In terms of sheer alt-comedy weirdness, the last two weeks have been an unholy goldmine. Two cast members from the animated Fox hit Bob’s Burgers have released albums so bizarre, they may define a new subgenre I’m calling “low-concept” because I don’t know how else to write about this.
First, Eugene Mirman followed up his new Netflix special by releasing a seven LP box set called I’m Sorry (You’re Welcome) which also comes in special editions that include a bathrobe or a chair with a speaker built into the frame. The first album is a dress rehearsal for the material that wound up on the Netflix special, which is a fairly standard comedian practice to share cut bits and alternate versions of jokes. The next six discs are best described by the press release:
In addition to Mirman’s brilliant stand-up performance at Seattle’s Columbia City Theater in June 2014, the collection includes more than 500 tracks featuring: a guided meditation for various body parts; an erotic new age “Fuckscape” for sexing to; a comprehensive sound effects library, voiced by Mirman, including everything from “rain” to “zoo with nothing to lose”; an aural pharmacy of “digital drugs” from marijuana to apple cider vinegar; over 45 real minutes of real crying; an introduction to possibly useful Russian phrases; ringtones and outgoing voicemail messages for your personal use; and 195 consecutive orgasms. It is, as comedian Daniel Kitson writes in the set’s liner notes, “a parade of excellence punctuated with benevolent explosions of the purist, uncut, nonsense.”
Having experienced the entire near seven hour collection, I can personally guarantee you that this is exactly the level of genius that you wish to believe it is. The Russian lessons — from someone who stopped speaking Russian at the age of four — broke me into tears of laughter, whereas the actual 45-minute recording of crying (not looped) sent me into an existential spiral about every choice I’ve made in 2015. Including this one:
Most people won’t subject themselves to all seven discs in one sitting because they aren’t thinkpiece writers on a deadline, so perhaps this wasn’t the best way to take in the album. That said, it is still a perfect reflection of the comedian himself. Mirman works best in large doses, I find, since his biggest skill is settling you into his trademark rhythm and never letting you diverge from that path, except for when it is really, really funny. I’ll never listen to 80% of this ever again, but I in no way regret my time spent experiencing it. (Yes, I am saying that to you as much as I am saying it to the version of myself that got very emotional during the recording of man-crying.)
Mirman’s release was a lot to process, but his fellow Bob’s Burgers star entered the frame. Released to no announcement of any kind, Sub-Pop revealed over Thanksgiving weekend that they were pressing a vinyl for a new jazz piano album from H. Jon Benjamin — a man known famously for his voicework and not for his musicianship. There’s a reason for that. Jon Benjamin does not know how to play the piano. Again, this has not stopped him from recording an entire jazz album for the record label that broke Nirvana.
Well, I should have… features extensive liner notes from the artist, including:
Some tell me, “Hey, Jon, tone it down.” Some even say, “Really, Jon?” A few have said, “Get the fuck away from me or I’ll fucking punch you in the face.” I know the risks in making this album. I know what it is like to do something that no one else would think to do. Most would call this reckless. I call it jazz. What you are about to experience is an aural auto-de-fe. I am the ‘jazz daredevil.’
We all start from the same place and build from there, gathering references, structures, techniques, modes, nuances, etc. and, as artists, we strive to build something purposeful. Well, I Should Have…*is the culmination of hours (almost 3) of conception with the goal to bring something, in the tradition of the great vanguard jazz artists like Miles Davis, Roach, Mingus, Monk, et al, close to pure spontaneity. Jazz is the ocean…I am just one wave forming one curl, crashing once onto some remote beach somewhere in time. And that wave makes a small imperceptible change in the slope of the sand, upon which at some point in time a baby turtle will walk across, leaving his trail for just an instant, before the tide washes it clean. That’s a pretty cool analogy. More to the point, I do not play piano and I made this jazz album.
There is also a list of drinking game suggestions based around Jewish themes, but you really need the album to get into that whole infrastructure. The album itself is annoyingly listenable — I’m on my third play at a LOW VOLUME — which is not only a tribute to the actual musicians involved but the kind of comedic condemnation of an entire genre that will make this an album we can point to for years as “Yes, anyone can make a jazz album, and the talking can from Wet Hot American Summer proved it.”
For Bob’s Burger’s die-hards, there’s an Aziz drop-in on one track and a single secret session produced by Loren Bouchard called “Amy’s Song (The Bum Steer)” which features an in-character Benjamin doing less than two-minutes of Limp Bizkit style rap parody — truly the only way this album could have ended.
Honestly, I’m horrified as to what Kristen Schaal might have up her sleeve to top this.