It’s crazy to think there was a time that existed before The Lonely Island. Not because they’ve been around for so long, moreso because so much of the internet cultural landscape has changed since they caught onto the public consciousness in the mid-aughts as a writers/actors on Saturday Night Live.
The notion of being in the right place at the right time definitely holds true for this comedic trio. As their breakthrough, “Lazy Sunday” premiered in December 2005, Youtube was just beginning to capture the boom of web videos/shorts. The Lonely Island rode this wave to become one of the biggest internet sensations with a formula Jorma Taccome, Andy Samberg, and Akiva Schaffer honed. It’s custom fit in a world where 3-4 minute skits are just what an ADD generation of kids can handle. It also positioned them as possibly the only real contender to take “Weird” Al Yankovic’s throne in the category of comedy musical spoof.
Turtleneck & Chain is the trio’s sophomore album and follow-up to 2009’s Incredibad. It doesn’t tread into any new territory musically but, damn! If it ain’t broke then why even try to fix it, amiright? The album kicks off with the track, “We’re Back,” a rap declaration of the group’s return to the top of it’s game. Kicking things off with sly lyrics about their manhood. Hip-Hop is pretty much the group’s bread and butter here, with every track having elements of songs that could be played on most commercial hip-hop stations, and therein lies the group’s strength, yes it’s campy, yes there’s a lot of humor in there, but boiled down to its essence, The Lonely Island spends a lot if its time writing songs that have great beats and terrific hooks.
If watch SNL you are probably already familiar with a lot of the songs on Turtleneck And Chain as the group has already mined some of the album’s best tracks for the show’s Digital Shorts. “I Just Had Sex,” “Captain Jack Sparrow,” “Shy Ronnie 2: Ronnie and Cyde,” “Motherlover,” “The Creep,” and “Threw It On The Ground,” have already been run through the Digital Short machine during the past season of the late night sketch institution. As was the case with Incredibad, they are the album’s standout tracks but by no means the only ones worth discussion and it’s easy to see most tracks on the record end up as a Digital Short. Don’t be surprised if the album’s title track, which features Snoop Dogg gets a visual bump. Also, “Japan,” is a song that all but screams for a video treatment with many visual cues in the wordplay.
One of my biggest complaints about hip-hop albums is the presence of skits. They are often not funny, long, and worthy of no more than a single spin. The inclusion of skits on Turtleneck And Chain could have been cringeworthy but instead are quick hits of humor that are over before they begin to grate. It’s a potential roadblock for the album but with solid execution, ends up barely being a speedbump.
The album is also littered with guest appearances ranging from Akon and Rhianna, to Michael Bolton and the previously mentioned Snoop Dogg. It’s a move that could potentially bog down any record, but in this case they are welcomed additions to the songs as the trio leaves the singing parts to those that have the talent to do so. “You Are Attracted To Us,” features the mighty Beck but he might be the most underutilized guest appearance on the entire album. It’s a minor caveat but worth noting.
All in all, Turtleneck And Chain is another accomplishment for The Lonely Island as they continue their comedic dominance on the web, television, and CD. They may have originally gotten their start as the nerdy kids doing things for their own entertainment, but damn if those same kids haven’t grown up and figured out how to become appealing to some of today’s most popular entertainers and picked up a slew of fans along the way. This Lonely Island has a lot more residents than originally anticipated these days.