Musical Pastiche

The thing I hate most in comedy is comedy songs. Some cocky twat with an acoustic guitar can ruin a perfectly good night of rubbish stand-up, with his crap song about the credit crunch set to the tune of the Ting Ting’s latest single.

Musical pastiche is quite another thing altogether. This is where people with genuine musical skill and sensibility manage to expertly recreate a genre of music to take the piss out of – usually with some love of the thing they’re parodying. The subtlety of this clearly marks it out from the mere comedy song.

In pastiche, they’re drawing attention to things like: the sort of chord changes, arrangement, production, themes, type of lyrics, even the lyrical delivery and the way a genre of artist pronounces certain phrases. They can even get a laugh from using a particular synthesiser or drum sound. We don’t usually pick up on a lot of this consciously of course, we just get a sense that this is a very well done parody performed by talented musicians. And we enjoy it both as music in itself and for the comedy. The most obvious examples of this are the excellent Mighty Boosh and the equally excellent Flight of the Conchords. But the first two here are slightly more obscure examples.

The first one is Hugh Laurie doing a superb Delta Blues spoof. The whole thing seems to be merely inspired by the fact that the phrase ‘Too long Johnny’ sounds like the name of a blues singer, or a blues song. From this flimsy premise Hugh creates a really funny pastiche and also plays some excellent slide guitar. (Someone else posted this clip recently. Sorry, I can’t remember who it was – but thanks for reminding me of this again anyway.)

The middle clip is Earl Okin. Sometimes his stuff can be a bit twee. But this mixture of Astrud Gilberto’s samba/bossa nova style and indie American collegiate rock (is that a genre? You’ll know what I mean when you hear it) is excellent.

The bottom clip is one of my favourite Flight of the Conchords songs, a great pastiche of the earnest ecology themes from Marvin Gaye’s classic What’s Going on Album – amongst other things. Just two acoustic guitars and they manage to pack so much subtle stuff in there. Plus, it’s a catchy number. This is from the HBO special which got them their tv series.


4 Responses to “Musical Pastiche”

  1. nursemyra Says:

    did you post the conchords for me? you know I’ve got the biggest crush on Jermaine

  2. charliemingles Says:

    I do it all for you Nursey. You should know that by now.

  3. Jo Says:

    My favourite conchords bit is Albie the Racist dragon. Not really a song, but an amusing cartoon nontheless.

  4. charliemingles Says:

    lots to chose from. Ive got their album. the most beautiful girl in the room – depending on the room, is great too. and that Boom Boom song from the HBO special.

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