Friday, December 14, 2012

Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits's "Trainwreck to Narnia"

Trainwreck to Narnia,” the new album from Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits, is a bit tricky to encapsulate. It’s not a “comedy” album per se, but I laughed a lot. They don’t write “funny” lyrics, but there’s a lot of clever wit in their words. Despite the fact that BJE is a musical act, they don’t write silly songs like Weird Al or try to pass themselves off as comedians with street cred the way The Lonely Island guys do. They aren’t a novelty act but rather skilled performers who create art with a sense of humor and tongue firmly in cheek. They’re a band of really talented musicians who can write a catchy song (or, more accurately, a bunch of catchy songs), keeping my head bobbing and chuckling simultaneously. 

What I’m trying to say - and not doing a very good job at it - is I liked this project a lot. The songs here are relatively short, rarely clocking in at over three minutes. They’ve cut out everything that doesn’t drive the music or the humor (or both) and get right down to business. There are no filler refrains or needless repetitions just to make the song the standard three and half minutes in length. They go in, get the job done, and then get the hell out. Like a SWAT team of musicians, they remain focused and do what they need to do. 

And man, they do it well. 

Their style of music here varies from pub song sing-alongs (the enjoyable “Baked Beans & Whiskey” that is about exactly what the title says), rock ("Walk in the Crosswalk" urges safety first, especially since medical bills can be expensive), a nod to the roaring 20s (“My Darling Boo” is probably the best song you’ve ever heard about a mannequin), and head-banging metal that immediately put me in mind of the one and only time I played Dungeons & Dragons. I was in junior high school and, had “Bone Dagger” been out then, it’s definitely what I would have been singing in my head. One moment declaring the ominous power I would yield (“I will slay the fucking dragon!”) and the next admitting there are repercussions to my actions (“I will make a big ass mess!”). Somewhere Tenacious D and Brian Posehn are fist pumping along with the music.

At times, especially on “Vanilla American,” a tune that mixes great harmonies with fun tempo changes, BJE reminded me of Barenaked Ladies and They Might Be Giants. That’s not a bad thing, I’m a fan of both, but they all share a similar whimsical feel that makes it easy to listen to each track on the CD without skipping tracks. On the opening song, “After the Armadillo,” BJE says it all when they promise “Tonight is many things but boring ain’t one of ‘em.”

What’s especially fun is when the lyrics of the song are in direct opposition with the musicality. Where else will you find a grinding almost-screamo tune urging us to remove a particularly offensive word from our vernacular? And “Cop Kisser,” a love song to the boys in blue, is arranged and performed in a style that would make you assume the inverse.

It’s difficult to choose a favorite track because this CD is so solid, but if I had to I would choose “Blues Turn Brown,” the lament of a 34-year-old college educated guy down on his luck and willing to do anything to keep his internet on (“When the dog shit is piled high/ it blocks out the sky/ until your blues turn brown”). Because if you’re going to sing the blues, you might as well make other people smile in the process. Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits does just that.


  1. Good review. The band says it's their best album, but all their are very good. The are very good live as well.

  2. Looks like this crew might finally see the light they so deserve, as a dedicated, long-lived, much traveled band, thanks to this incisive review. You really g o t them. Good job

  3. BJE are complete entertainment. Funny, smart and prolific. They have never let me down and I have seen them at least 15-20 times. Downright solid entertainment and the nicest people you would ever want to know. Very good effort to describe but you really can only enjoy it and share it with your friends.