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CD Review: The Sunny Side of the Moon – The Best of Richard Cheese

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First off, know that Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine got skills. They’re one of those high-concept bands doing “lounge” arrangements of modern hits, particularly mostly rap and loud guitar bands. Their lounge arrangements give a new way of hearing a few classic songs. Perhaps more impressive, the novelty and effectiveness of the arrangements actually redeems some so-so source materials.

For starters, I far prefer this joke arrangement of “Closer” to the Nine Inch Nails original. Cheese is in fact a much better singer than Trent Reznor, and he’s got a band and a real arrangement. In fact, the song holds up better than I would have guessed. It’s a legitimate jam.

“Hot for Teacher” comes out reflecting especially favorably on the source material. Now, the comic nature of the Van Halen original means that the emotional tone is pretty close, but hearing Eddie Van Halen’s guitar parts recast as (very vigorous) lounge piano was impressive as a jam, as a display of skill from the piano player, and as a reflection of how memorable that melodic material was.

Some of these performances seem to reflect satirically on the original source material. The emotional coolness of Cheese’s delivery seem to turn “Rape Me” into something of a rebuke of Cobain, his calm declamation of the lyrics underscoring the maudlin self-pity of the sentiments. On the other hand, Cheese is a better singer than Cobain, and LATM are certainly more skillful musicians. The material holds up pretty well even to mockery.

The Slipknot song “People = Shit” is pretty hilarious, hearing Cheese calmly declaiming these absolutely ridiculously anti-social lyrics. “Come on motherf****r, everybody has to die!”

They pretty much make silk purses out of sow’s ears with the Slipknot and “Gin and Juice.” I know it’s famous but there’s not much to it as an actual song. But they end up with a lot more music to it than Snoop Dogg would ever have.

Then again, some of the original source material is just utterly unworthy. This is a best-of collection (a big portion of which are new recordings), so this has a better batting average than some of his albums. But even a really clever band can’t do much with something as mediocre as Motley Crue, or just compositionally worthless Limp Bizkit and Korn.

On the other hand, Cheese gets really outstanding results doing comedic reworkings of a couple of dramatic classics. A really good song will tend to survive even a fairly radical re-arrangement, as is shown with U2. Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine re-cast “Sunday Bloody Sunday” as a fiesta mambo. Obviously they’re working at diametrically opposed emotional purposes from Bono.

But just playing the material honestly brings out the natural drama written right into the composition. That comes out even in this comedic intent, in stark relief. It’s a legitimate new dance track, and a pretty fair praise for the U2 composition.

Cheese reached way far back special to cover “Another Brick in the Wall.” Good call, for this cocktail refraction again shows off what an outstanding song Pink Floyd had in the first place. Indeed, they suck Cheese into something perilously close to sincerity before ending with a little send-up of the famous “pudding” business.

The band also could be seen to be particularly endorsing one relatively obscure older song, “Bust a Move.” This was a medium-size hit most of 20 years ago, and not particularly a song with a big reputation. But listening to his friendly cover, I must concur that this was indeed a fine and clever bit of song craft from the Young MC. It makes a funky lounge jam.

Richard Cheese pretty much rules the roost with the Dr Demento crowd these days. He’s certainly effective as comedy. Also though, he’s a lot more musical than, say, Weird Al Yankovic. As I said, he’s got skills. So if the idea of modern music filtered through the prism of the cocktail glass on the album cover sounds interesting to you, you’ll likely be highly satisfied with this album

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