Tuesday, June 26, 2007

There is no God but God

HBO’s new comedy show “Flight of the Conchords” has obviously brought a lot of comparisons to Tenacious D. It is easy to understand why – two guys play guitars and sing funny songs while seemingly waaay too into it and believing they are (or are soon to be) massive rock stars. Jack Black and Kyle Gass have dreams of arena rock while the Conchordians imagine (or joke about imagining) a world where fey strummers are the coolest dudes around. Perhaps a decent metaphor of differing mindsets in the US and New Zealand, but anyway …

“Conchords” is a reasonably funny show with a very unscripted “post-comedy” feel for most of the episodes. But then comes the main event – the joke music videos. The show is not a parody of musicals where people suddenly break into song in the middle of their lives. There is plenty of that in the under-seen Top Secret where Val Kilmer cuts a rug and surfs with a 12-gauge.

What “Conchords” parodies so well is music videos. The two stars of the show don’t just break into song, they break into song with “edgy coolcamera moves and Caribbean-appropriate post effects. There is even a little Spike Jonze-ian Daft Punk action, all with charmingly low-fi budgets.

The parodies demonstrate just how welded into modern pop-culture MVs are. A few seconds into the music video sketches you can see what the Conchords guys are going for – even if they are not doing a specific famous video send-up (that is preserved for the genius of Indian Thriller). The Conchords perfectly capture the silliness of their (and our) favorite videos – turning the conventions of MTV into comedic punctuation for their slightly silly songs.

Music Videos are headed into a more and more fractured future where kids can delve deeper and deeper into their favorite sub-genres of music. The clips are sorted and arranged on the Inter-Tubes so that no music fan must be exposed to goth rock if he likes emo and saves the backpack rap fans from ever hearing or seeing R&B or drug-rap unless they choose to.

Conchords is obviously aimed at people old enough to recall MTV as a dominant and relatively omnivorous musical force and not just the pre-teen reality hoe-down it has become. As the conventions of music video are further and further Balkanized I wonder if only a few kids will be able to laugh at music video parodies because they won’t get the narrow-cast references. That and the parody videos will have the same production value as the “real” clips.

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