Album Review: “Incredibad,” The Lonely Island

24 Feb

It’s easy to enjoy The Lonely Island’s greatest hits. (Some NSFW language.)

But Incredibad, their debut album, shows that the three deft parodists who have entertained on Saturday Night Live with such highbrow fare as “Dick in a Box” and “Jizz in My Pants” (see embedded video) have more than a few ideas of that caliber in their back pockets.

The trio is SNL cast member Andy Samberg and his two fellow SNL writers, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, but, as with their popular SNL Digital Shorts, there’s plenty of star wattage lent to this project. That’s both good and bad, with a profane Jack Black falling flat on “Sax Man,” about a skittish prodigy, but unlikely names Norah Jones and The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas contribute to two of the album’s better unheard songs.

“Dreamgirl,” with Jones crooning the hook, paints a hysterically grotesque picture of a trailer park beauty queen (“Yo, you a vision in sweats/With a neon pouch/Half-eaten squirrel hangin’ out of your mouth,” Samberg raps) before devolving into a fake ad for Chex Mix. Casablancas contributes the earnest hook to the music-is-powerful anthem “Boombox,” the best song on the album, warning, at song’s end, “A boombox can change the world/You gotta know your limits with a boombox/This was a cautionary tale/A boombox is not a toy.”

Elsewhere, there’s satire of rave music (“Shrooms”), Southern hip-hop’s braggadocio (“Like a Boss”), and tag-laden posse cuts (“The Old Saloon”), and an extended reference to Santana DVX, a completely fictional totally real (thanks Doug) Carlos Santana-branded champagne, which makes other paeans to Patron seem like faint praise.

Almost all of the send-ups are spot-on, but the accuracy sometimes comes at the expense of humor: “Punch You in the Jeans” sounds like an angry cross of Arrested Development and A Tribe Called Quest, but it’s not exactly a riot.

The biggest gripe possible is how much of this album is rehashed from SNL; more than a third of the 19 tracks debuted on the show. If they hadn’t all instantly gone viral, this would be less problematic.

But I hadn’t heard the trustafarian-gutting “Ras Trent,” a lesser Digital Short, before hearing it on the album. Though there’s little difference between it and, say, “I’m on a Boat” from a quality standpoint, the novelty factor helps. (Watch it here.)

Also, the sketches were first broadcast with sight gags that enhanced the songs, and it’s hard to divorce the audio from the video in this context.

When Samberg (who, far and away, gets the funniest quips on the album) raps about “a nautical theme pashmina afghan,” it loses something without seeing it twisting in the wind. Certainly, that’s something one can get with the CD/DVD product, but who really wants or needs a DVD of eight sketches in the Age of YouTube?

(Aside: On an album that liberated the infamous Natalie Portman rap sketch, it’s puzzling that “Iran So Far,” the love song for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, couldn’t be cleared. Digital Short devotees will be disappointed, but the piano ballad’s so far from the tone of the album that its absence might be a boon in disguise.)

All of this negativity, though, is trivial quibbling from a fan.

Incredibad is a solid album of hip-hop-flavored parody from the self-proclaimed “greatest fake MCs on Earth,” backed by production that, in some ways, supplants the lyrics. Special commendation goes to the executive producer, Taccone, for cobbling together an album with a few great instrumentals (“Boombox,” “Jizz,” and the title track) that lovingly mimics some of hip-hop’s time-honored tropes.

Incredibad is available via most online and brick-and-mortar music retailers as a CD or CD/DVD combo. Parents should be cautioned that it contains explicit language and both violent and sexual themes.

One Response to “Album Review: “Incredibad,” The Lonely Island”

  1. DougOLis February 24, 2009 at 10:39 PM #

    Santana DVX is quite in fact real:

    I had a lot of the same feelings as you about it. Beyond the SNL Digital Shorts we’ve seen (Ras Trent excepted) there are only a couple of good songs. And for the songs that already have videos, I would rather watch the video than just listen to the song. I do look forward to the inevitable videos for Boombox and Dreamgirl though. Overall, I have to say that the production and music quality is actually pretty high quality and could have stood on a serious hip-hop album.

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