Bonjour, mon petit bureau de change

Flight of the Conchords’ first full-length album — titled, conveniently, “Flight of the Conchords” — contains nothing we haven’t already seen on their eponymous TV show. In fact, three of the songs also appeared in altered forms on the comic folk duo’s 2007 EP “The Distant Future.” But as it turns out, familiarity does not detract at all from the album’s likeability — the songs are possibly even funnier on your iTunes than they were on HBO.

Granted, re-releasing these songs in album form means no hilariously adorable music videos, and that’s a little sad, especially because guitar-strumming band members Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement are just so darned cute (before his life as a folk-singer, McKenzie appeared very briefly in “Lord of the Rings” and understandably acquired semi-cult status among female nerds as “Figwit,” which stands for “Frodo is great… who is THAT?”). And the videos sometimes add the extra je-ne-sais-quoi that can transform a song from giggle-inducing to belly-laugh-worthy — the anticlimactic ending of “Foux de Fa Fa” doesn’t work as well without a visual of the French fille’s disappointed expression, and the foppy, poppy ditty “Prince of Parties” is definitely not the same without the bizarre image of a shirtless, two-headed Bret-and-Jemaine.

Nevertheless, no distracting visuals means that the lyrics get a chance to shine, and they definitely prove worthy. Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard them before, but let’s just go over a few of the comedic gems you might have missed the first time — a girl as beautiful as “a tree, or a high-class prostitute” in “The Most Beautiful Girl [in the Room]”; the monotonic directive “One more time without emotion” in the song “Robots”; or the brilliant “Bowie” line, “Do you have one really funky sequined space suit, or do you have several ch-changes?”

With their irresistible combination of wit and awkwardness, Flight of the Conchords also tackle some serious issues. In “Think About It,” the duo reframes a familiar grievance: “They’re turning kids into slaves just to make cheaper sneakers / But what’s the real cost, ’cause the sneakers don’t seem that much cheaper / Why are we still paying so much for sneakers when you got them made by little slave kids / What are your overheads?” It’s a good point! And on a barely more serious note, they deftly skewer the hypocrisy of rap in “Hiphopopotomus vs. Rhymenocerus [feat. Rhymenocerous and Hiphopopotomus]”: “Yeah sometimes my lyrics are sexist / But you lovely bitches and hoes should know I’m trying to correct this.”

Flight of the Conchords also parody a few specific artists who are evidently better known in New Zealand. According to the Sub Pop website, the songs pay homage to Pet Shop Boys and Shabba Ranks, who according to Google are an English dance group I’ve never heard of and a Jamaican DJ I’ve never heard of. Maybe I’m just lame and uncultured. But it doesn’t matter, because the jokes are broad enough to transcend such barriers—their mock-dance hall song “Boom,” obviously the Shabba Ranks one, makes a universal point by replacing every word with “boom” (as in “Enough small boom, let’s boom the boom”). And continuing with the theme of exaggerating dead lyrical cliches into absurdity, “Ladies of the World” advocates “Sweet sixteen not M-16s / When will the government realize it’s got to be funky sexy ladies?”

It’s an effective strategy, and the more a song employs it the better it tends to be — the weakest track on the album, “Leggy Blonde,” doesn’t seem to really do this at all, and also contains the unbelievably atrocious line “I had a budgie but it died / I like pie.” What??

But we’ll forgive them for this on the rest of the album’s merit. Besides, they’re hilarious, they play guitar, they’re completely adorable and they have accents — a true gift to the Ladies of the World.

Comments

  • A reader

    This review piqued my interest to look up the Conchords--the "little slave kids" and the Hip-hop lyrics, especially, made me laugh aloud even as the incisive social critique went down. I don't post comments to Scene usually, but the music coverage this week is great. Keep up the good work.

  • anon

    The leggie blonde lyrics are a direct reference to the show. Murray couldn't come up with lyrics and thus wrote those really bad ones, but what to expect from the band manager. xD