Band: The Lonely Island
Album: Incredibad
Best song: “I’m On A Boat” is amazing and certainly “Dick in a Box” is a classic.
Worst song: Bleh. Whatever. It’s all goofy jokes, no?

In a way, the Lonely Island guys are the Death Cab for Cutie of comedy. The next-big-thing-cum-famous, Andy Samberg and company were indie rock comedy originally. Looking scraggly and slightly Williamsburg (not to mention actually hailing from Berkely), the trio self-produced videos they uploaded to YouTube and ended up writing and — in the case of Semitic-handsome leading man Samberg — performing on Saturday Night Live. Major label time, folks.

Saturday Night Live kind of sucks. It’s nearly impossible to do topical sketch comedy for 90 minues a week, forget doing it well. The show has always overplayed catchphrases and characters. For every funny sketch, there are 10 that go on far too long, all-often with bad celebrity impressions.

Let’s not forget, it’s never been great. Adam Sandler was funny on the show, but his movies are better. Will Ferrell’s best work — honestly, what the fuck happened to that guy? — is probably from the show, but he’s certainly been a success. Mike Myers’ crazy ass created many characters on the show, but his best work was, no doubt, in the Austin Powers movies. Eddie Murphy was great on the show, but his standup is a million times better.

In the show’s current incarnation, the digital shorts are, by far, the best part of the show. From what I’ve read, The Lonely Island guys have free reign over the shorts and have done them well. The songs are nearly always funny and the non-song sketches are strange, but funny.

I love NAthan Rabin’s writing and he recently wrote a bit about Samberg‘s film, Hot Rod:

The cultural gatekeepers sadly were not willing to go to bat for a movie where a typical gag involves the hero having an out-of-body experience and watching a sentient grilled-cheese sandwich wrestling a taco that fights dirty.

Samberg thrived in a very weird, very new, very specific context: within absurdist two-minute musical videos riffing on the cheesiest depths of pop culture. So perhaps it’s no surprise that audiences didn’t embrace him as the star of a studio movie.

I think that’s a fair point. What would the Lonely Island have been had they not been born around the same time as myself? Would they have been Weird Al Yankovic? Would they have ended up as writers for The Simpsons? Who really knows?

Incredibad is a compilation of a lot of new songs and many of the digital song shorts. For the most part, it’s great, though not perfect. “Ras Trent” doesn’t really work, as Samberg’s goofy voice is too put-on. The record is a little too hip hop heavy (“Natalie’s Rap,” “Dream Girl” and that stupid Santana song are far too much). The album is probably too long. I never found “Lazy Sunday” to be particularly funny and the faux corruption of my dream woman makes “Natatlie’s Rap” a mostly tired exercise.

Nevertheless, the record is really fun. What makes Incredibad and, moreover, the Lonely Island guys so fun? Parody works well when it’s dead-on and whoever wrote the music for this record really know how to mimic specific genres. When the group branches out onto specific genre, it’s nearly perfect. The group’s three great achievements all echo perfectly the genres they mock. “Dick in a Box,” both the video and the song, has a melody straight out of a Color Me Badd song. That it became a viral cultural touchstone is a testament to Justin Timberlake’s full-on devotion to the song.

“Jizz in my Pants” is similarly great. The song’s electronic vocals and the Euro-tinged beat sound like the type of thing you’d hear at an all-ages club. That the lyrics are another weird adolescent thing just tops it off.

“I’m on a Boat” is great for its absurdity. The song clearly mocks “Big Pimpin'” and that Akon song (“I’m so Paid”) and the entire bizarre hip hop fascination with yachts. The song, indicative of the entire record, is a study in juxtaposition. Like a reverse Belle and Sebastian — a band that used twee music to sing about dildos and young people having strokes — “I’m on a Boat” uses a spot-on hip hop beat and a guest spot by T-Pain to scream “the boat engines makes noise, motherfucker!” In fact, T-Pains breakdown is among the song’s highlights. Using his auto-tune, he ends his ridiculous interlude with the bizarre and biologically wrong conceit that he “fucked a mermaid.” The brilliance lies both in the lyrics and the execution. The call-and-reponse lite rapping of Akiva Schaffer and Samberg is striking, with T-Pain echoing the final word of each line. Juxtaposition at its best, the novelty of being on a boat has never been better.

Indeed, absurdity is the name of the game and it works, mostly. “Dream Girl” has Norah Jones singing about Chex Mix, while the sexy vocals of Julian Casablancas singing about old people fucking in “Boombox” is mind-bending. Humor shows us that the world makes no sense and Incredibad exploits this well.

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

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