Somewhere between sold-out tours, a quick ascendance to fame following 10 episodes of their show, and Filter cover stories, Flight of the Conchords allegedly ran out of ideas. For the first time in many years (they were grinding out in the trenches for nearly a decade before they broke big), the duo of Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement actually had to sit down and write new songs, which they didn’t have to do before season one. The ensuing scramble to write funny songs on HBO’s tight schedule for season two has reportedly broken the band, leading them to announce that they’ll be taking at least a year hiatus, and might not do another Flight of the Conchords program again.
The prevailing opinion is that the second season of Flight of the Conchords was something of a slump, and the pressure of getting the songs done clearly affected the quality. But listening to I Told You I Was Freaky, the group’s sophomore album, which culls 13 songs from the second season, I’m not convinced that the second season, while musically not that adventurous (R&B and hip-hop tracks take up a lot of the disc) doesn’t measure up (and occasionally surpass) the heights of season one and the group’s self-titled debut.
I Told You I Was Freaky opens with the hilarious “Hurt Feelings,” a track that finds Jemaine and Bret trading lines about having their feelings hurt, recalling, for example, when Jemaine’s mom forgot his birthday, when Bret’s friends went to Maid in Manhattan without him, and when someone called Jemaine a llama. It’s at the hook where the Conchords assert their dominance over all other musical parodists (I guess just Weird Al, Lonely Island and Michael Scott on The Office), since it actually sounds like it could be on a real rap single. The music is very serious, but the words are very silly.
The highlights here are too numerous to list: “We’re Both in Love with a Sexy Lady” reimagines the old hoary R&B of two guys singing about the same girl as the two of them meeting her at the same time and being unable to agree on what her name is (Brabra or Barbra?) and whether or not they’re actually talking about the same girl (“Was it 40 seconds ago/ No about 43 seconds ago”). “Fashion Is Danger” makes She Wants Revenge irrelevant, doing sinister-cokehead-fashionable new wave so effortlessly that the digitized calls for Jazzercise and President Reagan make total sense. “You Don’t Have to Be a Prostitute” removes the sermonizing of the Police’s “Roxanne” and insists that surely Jemaine has other skills that would allow him to avoid being a gigolo, a man-ho or boy hooker.
There are a few clunkers here, though; the older Russian sea-shanty rambler “Petrov, Yelyena and Me” (first performed a long time ago) seemed shoehorned in during the (probable) series finale, and feels the same here. Plus the slight “Angels” is a weak song to go out on. But if this is indeed the last dispatch we get from Flight of the Conchords universe, Bret and Jemaine can rest assured that they didn’t go out on a sophomore slump. They closed up shop as among the best, if not the best, musical comedians of all time.