Monday, July 13, 2009

Neil Innes - Dear Father Christmas

(Making Waves, 1984)

Neil Innes is one of those guys whose work – particularly with the Bonzo Dog Band – can (should!) be immensely appealing to high schoolers as they hit their “Monty Python” phase, but the surreal wackiness soon becomes less and less amusing, occasionally even slipping into cringeworthy territory as time goes by. That’s certainly been my experience, at least; I don’t bust a gut every time I see that Trojan Rabbit the way I did when I was 14, and, similarly, I now have a hard time getting through heavy-handed Innes songs like “9 to 5 Pollution Blues” and “Give Booze a Chance” that once were faves. I’ll always love everything he did in the Rutles, yes, but neither his straight-up comedy songs nor the more serious-minded compositions that litter his solo albums have held up too well as my pimples have faded.

“Dear Father Christmas,” a non-album single released after the Off the Record LP (and co-produced by Rod Argent!), strikes a very Innesian balance between jaunty semi-silliness and finger-wagging universal concerns, as it pleads for world peace over a seasonally-appropriate tuba, bells, and piano arrangement. Not bad as these things go, actually, and I appreciate that it gently mocks and deflates itself by confessing to being “just a Christmas single” in the chorus. I’ll waste no kind words on the oil-slick sax/synth horror of a flipside “City of the Angels,” however, as this is Innes at his most clumsily serious, the music and urban-grit lyrics coming off like an unfunny parody of bloated, nadir-era Lou Reed. Anything so rancid that it actually manages to make Innes’ contemporaneous dance remake of “Humanoid Boogie” seem appealing by comparison is a hunk of vinyl that ought to be buried deep within a landfill rather than sitting atop my turntable. Get outta my ears, song!

1 comment:

Donald Brown said...

Personally I think the highpoint of Neil Innes, apart from The Rutles, is on Monty Python's Matching Tie and Handkerchief, a little skit called "The Renettes Sing Medieval Agrarian History." But then I gotta say I don't know the Bonzo Dog Band, really... but I add that they got referenced in the new Pynchon novel.