Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Big Cheese

Chances are, you haven't heard of comedian Mark Jonathan Davis -- though perhaps you do know his alter ego, Richard Cheese. For the past 15 years, he's been releasing albums featuring swankified lounge singer versions of popular music. (Think Bill Murray's classic Saturday Night Live character... but decidedly R-rated.) If you saw the remake of Dawn of the Dead, you've heard his cover of "Down With the Sickness."

Back in April, I went to see Richard Cheese and his band, Lounge Against the Machine, performing at the Boulder Theater. I didn't make a blog post of it at the time, I suppose because there wasn't much point in me "recommending" it to my readers. It was a one-night only show, and part of an extremely limited tour. (Cheese has done only a handful of shows in the last few years, and has said he plans to stop touring altogether in the near future.)

So why bring it up now? Because he actually recorded a concert album at the very show I attended, and that album has just been released in the last few weeks. Bakin' at the Boulder (available at the Richard Cheese website) is an hour-plus of highlights from the two-hour show, and I've been listening to it almost constantly since I picked it up. I suppose my opinion is colored by having been there to see it in person, but I'm still laughing at the jokes and enjoying it immensely.

Richard Cheese gives a loose, unpolished show. Occasionally, this results in mistakes and forgotten lyrics (as in "Smoke Two Joints" and "Girls, Girls, Girls"), but more often it makes for hilarious banter with the audience (as in "You Shook Me All Night Long," "Chop Suey," and "My Neck, My Back," among others). Definitely there are parts of this album with a "had to be there" vibe. You won't get how hilarious the "Denver Airport Song" is if you've never traveled there. And you can't see the audience member who basically performed a stripper routine during "Baby Got Back." But the liner notes PDF does include a picture of the Boulder Theater ceiling mentioned in "Theater Notes" to bring you up to speed there. (The x-rays referred to in "To Lounge Another Day?" I got one!)

Still, if a few parts of the album play better for me that they might for most, the bulk of it should still work. There's a fun duet of "Love Shack" with the B-52s' Fred Schneider, a handful of songs not available on any other Richard Cheese album (such as Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off"), and plenty of jokes throughout. The real cherry on the sundae is the running gag that starts in "Brass Monkey," involving a couple who actually brought their one-year-old daughter to the concert, wearing headphones duct-taped to her head. (The PDF also provides her picture, and lists the baby in the credits.)

Basically, this is a heads-up to people aware of Richard Cheese. He's got a new live album, and it's hilarious. Correcting for my bias of being there, it probably merits a B+. But personally, I can't get enough of it right now.

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