Friday, December 25, 2009

Road Trip Album Picks: "R.O. Magic: The Best of R.O. Manse"

WHAT: Comedy album with music and sketches
LABEL: A Special Thing Records, 2008
GOOD IF YOU LIKE: 80s music, novelty albums, fighting
WHERE TO FIND IT: Online or bust
LENGTH: 63 minutes

The novelty record is experiencing something of a revival. Every few years "Weird Al" Yankovic puts out something new that burns up the charts, and the Conchords had a great run on TV. Rather than go with parodies, R.O. Manse has some sketches, some faux interviews, some songs, and more to make what basically amounts to a pretty great CD of character development. We learn who this guy is, we hear some highlights from his career, we meet his ex-wife... this is a fleshed-out guy.

With numerous special guests and all sorts of gags, this album is pretty all over the place. With 26 tracks spanning a variety of styles, there are a surprising number of great gags here-- the suite of 1980s movie theme songs, for example, are pretty fantastic. The album has a couple of songs which qualify as "hit singles" of sorts, awesome little ditties that work really well outside the context of the album. "Ladyboy" and "I Have a Synthesizer" are clearly the two shining stars of the album, were you to play them for a friend, the former of which is a surprisingly catchy song that-- unlike many novelty songs-- manages to play it straight. (As it were.)

If you can pick up a few tracks odds are you'll enjoy this-- it's a few steps beyond the recordings from various tunesmiths you'd here on Dr. Demento, and while pretty goofy, tracks like "Ladyboy" take comedy songwriting in a direction where it's funny without being overtly jokey-- that's quite a challenge. Well done! Pick this up if you're looking for comedy mixed with 1980s synthesized new wave songs, because it manages to pull it off nicely.

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