hurts our feelings when you say we’re not rappers”
– Flight of the Conchords, ‘Hurt Feelings’
With the release of their latest album, I Told You I Was Freaky, musical comedy duo Bret McKenzie and Jermaine Clement run dangerously close to losing their fringe appeal, as the 13-track strong collection –characterised all the way through by the group’s signature deadpan humour – threatens to prove irresistible for the mainstream masses. In line with the traditional Flight of the Conchords style, the spectrum of genres covered in the album is as broad as the quality of the music is high – whether you like pop, hip-hop, a cappella, indie, acoustic or techno –you’re sure to find something here to keep you entertained. That is, so long as you have a taste in terms of humour for anything a little drier than American slapstick.
Originally hailing from New Zealand, Clement and McKenzie initially marketed themselves as the country’s ‘third most popular folk-parody duo’. Their popularity quickly increased as the international audience developed a taste for the musical style of the denim-clad nerds and their unconventional lyrics, such as – “She’s so hot she’s making me sexist. Bitch” and “They’re turning kids into slaves just to make cheaper sneakers, but [then] why are we still paying so much for sneakers when you got ’em made by little slave kids – What are your overheads?”. In more recent times they’ve been described by Los Angeles Times journalist Katherine Turlich as New Zealand’s biggest export. Since their first album in 2002, the band has been part of a comedy show on BBC radio, created their own American TV series, not to mention been nominated for several Emmys and won a Grammy.
As the most recent addition to their list of impressive accomplishments, I told you I was Freaky displays the particular skill with which the pair abandons entirely the facades of macho manliness that permeate modern music culture. While even the wimpiest of contemporary boy bands can be accused of entrenching prescribed gender roles in their lyrical assertions of protection and masculine devotion, Clement and McKenzie use their failed attempts at winning over women to invert gender stereotypes with hilarious results. The second track on the album, a bass heavy hip-hop creation entitled ‘Sugalumps’, focuses on the exclusive appeal of male anatomy – “they look so good that’s why I keep them in the front” – while the “autobiographical rap” entitled ‘Hurt Feelings’ deals with ‘guy issues’ of being skinny and ignored by friends and family. “The day after my birthday is not my birthday, mom”, proclaims a mockingly indignant Clement.
Although some of the album’s songs can be classified as parodies, such as “We’re both in love with a sexy lady” (parodying R Kelly’s ‘same girl’) and “Demon Woman” (parodying Cliff Richard’s Devil Woman), there is plenty of original content, some of which can only be described as the experimental pop equivalent to MDMA – particularly track four, from which the album title is taken. However, both McKenzie and Clement are talented musicians in their own right (McKenzie’s tenor solos are particularly hypnotising), which keeps Flight of the Conchords in a class above that of common popular spoof artists such as The Lonely Island, Richard Cheese and Weird Al Yankovic.
The entertainment provided by what CCN’s Shannon Cook aptly described as ‘the pair of quipsters’ is without a doubt comedy at its finest. If you’re feeling bored, curious, adventurous, or you’d just like some advice on how to get free soup from girls or on what to do when there’s a problematic ‘dance-floor bro-ho ratio’ – find a way to get hold of this album. Freaky? Maybe. Hilarious? Definitely!