It’s been over a decade since the comedy trio known as The Lonely Island hit the it big on the web with their comedy shorts. They landed on the national stage as one member, Andy Samberg, got a feature part on Saturday Night Live. It wasn’t long before the SNL Digital Short became the most anticipated part of every episode. Songs like “Lazy Sunday,” “Dick In A Box,” and “I’m On A Boat” we’re quickly engrained in the vernacular of young people in America and we’re still quoting them today.
In 2009 they released their first album, Incredibad. Most of the songs had already appeared in the digital shorts, so it was a funny comedy-rap record, but kinda played out. In 2011 they followed their debut with Turtleneck & Chain. Before the intro on that release was over you could already tell that they were stepping their game up. It was a huge leap forward, perfecting the formula they’d been experimenting with since 2001.
So with all that in mind I was looking forward to The Wack Album with great anticipation. A couple of these songs appeared on SNL before Samberg left and took Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer along with him: “YOLO” with Adam Levine & Kendrick Lamar and “3-Way (The Golden Rule)” featuring Justin Timberlake & Lady Gaga are both already well known, but they aren’t even close to the best tracks you’ll find here.
The “Dramatic Introduction” starts the album with Access Hollywood-type sound bites hailing the band as the voices of a generation. This leads to them being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, eventually named co-Presidents of the United States, and finally beaten to death with their own dicks. Of course, like true messiahs, they are resurrected after having their corpses defiled by hundreds.
It’s a strong opening, with the first six songs all different levels of fun. “Hugs” is probably my favorite of these. It reminds me of Flight Of The Conchords’ song “A Kiss Is Not A Contract,” but way dirtier. The lines all make me laugh, but especially “She wanna hug from behind-I did it. Then a friend jumped in-I’m wit it.” Pharell Williams sings the hook, and as a friend recently suggested, adding Pharell makes any song instantly good. I’m sure I’ll be using the line “you can’t hug a rolling stone” in conversation for years.
The roster of guests is pretty impressive, as always. They’ve got Solange, T-Pain, Billie Joe Armstrong, plus those I mentioned above. But my favorite cameo is from Too $hort on the track “The Compliments.” Samberg, Taccone, and Schaffer go back and forth talking about the best qualities of one another-including how well-endowed they each are. Whe Too $hort comes in after the first shared verse he says “When they pitched me this song, they were kinda vague, but I said fuck it I’m in cuz they said I’d get paid. One things for sure these dudes are weird motherfuckers. So sit back and listen to them comment each other.” Something about having Too $hort play the Greek chorus really gets me. I was literally laughing out loud the first couple times through the song.
It does get a little uneven in the second half of The Wack Album. The quality of the songs really dip after the “Where Brooklyn At? (Interlude).” After that point only “The Compliments” and “I Fucked My Aunt (feat T-Pain)” are equal to those first few tracks. So, like many comedy albums, they run out of steam and only show flashes of their earlier brilliance.
The quality of the first half of the record is still worth highly recommending, though. If you’re a fan of Lonely Island’s work, as I am, you’re sure to enjoy even the lesser songs. They seem to have a knack for marrying the funny with modern hip-hop music, so I’m hoping their success doesn’t force a long hiatus from making music together. The group is playing their first big live show this Saturday in Chicago at the Aragon, and it sold out quickly. They’re also doing a Q&A session at Metro the day before.