Hundreds of writers and performers have been a part of the comedy institution that is Saturday Night Live but few can say that they’ve defined their era. Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccome are among those few, having created and starred in the wildly popular SNL Digital Shorts (under the name The Lonely Island) that the show has recently been known for. After banking millions of hits on Hulu, the trio compiled a number of their songs into a hit album—2009’s Incredibad—and now present its follow-up, Turtleneck & Chain.
The problem with musical comedy is often that the artists rely too heavily on lyrics to make up for uninteresting music or make songs that are deliberately terrible as part of the joke. The Lonely Island breaks the trend by making music that would actually still be good if they were repurposed as “real” songs. “I Just Had Sex” and “Rocky” wouldn’t need much adjustment to work for an emcee with a sense of humor, and a DJ could easily work the title track ("Turtleneck & Chain" featuring Snoop Dogg) into a set without clearing the dance floor. This time around the trio made it a point to record a large portion of the songs first (i.e. Nicki Minaj on "The Creep" ) and then create Digital Shorts around them. This makes for some more well thought out music, as opposed to a few funny vids ripped to MP3.
Fans of the first album might miss its diversity since Turtleneck & Chain is almost entirely hip-pop, but it’s a genre the group knows well. They obviously “get it,” so Turtleneck & Chain never feels like they’re making fun of rap music or its culture, just using it as an effective delivery system for their comedic sensibility. All three members of the group love rapping and put effort into doing it respectably well.
Not surprisingly, some tracks do suffer when divorced from their visuals. “Shy Ronnie 2” (with Rihanna) doesn’t really make sense if you haven’t seen the sketch already, and “Threw it on the Ground” was mostly built around the visual gag of Samberg throwing things in slow motion. It’s not hard to find the videos online and many are included on the bonus DVD, but in the (admittedly unlikely) event that the CD will be your first experience with the material, you’ll have homework to do.
Most people won’t ride around bumping Lonely Island like a Lil Wayne album, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have a place in your collection. Turtleneck & Chain could easily be your iPod’s equivalent to that copy of Anchorman you keep around for a rainy day or something fun to mix in for a party playlist. Even gangstas like a good laugh, and The Lonely Island is a good place to go to get it.