SNL's The Lonely Island's comedy album is likely to be no more than an intriguing curiosity, writes Si Hawkins
The Lonely Island
The Wack Album
The weighty question that looms over most comedy albums is: would you really want to hear it more than once? After the punchlines are revealed, the interest tends to wane dramatically unless the tunes are as well-honed as the one-liners. It’s an enormously rare band that excels at both.
This third long-player from The Lonely Island – a mock rap posse formed by the Californian college pals Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone while all were working on the influential US sketch show Saturday Night Live – will certainly attract many initial spins, as the guest list is quite extraordinary. SNL is the perfect arena to make connections and some of the world's biggest music and movie stars happily lampoon themselves here, although sadly the overall product proves significantly less successful than the sum of its parts.
In a pre-release interview, Samberg boasted of the trio's "encyclopaedic knowledge of hip-hop" and they clearly try manfully to keep their material musically relevant; indeed, a previous Lonely Island single – 2009's I'm on a Boat – was nominated for a Grammy Award in one of the regular hip-hop categories.
This craving for artistic credibility can take precedence over the comedy, however, the resulting tone veering from the juvenile excesses of the Beastie Boys’ first album to the aggressive bombast of much more modern commercial rap, so do keep headache tablets to hand if buying this for a loved one. The cutting-edge production and old-school references may impress, but bereft of any real rhyming skills – and visual gags – The Lonely Island are invariably just three grown men shouting obscenities; the sort of people you would swiftly move away from in a shopping mall.
That said, The Wack Album has its moments. There are some breathtakingly bold collaborations, notably 3-Way (The Golden Rule) – recorded with Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga when both were guests on Saturday Night Live – and You've Got the Look, on which fellow SNL alumni Kristen Wiig trades wardrobe malfunctions with Hugh Jackman, to hilarious effect.
Elsewhere Pharrell Williams, Solange Knowles, Robyn and Maroon 5's Adam Levine provide hit-worthy choruses while several full-time rappers reveal their comic timing. T-Pain makes a welcome return after the success of I'm on a Boat, Kendrick Lamar is impressively for-real about real estate, and Too $hort sounds amusingly bemused by the whole experience.
Long-term, though, The Lonely Island’s latest opus is likely to remain an intriguing curiosity, rather than a mainstay of your collection.
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