Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Lonely Island's "Turtleneck & Chain"


Ever since my review of Louis C.K.'s Hilarious, I've tried to be mindful of how often I throw around that adjective. Louis was right: Our society throws around "hilarious" like we did the word "awesome" in the 80s. We call everything hilarious, whether or not it is remotely humorous. Since then I've stopped myself a number of times in every day conversation. Someone would tell me a mundane detail of their day ("Today I saw a car just like mine on the road") and I caught myself almost responding with a "That's hilarious". It was quite the eye opener when I realized I was one of the people C.K. was talking about.

With the release of Turtleneck & Chain, the latest project from The Lonely Island (made up of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone), "hilarious" is now allowed to re-enter the vernacular.

This album is truly and completely the definition of "hilarious."

Once again, the tracks are composed of in-your-face over-the-top rap songs whose production quality easily matches - and maybe surpasses - anything being released to radio today. In fact, you wouldn't realize these songs are on the cutting edge of comedy albums until you gave the lyrics a listen.  The first cut, "We're Back!", gets things going and there are no apologies. The Lonely Island is determined to let you know they have returned with full-force braggadocio, boasting about their malfunctioning junk. And when I say "junk," I mean...well....this is The Lonely Island. You know what I mean.

The album is being released on May 10, just a couple of days after Mother's Day. Appropriately - or probably inappropriately - there are two songs dedicated to mothers. "Motherlover" made its debut on Saturday Night Live last year and it's nearly impossible to listen to the song and not picture Samberg and Justin Timberlake strutting in their horrible 80s-inspired outfits. "Mama" takes the standard Ode-To-Mom tribute and turns it on its ear with - I'll say it again - hilarious results.

Like any music project, there are some tracks that I will more than likely skip when they pop up in iTunes in the future (the title track "Turtleneck & Chain" and "Trouble On Dookie Island" are pretty good at skewering the current hip hop sound, but lyrically didn't do much for me. "Shy Ronnie 2: Ronnie & Clyde" is basically just a re-hash of the first time Rihanna popped up in a Digital Short). Most of the tracks, though, demand multiple listens if for no other reason than to catch the lyrics missed the first time around because you were laughing so hard. It is interesting to note that one of my favorite Digital Shorts of all time, "Threw It On The Ground," isn't nearly as enjoyable as an audio-only track. Without the slo-mo shots of cake and phones smashing onto the pavement, the song just sort of sits there.

The guest appearances on the album are impressive. The afore-mentioned Timberlake and Rihanna as well as Snoop Dogg, Akon, Beck, Nicki Minaj, John Waters, Santigold, and Michael Bolton, whose performance on "Jack Sparrow" surprised me by being my favorite on the entire album. The groundwork for the song's joke is laid within the first 15 seconds and just when you think you've figured out what the song is all about, Bolton's cinephile tendencies take over.

Other highlights of the project include "Rocky", a fun old school Beastie Boys meets old school Fresh Prince with a touch of James Brown funk story reminiscent of their previous song "Punch You In The Jeans", and "Japan," a nose-thumbing romp written for the sole purpose of breaking the bank at Universal Music Group.

The Lonely Island has done what few musical acts have done by releasing a second album that is not overshadowed by their impressive debut and stands solidly on its own. They've also done what few comedy albums have done by releasing an album that demands multiple listens. I think it's safe to say my morning commute will soon be accompanied by these hilarious bass-pumping jams blasting out of the speakers of my Ford Focus. My sense of humor - and sincere lack of street cred - is grateful.

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