Review Summary: A solid introduction to the budding comedian's work; witty and charming, but too highly polished.
Bo Burnham’s charming irreverence and political incorrectness delighted viewers on YouTube through scratchy, poorly recorded videos of the comedian playing instruments in his bedroom, usually accompanied by a snarky introductory monologue and an endearingly innocuous song title that turns out to be one of the filthiest euphemisms imagineable. The format was perfect for Burnham’s particular brand of humour, which relies on wordplay and wit as opposed to the usual comedy-music formula of dick jokes and insult humour. Fear not though, dick joke-loving brethren, as Burnham is well-versed in quips relating to genitals; it’s just that sometimes, you might not even understand the complex metaphors used to express the notion of private parts in as zany a manner as Burnham insists upon. Comedy’s comedy, whatever format it is enjoyed through; something what is viewed as funny on the internet will not necessarily transfer well to audio format, particularly if there’s a large amount of physical comedy involved. Fortunately for Burnham, his unique musical comedy is perfectly suited to this format, and this release is a great way for fans and new listeners to enjoy Burnham’s controlled silliness and remarkably intelligent nonsense.
Featuring six songs that were originally featured on his YouTube channel, the E.P. is a professionally recorded affair, the cleanness of the music betraying its’ simplicity. The simple use of a keyboard in Burnham’s room and the mildly distorted tone that accompanied it worked in Burnham’s favour, as the sound of his music was simple enough to support the rhyme structure and flow pattern to his lyrics. Unfortunately, in having all of the music updated in this way, something is lost in the process, most notably on ‘Bo Fo’ Sho’. The original version of the song featured roughly the same rhythm, but also featured echo on the main keyboard riff. This feature has been forgotten on the E.P., and the resultant sound is cleaner, crisper, but more vacuous than before. Thankfully, this melody is only present in the bridge section of the song, so it’s not a major recurrent trait. On the other hand, a song that works in this professional medium is the brilliant ‘High School Party (Girl)’, a music video for which premiered on YouTube at the end of 2008. The sound is that of a piano ballad, with a jaunty tempo introduced after the brief, tuneful introduction. It’s not Bo’s cleverest output lyrically, but for humour, it is still very funny and very immature, in a contradictorily mature manner. ‘3.14 Apple Pi’ and ‘My Whole Family’ are both highly amusing and unashamedly offensive, with the former being a guitar jam and the latter being another piano song. Bo has a startlingly solid grasp on musical concepts, his tunes being somewhat minimalist but still functioning well and to their purpose. Really, they serve as metronomes for his complex verses. None of the music is groundbreaking or even risky, but it’s the lyrics that are the star of the show; the whole package is as satisfying as the humour is to the listener.
The comedy is on-point and sharp, having just the right combination of smut, intellect and satire to allow casual listeners to settle right in. Burnham’s style, which is perhaps best described as rap that flits between hasty and considered paces, is effervescent and cheeky, and his delivery has just the right tone of innocence to ensure each grossly inappropriate allusion is memorable and somehow quite charming. The lyrical content is extremely intelligent and brilliantly funny, relying on such elements as misdirection, shock humour and general angel-faced wit to flatten the boundaries of good taste. This collection could perhaps have used a bit of revision regarding song choices, as the omission of such tracks as ‘New Math’, ‘Rehabilitation Centre For Fictional Characters’ and ‘The Perfect Woman’ is frankly baffling. Songs that showcase Burnham’s real skill at verbal contortionism, sometimes forming complex metaphors across the span of several sentences, are surprisingly absent, rendering the collection a little ‘lite’. Despite this, this is still a worthwhile collection of songs, and if you’re already sold on Burnham’s unique style of humour, there’s a lot to love in this EP.