Release Date: Aug 23, 2011
Record label: Walt Disney
If you grew up during the late ‘70s, then there’s a good chance you learned as many important life lessons from a frog, a pig, a bear, a dog, and a what-have-you, as you did from your parents and educators. Jim Henson’s lovable, furry Muppets always seemed to have a better grasp on what it’s like to be a human being than most human beings did. In his review of the 1977 film The Muppet Movie, critic Roger Ebert observed that “(The Muppets) are vain and hopeful, selfish and generous, complicated and true.
Saying that paying tribute to a beloved, time-honored franchise like the Muppets is a daunting task is an understatement. Since the 1976 debut of The Muppet Show, the televised and filmed antics of the lovable, rambunctious puppets found an ever-growing place in the hearts of, well, anyone with a heart. This is typified in the music of The Muppets, a songbook that explores life lessons and experiences through the lens of youthful innocence, joy, and melancholy, untainted by grown-up cynicism or an obvious marketing agenda.
When OK Go lead singer and guitarist Damian Kulash got to meet Kermit the Frog a couple winters ago, you could have knocked him over with the proverbial boomerang fish. Kulash’s face—more like his entire body, being, and soul—was awash with a giddiness usually reserved for sci-fi fan boys who bump into George Lucas in the home electronics section of Kmart. For Kulash’s generation of 20 and thirtysomethings, Kermit, the banjo-pluckin’ amphibian who began as a discarded turquoise coat with halved ping-pong balls for eyes and went on to make “green” chic decades before Al Gore learned PowerPoint, is as iconic as it gets.
Review Summary: Somewhere in a balcony, two old men are licking their chops.Probably the best thing to come from hippies ever (this is contentious), the Muppets have carved their names into the collective hearts of many generations. Like every great child geared production, The Muppets deal with the entire spectrum of life’s emotions with a tenderness and playfulness that is painstakingly missing from television’s current crop of wham-bam-thank-you-mam ADD flashbangs to the frontal lobe of our hyper-developing youths. So, as if a blessing from the heavens, the Muppets return to the big stage this year with a new movie that looks quite promising, and this: The Green Album.
Paying tribute to the Muppets is a trickier gig than Kermit & Co.’s warm and fuzzy reputation might lead you to believe. There’s the immediate hazard: the possibility of trampling tunes that have been favorites for four decades, in some cases. Which leads us to the second, often unspoken, difficulty; Thanks in equal parts to the genius of Jim Henson and the disintegration of shared culture, the Muppets are a bigger deal than any act featured on Muppets: The Green Album is likely to be.
I would love to hear what Statler and Waldorf have to say about this turd of a compilation. The two old codgers up in the balcony would laugh their Muppet asses off at this horrific brain-fart idea to redo, or should we say slaughter, those cherished kids' classics. Hard to decide who the most egregious offender is, but OK Go make a strong case right off the bat with an energy- and fun-zapping version of the Muppet Show Theme Song reimagined as a modern rock nightmare.
Music has always been a major part of the Muppet’s charm, and much like the puppets themselves, songs like “Bein’ Green” and “I’m Going to Go Back There Some Day” manage to tap into kids’ innate melancholy and joy. Whether from the anarchic television series or from their early movies, their best songs convey such a pure sense of whimsy that it’s easy to forget that they were sung by fuzzy pieces of felt with ping-pong-ball eyes, but manage to cut through all the marketing nonsense and speak directly to children—and to the children inside adults. In this and almost every other regard, the Muppets franchise has been looking backwards ever since Jim Henson’s tragic death in 1990, trading on fans’ goodwill while shoveling out lackluster movies and emphasizing the annoying Elmo.