More musical puns in the oven...

20:54, Jun 30 2010

Picking up from a comment on yesterday's post that reminded me of the planned Mike Love solo album, Mike Love Not War*, I got to thinking about puns in music, in music criticism - in song lyrics and titles, in band names and, particularly, in album titles.

I'm sure that way back in the earlier days of Blog on the Tracks I probably looked at puns - possibly even using the Puns in the Oven title. But it can't hurt to look at some more again. I'm curious to know what you think about the puns in lyrics and album titles especially. Whether you ever find them funny or clever. Or whether, most often, you find them annoying, silly, embarrassing, juvenile - or just missing the mark.

Most recently Robbie Williams provided the stunningly awful lyric, "What's so great about the great depression/Is it a blast for you?/Because it's blas-phe-my". Williams' crimes against rhymes and fun with puns don't start and stop there but that line stuck out like a male dog's bits when I had to endure the spectacular failure of Robbie's most recent album.

It's the sort of dumb pun that actually makes no sense.

There are other terrible puns out there that, at least, kinda make sense. I mean one of the oft-mentioned terrible album-title puns is REO Speedwagon's You Can Tune a Piano But You Can't Tuna Fish. At least they were trying to have some fun with wordplay. It's silly and pointless, but then, so is REO Speedwagon. Right? Right? Or maybe you like the Tune A/Tuna pun...that's fine if you do. But if you do then what music puns do you hate?

I thought Blink 182's Take Off Your Pants and Jacket was worth a smirk. And I don't actually give a...well, I guess it would be the next move after removing the pants in their album title, about Blink 182.

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I'm guilty of trying to have some pun(s). Just last week I wrote a review of Jack Johnson's new album for the Dominion Post which finished with some lines about what I thought of Johnson, concluding that fans would tell me that I don't know Jack. I don't know if that's a good pun or a bad pun - or if there is really a difference - all I know is that I had to come up with something to say about an awful album. And so I said that. And if you click on the link to the review you'll see that a reader commented on the punning action. And then another reader commented on that reader's comment about the punning action.

This blog's title, Blog on the Tracks, is a pun - riffing on Dylan's Blood on the Tracks album. I've been told by people that it is a clever pun, that they like it. I've also been told by people that it is a dumb pun, try-hard, not clever at all. I was accused of being "rockist" and "writing a blatantly rockist blog" (whatever that is) and that it was "all reinforced by the stupid title of the blog which you think is a little bit clever then realise it's not". Or something like that.

I doubt I'm the only music writer who throws puns out willy-nilly whether clever or silly.

You can blame the music - some of the time - for inspiring the silliness.

But what about some winning puns? Like Mike Love Not War, which, to me, works because Mike Love has always seemed like a precious, humourless git. So at least with that working title he is having a laugh. Like Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, which either subverts or plays right into frat-boy humour. Like Westlife's Frank Sinatra covers album, Allow Us To Be Frank. Well, it's about as close to winning as Westlife will ever get. Unfortunately all it allowed them to do, frankly, was be wussy with someone else's songs.

There are some awful music puns out there - the sort you find in Christmas Crackers:

If you break a string on your guitar, don't fret

Show me a piano thrown into an army trench and I'll show you A-Flat Major

And - for Twilight fans: A vampire used to torture victims with classical music. His Bach is worse than his bite.

Awful, awful stuff.

Or did you feel your shoulders moving up and down as you smiled, smirked or possibly raised a wee chuckle?

What album titles, songs, song lyrics, band names, jokes, reviews relating to music contain the best and worst puns? And if we consider punning to be a lower form of wit than sarcasm, surely the best is also the worst?

At any rate - what do you think of, pun-wise, when it comes to funny/silly/stupid/clever albums, artists, songs and such? What musical puns arrive freshly baked from the oven? And what puns have instantly gone cold, hard and stale?

And finally - my favourite music-related pun is not an album, song, band, review or lyric. It's a throwaway comment...

A couple of years ago I was asked to review Mike Nock. I was explaining to my wife a little bit about Nock's music - seeing if she would be interested in going to the show. Her reply to my suggestion that she would probably like it and should consider going to the show: "Hmmm, let me think about it; I mike or I mike nock..."

*Australian band Smudge actually named one of their EPs, Mike Love Not War, referencing The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album cover.

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