Archive for November, 2006

Norm Macdonald: Ridiculous

November 16, 2006

I find that comedy albums have a pretty short shelf life. No matter how funny they are, you can only listen to them so often, you know? This may sound odd coming from a devotee of Weird Al, but I’ll be honest, this applies to him too. Whenever a new Weird Al CD comes out, it gets a lot of play for about two weeks, then takes its spot on my shelf. In a few years, it will get another spin, and I’ll smile, and then it’s back to the shelf.

But this is not a Weird Al review. This is a Norm MacDonald review, and Norm, I think he’s a funny guy. Or rather, I think his delivery is funny. Even if the material isn’t great, he presents it in a way that makes me laugh. Unfortunately, this is a CD of comedy skits, not stand-up, which often takes the delivery out of the equation. There’s one hidden track; a segment of stand-up making fun of Ed McMahon and Star Search. Not exactly timely, but it doesn’t need to be – it’s still funny. Arguably the funniest thing on the album.

The rest of the CD is hit-or-miss, with more misses than hits. Some of the skits just aren’t that great and they seem to drag on forever. Like I said, when doing stand-up, MacDonald’s delivery can save any material that needs it. Here, though, that trick doesn’t work. “So unfunny it’s funny again” might work with a live audience to play off of, but on a studio-recorded CD, it doesn’t fly. Maybe it would have worked better for me if I’d heard this with friends, but I didn’t, so there you go.

I don’t mean to be overly negative. The funny skits are well worth listening to. However, I can’t recommend that you buy this, since you’re probably never going to listen to it more than once.

Wordburglar: Burglaritis

November 9, 2006

“Like Rick Mercer, I was Made in Canada,” says Wordburglar, but you don’t need him to tell you that with references like, well, that one. I’m just saying, “no one really cares about you, like the Grey Cup” wouldn’t make it onto an American rapper’s dis track, and “I’m not Tim Horton, but you can roll the rim” wouldn’t work as innuendo if you’re from… well, maybe anywhere at all. All it does for me is make me a bit leery of my iced cap.

As though it’s not painfully obvious, I’ll state right now that I don’t know anything about rap. At all. Listening to rap brings back memories of Grade 10 and being the fattest, whitest, nerdiest kid to ever wear a Public Enemy t-shirt. I reflect on these memories with an equal mixture of fondness and horror. Now I write proposals to sell telephone systems to small and medium-sized businesses, and when I meet with one of the manager types at work, we trade verses of Bring Tha Noize in our cubicles. Speaking of “nerdiest.”

So while I have no real credibility when trying to determine whether or not this album is technically any good, I sure do find it to be pretty fun. The nerdiness factor comes into play again, as Wordburglar is a comic-book geek who shuns rhymes about life on the streets in favour of references to Tri-Clops and “an eBay auction for a mint-in-box Mossman.”

Speaking of eBay, it has teamed with Amazon and iTunes to take all the fun out of record shopping. I heard about Wordburglar and wanted to check out the CD, so when Aaron was heading into Toronto, I asked him to find this for me. He went to several record stores and asked clerks for help in locating the Wordburglar CD. He had no luck, but I gather he did get some weird looks. Fun for him? Maybe not, but reading his account of the trip was fun for me. Then I just bought the damn thing on iTunes. iTunes gave me no funny looks. iTunes doesn’t judge.

“You wanna play Zeus, but that was Tiny Lister.” He-Man characters, miscellaneous Canadiana, and references to bad wrestling? No wonder I like this.

John K. Samson: Little Pictures

November 7, 2006

Prior to becoming the lead singer and songwriter for the Weakerthans, John K. Samson played bass for Propagandhi. This EP, recorded in 1993 and re-released thirteen years later, offers some insight as to how Samson found his voice.

I wonder what a Propagandhi fan, circa 1993, would have thought of these recordings. They certainly don’t sound like any Propagandhi that I’ve ever heard, which admittedly isn’t much. As a Weakerthans fan, though, these songs sound familiar, if unpolished. When I say Samson hadn’t yet “found his voice,” I mean that literally; I tend to think of him as a songwriter first and a singer second, so it’s interesting to notice just how much his singing has improved over the years. On these recordings, his voice sounds sharp and untested. His songwriting has also improved over time, though even here, clever turns of phrase and other Samson trademarks fill the lyrics. There’s no mistaking who wrote these songs. The opener, Maryland Bridge, stands as the strongest track on the album, and if re-recorded, could fit right into a new Weakerthans release.

And in the end, that’s what I really want – a new Weakerthans CD. That’s not quite what Little Pictures is, though it will help tide me over. If you’re not a Weakerthans fan, then there’s not really anything here for you, but if you enjoy the band, this is an interesting EP that’s well worth hearing. Should you buy it? It’s cheap enough that you can’t do much harm, but you might want to give it a listen first – these aren’t studio-quality recordings, and they really only NEED to be owned by completists.

(buy it from G7 Welcoming Committee or iTunes)