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One of the main problems with most albums that label themselves as falling into the “comedy” genre, apart from rarely being as funny as the artist thinks, is that they sacrifice musicality at the expense of in-jokes and self-proclaimed wackiness.
This makes Hilarious & Epically Legendary, the new one from funster Heatbox a breath of fresh air and refreshingly mirthsome. Beyond the overblown title, which, as soon as you dip your toe into the sonic waters, you realize is hyperbolic self-deprecation incarnate anyway, if that is indeed a thing, you find music that would stand on its own two funky feet even if it didn’t have the amusing lyrical content.
There are songs such as “Bad Internet Friend”, which opens the album, that are less humorous and more acutely observed social commentary, the amusement in it coming more from the fact that we bashfully recognize ourselves in its narrative than from any jibes or jokes. There are beautiful parodies of artists such as Bootsy and George Clinton’s P-Funksters with “Funky Baby”. And there is even a Latin-jazz dance-driven groover based on Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride. (Why aren’t more songs based on this iconic and brilliantly oddball film?)
By the time we get to the Barry White-esque, double-entendre-laden slice of the sensual and suggestive soul of “Zipper Merge”, you realize that Heatbox is actually a master of the art of musical humor. And the art is not to assume that the jokes on their own will be enough to sell the songs. H&EL is an album full of cool music, deftly wrought and expertly delivered, that just happens to be the music vehicle for some clever imagery and astute observations, respectful sideswipes, and gentle parody. And musically, it works so well because to parody something, you must fully understand it and be good enough to replicate it to such humorous ends. And that is exactly what is going on here.
If you put this album on quietly in the background, without the lyrical component being heard, it would pass as another cool and infectious funky soul album, which is a great test for such music. Turn the volume up enough that the lyrics become the focal point, and you realize you might have a modern-day, funky-infused Randy Newman or a smarter and more sophisticated Weird Al on your hands. And that can’t be a bad thing. Can it?
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