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
. A collection of wide ranging artists--including some I would never have thought would be found on the same disc--have essentially produced an open love letter to everyone’s favourite felt-fleshers. All the famous tunes are here: “Rainbow Connection”, “Our World”, “Being Green,” so the ingredients are well in place. The only question left to be answered is whether or not these artists are able to capture the sort of playfulness and bright-eyed wanderlust that the Muppets manage to represent so amazingly as they traverse through the hearts and minds of children and the young-at-heart alike.
But this is where The Green Album falls so disappointingly flat; too few of the artists approach the material with the right ideas. The most successful renditions on the disc come from the artists that don’t sound so polished, leaving room for the playfulness of the Muppets to shine through. Andrew Bird easily steals the show, but that's hardly a surprise as his whistling and lilting bows are a match made in heaven for Kermit’s woe-is-me stargazer “Being Green.” Bird’s take is organic and mellow, the mood that has always hallmarked his very best work, mixing in hints of folk and moonlit hot-jazz. My Morning Jacket comes closest to matching Bird with a great rendition of “Our World,” and the Weezer/Hayley Williams duet on the Muppets standard “Rainbow Connection” does the song justice by sounding just about exactly what you would expect it to sound like. But it is a slippery fall down the quality slope after these highlights.
It’s hard to decide entirely what made it go wrong for some of these songs; some of the artists, like Rachael Yamagata, promise some sort of quality. And yet and yet, Yamagata’s rendition of “I’m Going Back There Someday,” like too much of the album, drifts lifelessly to a close. At other times the decision making of the project directors for this little compilation must be called into serious question. Like, for example, using The Airborne Toxic Event, well known for taking a histrionic sledgehammer to EVERYTHING THEY DO (caps necessary), for “Wishing Song” with predictable results (I hope they don’t send a letter to me). Then there is the not-so-wise decision to have The Fray do “Mahna Mahna,” which feels mostly like an economic decision, attempting to reach as far ranging a demographic as possible. And Alkaline Trio's pop-punk turn on "Moving Right Along" has little personality to it despite a last minute flourish. Plus the singer from Atreyu somehow got on here.
But hey, it isn’t all doom and gloom, and underneath some of the lifeless performances lays a foundation of good Muppet songs. It’s hard to mess up a good thing too badly and there are certainly enjoyable moments on The Green Album
. You could really do worse, and in the immortal words of Beaker: meep meep meep. Meeeep m-meep me-meep. Meep meeeeeep meeeper, meeeee mee me m-meep. Meep: meeeep, m-meeep. Meep meep meep, meep me-meep. Meeper meep meep meeep. Meep, meep me-meeep; meep.