Until about Christmas 2001, the coolest thing to come out of New Zealand was Peter Jackson and his band of actors along with the cinematic phenomenon that is the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Since then, we haven’t really heard much else from our kiwi pals.
Even before the inception of Elijah Wood as a hobbit and Liv Tyler as a mystical elf, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement were creating what would become a marriage of music, comedy and wit. Flight of the Conchords was smalltime in the late-’90s and by 2002, the guys were playing at small, local festivals.
It wasn’t until 2006 that BBC Radio 2 picked up the pair’s comedy act as a radio program. Mostly improvised, the show was based on a novelty band’s search for commercial success in London. When the band was picked up by HBO to do its own series, they based its contents off their radio show and moved everything to New York City.
McKenzie and Clement’s career as comedy musicians has reached its greatest heights now. Their comedy routine is entering another tour across the United States and the band released its first full-length album last week, “Foux Du Fafa.” Even without the storylines and plot structures of a radio or television show giving context to the songs, the album is pure gold.
“Foux Du Fafa” starts off the 15-track hilarity tirade with something reminiscent of the feeling you would get listening to “Girl From Ipanema.” Your average French come-ons and textbook sentences are put in seductive song form. Clement’s baritone rings steady throughout the song while McKenzie sounds more like Sebastian from “The Little Mermaid.” And all the while, the guys are almost poking fun at stereotypes more than anything else.
The very expertly crafted rap “Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenocerous” is a pun on today’s rhyme-dropping, beat-boxing wave of music-making. They rhyme all kinds of words with story lines that are just as incoherent as some of today’s ridiculous rap.
Then there’s “Mutha’uckas” where they bleep their own unnecessary and blatant use of curse words. Between the now unintelligible string of words are snippets like, “mango” and “Granny Smith.” This is just another track poking fun at modern music’s strange acceptance and simultaneous dismissal of crass lyricism in modern music.
A favorite amongst fans will be “Robots” with the ever-quoted “binary solo.” Robots have destroyed the human race in this song’s scenario and in the solo, a string of zeros and ones are placed in beats and melodies. For their version of a “robo-boogie,” the pair puts on its robot voices so that “once again without emotion” their monotone voices deliver the refrain.
Something akin to the soundtrack of most of our junior-high dances and Shaggy’s faux-reggae musical styling, McKenzie pulls out his DG-20 Casio Electric Keyboard from 1987 for “Boom.” With this track even a word that doesn’t mean anything in particular stands for all sorts of parts of speech.
What’s exponentially greater about the band’s release is that the world already had a keen appreciation of their comedy. From the radio show on BBC Radio 2 to their festival and comedy show performances and their latest HBO special, they’ve collected quite the rabid group of fans. They have achieved this cult status with R&B spoofs, songs pretending to be David Bowie, making fun of sexist serenades for women and the ever-popular “Business Time.”
These guys can laugh at themselves and everyone around them and still be damn cool doing it. The album brings the entire series into the palm of your iPod or the stereo of your car and brings music and comedy to a whole other level of greatness. Even at this point they have come a long way from being formerly known as “New Zealand’s fourth-most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo.”