Release Date: Oct 20, 2009
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Rock, Comedy
Somewhere between sold-out tours, a quick ascendance to fame following 10 episodes of their show, and Filter cover stories, Flight of the Conchords allegedly ran out of ideas. For the first time in many years (they were grinding out in the trenches for nearly a decade before they broke big), the duo of Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement actually had to sit down and write new songs, which they didn’t have to do before season one. The ensuing scramble to write funny songs on HBO’s tight schedule for season two has reportedly broken the band, leading them to announce that they’ll be taking at least a year hiatus, and might not do another Flight of the Conchords program again.
After a glorious debut season that earned the HBO show six Emmy nominations, Flight of the Conchords' second run didn't pack the same comedic punch as the first. Some would say it was because the episodes lost their luster, but it was mostly because the music just wasn't as strong. Most of the songs in Season One were pre-written and hashed out over years of stand-up routines, and for season two, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie found themselves crunched for time, forced to write a dozen or so funny songs and ten accompanying episodes from scratch.
So much has been written about the second series of Flight Of The Conchords’ TV show and its apparent failure in comparison to the first that it’s a wonder the duo weren’t tempted to put a disclaimer on the DVD release. ‘Sorry, does not contain 'Bowie In Space' or 'Business Time', but still contains jokes. Please buy.’ However, much like the criticisms levelled at an indie band when they ‘sell out’ by having a hit and getting their record in Tesco, the 'failure' of the Conchords tends to exist in the minds of those devoted followers who’ve been there from the start, and who now find the higher profile and rip off Pot Noodle ads a little disconcerting.
Protest if you must, but the second season of "Flight of the Conchords" somehow ended up being better than the first. Fair may it be to argue that Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie's Kiwi hipster-doofus schtick had outworn its welcome (the dubious return of Bret's "Rap Dancin'" crew-neck sweatshirt might be all the proof needed there), the faux-folk duo found themselves backed by better writing, more screen time for all those increasingly brilliant auxiliary characters, and, in some respects, better songs. If for nothing else, it's well worth the price of the DVD for the pleasure of having the timeless image of a baffled Jemaine confronted by an identically dressed Art Garfunkel permanently seared onto your frontal lobe.
Flight of the Conchords function on so many levels – as comedians, as sitcom characters, as pop parodists, even as serious musicians – that anyone coming at this album raw might feel they're missing something. If you haven't watched the TV series, what are you supposed to make of Friends, with its weak gag about gay men? Or Petrov, Yelyena, and Me, a gurgling shanty about cannibalism that flounders musically and lyrically? But that's the weaker half of the album; the sublime half works irrespective of prior knowledge. You need no awareness of, say, the inane electro of Calvin Harris or Black Eyed Peas' preposterous My Humps to find Too Many Dicks (On the Dance Floor) and Sugalumps, both acute pastiches, note-perfect in their own right.
Understand one thing right now: comedy is terribly important. Good art is supposed to reflect and amplify aspects of our lives, and while critics tend to emphasize the brilliance of melancholy artists, silliness and hilarity is part of life, too, and art ought to reflect that as well. In his Journals, Kurt Cobain called “Weird Al” Yankovic the greatest musical genius of our times, and there’s something to that.
Kiwi comedy duo falls flat A musical comedy record where the tunes are more memorable than the actual jokes makes for an Eeyore of an album, as HBO’s Flight of the Conchords are the latest to prove. Following up 2008’s self-titled full-length, as well as their 2007 Grammy-winning Distant Future EP, the New Zealand humor-folk duo takes a cue from another successful musical-comedy act, The Lonely Island, exchanging much of its previously low-key hilarity for the latter’s throbbing Timberlake/Timbaland beats. From a vaguely unfunny faux-rap tune (“Hurt Feelings”) to a practically unlistenable faux-R&B-banger (“I Told You I Was Freaky”), both of which have pretty excellent production but not much lyrical substance, the Conchords are at their best when they’re trafficking in actual narratives as opposed to storyless attempts at yuks.