Fri, May 23, 2008 at 11:46 AM
Flight of the Conchords couldn’t be here today. So they sent this bio—with their warmest regards—instead.
Oh, they wanted to join you in-person. Honest. But pop stardom requires non-stop commitment. One minute you’re launching a new signature fragrance or malt liquor, the next sharing tidbits of hard-earned wisdom with this season’s crop of American Idol contestants. Film a TV commercial, vaccinate a few sick children as the paparazzi hover like vultures, grab forty winks—right, if you’re lucky—and start all over again. Golly, it’s a wonder pop stars ever find time to, y’know, make music.
But Flight of the Conchords do. And their efforts have not gone unnoticed. We’re sure that’s why one critic observed, “Rarely has a band accomplished so much with so little.” High praise, clearly, for the duo’s keen time management.
Of course, lots of people have an overfull Day-at-a-Glance—that doesn’t make them musical icons. Nor does winning a Grammy Award. (At least not when it’s in a non-music category, like Best Comedy Album of 2007.) Good looks, fashion sense, a terrible secret… all these things are rungs on the ladder of success. But they are not the very top step, the one manufacturers warn you not to stand on. No. The truest measure of a pop star’s worth is his or her music. After sales figures, of course.
That is why Flight of the Conchord—Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement—are pop stars. Because they still write and record music. Original music. Different kinds, too. Judging from the range displayed on their sophomore full-length, I Told You I Was Freaky, Flight of the Conchords have yet to unearth a genre which can withstand their artistry. True, they hammered out their reputation from behind the relative safety of acoustic guitars, blithely billed as a “folk comedy” act. But nowadays? Their musical style runs rampant, unchecked.
Take “Demon Woman,” an overflowing pint glass of tonsil-scalding, white hot metal with tart top notes of psyche-folk. Or “Hurt Feelings,” which offsets that most heartrending of instruments, the toy piano, with tough urban beats, and discloses the startling revelation that every tough urban rapper is just a quivering bundle of insecurities, waiting for the ministrations of some unscrupulous psychotherapist. And then there’s the a cappella jazz of “Friends,” the gents’ sweet-scented sentiments intertwined in a graceful faux pas de deux.
And yet no matter how sophisticated Flight of the Conchords’ arrangements, the melodies always lodge firmly in the frontal lobe—these are best-selling ringtones, humbly masquerading as songs.
The pair is equally unflinching in their lyrical stance. Their rhymes are fearless, their thesauruses dog-eared. Only cool, confident specimens of manhood such as these could drop three-dollar vocabulary busters like “dungarees” and “pantaloons” while still mesmerizing the ladies with their undulating “Sugalumps.” Vivid imagery? Check: The ardent “Angels” should spur listeners to think twice the next time they consider catching a snowflake on their tongues. Better still, the amorous odyssey of the album’s zenith, “We’re Both in Love with a Sexy Lady,” unfolds before the listener’s very ears in real time; Flight of the Conchords are making history, and You! Are! There!
There is much more that could be said regarding Flight of the Conchords. How they hail from New Zealand, the island nation with multiple postal services. Or that they were nominated for a second Best Comedy Album Grammy in 2008, but were actually relieved not to win again—because meaningless trophies really do seem important when you only have one, and have to fight over who gets to keep it. And that during the recently-completed second season of their popular HBO television series, fans could download new songs immediately after they debuted on-air.
But relaying those facts, and all their myriad bits of folklore, would take time. And that’s the one thing Flight of the Conchords don’t have to spare. They’re very, very busy. That’s how you know they’re pop stars.