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Music Review: Jewmongous – Taller than Jesus

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You may remember Sean Altman from the group Rockapella that provided the music cues and clues for the popular PBS kids’ show Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego back in the 1990s (he co-wrote the series’ catchy theme song). These days (among other things) Altman writes and performs Jewish comedy in the guise of equally catchy, very funny, often slightly blue and occasionally provocative songs under the name “Jewmongous.” His songs are irreverent in a Jon Stewart-ish sort of way, and written and performed with obvious affection for his heritage.

Jewmongous’ first-ever CD Taller than Jesus (Altman's "tribute" to John Lennon's 1966 misunderstood declaration that the Beatles were "bigger than Jesus" ), will be released April 20th, just in time for Passover. The album, which will be available on iTunes and at Jewmongous.com, offers a dozen Altman originals exploring a variety of musical genres from Ska to Metal to a very Jewish take on The Ramones' “I Want To Be Sedated.”

His lyrics are vaguely Kinky (as in Friedman) and his humor is occasionally Weird (as in Al). But the mixing of musical genres with slightly irreverent Borscht-Belt takes on modern Jewish life is fun and very worth a listen.

Altman’s ode to the upcoming festival of Passover (Pesach) is a funnilyT-shirt logo for Album fractured synopsis of Jewish History called: “They Tried to Kill Us (We Survived, Let’s Eat).” Those very words, practically a ritual at every Seder table in America, will be uttered by someone's  uncle or brother-in-law who wants to cut to the chase, skip past all of those prayers, stories, songs and rituals–and start eating, already! (Reminder:  Passover begins at sundown next Saturday night, April 19th.)

I have to say, however, that my favorite track on the CD is “Today I Am A Man.” It is an ironic and sardonic anthem to the Jewish coming-of-age ritual known as the “bar mitzvah.” Introduced by the painfully cracking and off-pitch voice of a soon-to-be 13 year old boy chanting his bar mitzvah “portion” (also known as the Haftarah — verses from the Biblical Book of Prophets), the song suggests the many ironies of being considered an “adult” but not really very grown up: 

Man with the powers God granted all men/Whenever I want I can stay up 'til ten/My manhood's a flower just starting to bloom/"Stop touching your penis and go clean your room!"

If the lyrics (on most of the songs) weren’t so “R”-rated, I recommend this as a great (and cheap, or rather, economical) bar mitzvah gift. As it is, I still recommend it, but it really is an adult album. So, maybe it’s a good present for the parents of the bar mitzvah kid (who, after all, probably could use a few laughs).

But, according to Altman, Taller than Jesus is not just for Jews.  His website provides the reason: “Sean worked, albeit reluctantly, with non-Jewish producer Jon Spurney on specialized high-tech equipment to professionally capture the JEWMONGOUS repertoire in rabbinically mandated SEMITI-SOUND, while still achieving the crystalline pop sheen that the goyim love.”

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • Dear Barbara: Thanks for the great review of my CD. You mistakenly picture and link to a previous album of mine, though. I would be grateful if you would link to this album, Taller Than Jesus, at Jewmongous.

    Yours, Sean (JEWMONGOUS)

  • Sean, there is no mistake. The link at the top is to Amazon, plus your site and iTunes are linked to in the article itself.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Glad you liked the review. Thanks, Chris for clarifying the Amazon link.

  • Barbara,

    You obviously reviewed the work of a mensch.

    PessaH SameaH, both to you and Sean.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Thank Ruvy,
    to you as well. Last year we spent Chol hamoed and the end of the Chag in Israel (our high schooler was spending the semester in Israel on a Camp Ramah program). this year here. It was bizarre at our last year’s seder to say (two days before leaving for Israel) L’shananah ha-ba-ah (we actually were able to say l’shana hazot.)

    Up to my ears in cleaning right now and taking a break.