Review Summary: I'M NOT A PART OF YOUR SYSTEM.
The traditional rules of music criticism don't apply to The Lonely Island. In any review of a band's second album, one is inclined to use the phrase "sophomore slump" somewhere along the line (the band has either succumbed to it or avoided it), but The Lonely Island's two albums are essentially compilations. You go into a review with the knowledge that while albums are a part of a larger discography, they still stand apart from each other as individual pieces of art. But The Lonely Island is one long string of comedy songs written for Saturday Night Live
, a show whose awfulness doesn't need to be repeated here, so again, the rules don't apply. Turtleneck & Chain
can't really be compared to Incredibad
because they are basically the same album with different songs, if that makes sense. The celebrity guest spots, the interludes, the huge production: they're all here again, and it's hard to accurately comment on an album that embodies a whole bunch of criticisms that are normally lobbed at bad music. The album is
a collection of songs, it doesn't
seem coherent (despite the interludes that are presumably meant to accomplish that very thing), and it is
tailored to a specific audience (although that audience is, blessedly, not the sort of people who still laugh hysterically at SNL
, if such people truly exist anymore).
But you can't fault The Lonely Island for those things. It would be impossible to place these songs into an order that would make the album seem cohesive, and I can understand why they would give their albums legitimate names instead of naming them, say, Digital Shorts, Vols. 1 & 2
. As silly as their songs are, The Lonely Island take them very seriously. They mine from the tropes of pop and hip-hop, both tributing and mocking the genres, and they somehow find a way to sound original in the process, not just comedically but musically as well. Opener "We're Back!" has a badas
s, fantastic, percussion-heavy beat with a soulful group of women singing in the background, Kanye West style, and the trio delivers their lines with perfect rap brio. It's easy to get drawn into the music before realizing that the lyrics are about how small and disgusting their penises are. The crux of The Lonely Island's success is that they put the same amount of effort into the music that they do in the lyrics. It's what makes them so much better than someone like Weird Al Yankovic. When's the last time you actually wanted
to listen to a song by Weird Al? Probably never. Yet with The Lonely Island, I find myself constantly going back to songs like "Space Olympics" and "Jizz In My Pants" because they're ridiculously catchy.
Turtleneck & Chain
continues that tradition and possibly does it better. "I Just Had Sex," much like "I'm On A Boat," takes the typical club-rap song to a ridiculous endpoint and features the vocal stylings of Akon, who seems to be attempting to stave off impending obscurity with the most enthusiastic, joyous singing ever. It's not as funny as "I'm On A Boat" (nothing can top "DOIN' FLIPS AND SHI
T!") but it's twice as catchy and even features a nice key change at the end. "Jack Sparrow" sees Michael Bolton take the adventure movie style music and run with it, singing the praises of the eponymous character while The Lonely Island try to sing their own praises in the verse. I have no idea what "Trouble On Dookie Island" is actually about (I think they're robbing a bank?), but I can't help but think it's hilarious anyway because of the excellent delivery. Seriously, Jorma Taccone has the best faux-badas
s shouting voice of all time. The album has its clunkers, as is typical with a comedy album. Although "The Creep" is a nice spin on the "this is how you do a specific dance with an odd name" rap song, it fails to be funny or catchy, and Nicki Minaj's contribution is more irritating than anything. The title track fares the same, with Snoop Dogg proving to be a fairly pointless guest (as usual), and save for Jorma Taccone shouting "WATCH ME DO ME," the interludes only add an unnecessary three more tracks to the runtime.
So while Turtleneck & Chain
, like Incredibad
before it, is a tad uneven, The Lonely Island are still largely deserving of admiration. I've never tried, but I would imagine that it's hard to make a song about throwing various things on the ground funny. The same could be said about premature ejaculation (seriously, the funniest lines in "Jizz In My Pants" aren't even about ejaculation. I'm thinking specifically of "one more thing: I'm gonna pay by check.") and fu
cking your best friend's mother. Much of The Lonely Island's humor is stultifyingly obvious, but that's what makes it so great. They can mash two different comedy subjects into one song and make it work, like they do with "Threw It On The Ground," combining the physical image of Andy Samberg throwing cake onto the ground in a fit of rage with his implication that all of this is happening because of the machinations of the system. Comedically, there may be something for everyone on the album, but only in snatches. Overall, you need to be able to appreciate the kind of stupid humor that is able, every once in a while, to throw a curveball and make you laugh when you didn't expect to. Santigold singing about lonelily jerking off? Priceless. I suppose I should say something about how we need a group like The Lonely Island, in such dire times, to take our minds off of all the problems we have, but really, I think they're about as essential right now as they would be if the economy wasn't in a slump and if we weren't entrenched in a war. That is to say, not very essential at all, but this album has a song on it that, if you close your eyes and let your mind drift, is able to make you think that Justin Timberlake is your best friend, and he wants to have sex with your mother and be your new stepfather. That
, at least, can be considered an essential feeling.
"The moral of this story is YOU CAN'T TRUST THE SYSTEM!"
"YO F'REAL THOUGH, I SUFFER FROM STINKY DICK."
"Some poser hands me cake at a birthday party. What you want me to do with this; eat it? HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE GROUND!"
"Hey yo I kinda like your natural scent (NO HOMO)."
"And they TAZED ME IN THE BUTTHOLE."
"We've never been to Japan so we wrote a song about the three of us in Japan, and our label has to pay for it."
"Every Mother's Day needs a Mother's Night."
"FUCK YOU MOM! I HOPE YOU FUCKING DIE!"