- by Jeff of Oxford Rating:8 Release Date:2016-10-21 Label: Green Monkey
Jim is one sick puppy...and we love him for it. Striking while the iron was hot, Jim only took 1/10th the time he spent on his debut (30 years!) to craft this dual concept album. Part one consists of live transmissions of The Elders, who saved Planet Frank from extinction, discovering a music career in the process, while the second half recreates the final episode of the short-lived ’70s TV show that sounds like it may have been the twinkle in Martin Mull’s eye which birthed Fernwood 2Night. Of course, the liners and background information must be taken with a shaker of salt, and all or none of this may actually have happened. At least the way Jim proposes!
As with his debut, there’s all sorts of cool fx, including tinkling music boxes, cheesy synths, Zappaesque surreal episodes as interpreted by various Residents, faux audience participation, and a bunch of untranslatable lyrics/spoken word segments. A key lyric may be “Ignorance Is Bliss”! Otherwise, ‘Bantemazeh’ is pretty damn groovy salsa hysterics that won’t (quite) be confused with ‘Guantanemera’ (unless you thought that was a bay in Cuba), and ‘The Great Leader Speaks’ is quite the elegant Rachmaninovian piano recital, under which the “great leader” “speaks” unintelligibly. ‘The Mathemetic’s Lesson’ is utter Tom Lehrer insanity (and I dare anyone short of doctoral candidates to figure out the answer(s)), while the ‘Wichita Lineman’-‘Whip-It’ mashup is sheer brilliance. Mothersbaugh is probably kicking himself wondering, ‘”Why didn’t we think of that?” ‘Great Big Beautiful Day’ wraps things up with too many lyrics and social references and in-jokes to appreciate without looking at the (helpfully) enclosed lyric sheet, but it’s sure one hell of a fingerpoppin’, bachelor pad toetapper.
“The Chet Lambert Show” is another kettle of fish, altogether. Certainly, Fernwood will pop up front and center, along with other traditional “comedy performance albums” from the likes of Albert Brooks and The Firesign Theatre or the soundtracks to Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, Saturday Night Live, et.al., except that Seattle Jim made all this shit up. I think! Segments like ‘Storm’ may have wandered in from The Lawrence Welk Show, and Lambert slithers into his finest lounge lizard persona for ‘I’m Gonna Be your Man’. Straight Outta Fernwood acts like ‘Shel Goldfarb and His Death-Defying Shi Tzus’ and The Chet Lambert Dancers’ performance of ‘Traveling’ are lost without the visuals (although as instros, the latter is pretty groovy travelogue-cum-library music), but then “the incomparable Laine Anderson” (actually Patrice Janda) saves the day with her finest impersonation of Ann Magnuson covering The Carpenters’ ‘Superstar’ that creates a new food group out of kitschy cheese and bongwater. Brilliant “festival hall” acoustics in the production on this one!
There’re a lot of Robert Anton Wilson influences here (or at least irreverence and fnord that Wilson fans will appreciate) and the concepts are immediately addictive and laugh-out-loud funny and might make listening with an extra pair of smalls on hand a prerequisite. It’s certainly the most fun you’ll have with your CD player all year!