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Music Review: Patrick And Eugene – Altogether Now (Birds Bees Flowers Trees)

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There is a brand of humor that can only be described as British. It has manifested itself in various ways over the years. Peter Sellers, Monty Python, and The Bonzo Dog Band were precursors. Ricky Gervais’ original BBC version of The Office is probably the most recent example.

Remember The Rutles? It was a brilliant Beatles parody financed (in part) by George Harrison. I wish he was still around to witness Patrick And Eugene. There is no question in my mind that he would have absolutely loved this duo.

The easiest comparison to be made is to The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. They were, in every possible way, the precursors to Monty Python. Unfortunately, they disbanded before the 1970s even began. Altogether Now (Birds Bees Flowers Trees) seems to pick up right where The Bonzos left off.

Altogether Now is actually their third release, but it is the group’s first to be issued in the United States. The timing seems right, as Patrick And Eugene have received quite a bit of exposure on US television recently. In addition to having their music featured on the programs Weeds, and Grey’s Anatomy, the pair are also featured prominently in a yearlong advertising campaign by Payless Shoes.

Music as subversive as this being highlighted by a conservative shoe company is hilarious enough. Listening to the full disc of Altogether Now is another thing entirely. The record opens with their “big” song, “The Birds And The Bees” and immediately puts you into a Python-esque frame of mind. Over a Tiny Tim-style ukelele, they recite the following lyrics:

The birds and the bees are flying in the trees,
The sun’s in the sky, it’s just for you and I
The sky’s perfect blue, no clouds to spoil the view,

It’s a sign from above, that shows that we’re in love

The song is so wonderfully corny, that you just cannot help but smile. “The Birds And The Bees” has rightfully garnered a lot of attention, but as the record continues, some serious neurosis creep in. The very next track, “Nevertheless” reveals a wonderful, and very British sense of reserve. When confronted with increasingly terrible circumstances, the narrator simply repeats the refrain:

“Nevertheless, it’s a luv-ely day.”

It is a catch-phrase as worthy as any I have heard.

The Bonzo-Python connection becomes even more pronounced as the record moves on. Songs such as “Llama,” “Old Times,” and “The Leprechaun,” are just flat-out disturbed. Their take on Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head,” is surreal.

What can I say? You either get Brit humor such as Python, or you do not. I went back and listened to my Bonzo Dog Band collection The History Of The Bonzos, just to check myself after hearing Altogether Now. Two bars into “The Intro And The Outro,” confirmed it for me.

Right down to the ridiculous vaudeville-era instrumentation, Patrick And Eugene are the only band I have ever heard that could be remotely compared to The Bonzos. As the mondo Viv Stanshall fan I am, this is as high a praise as I can give.

Not that it is really necessary, but just to confirm my take on these fantastic English eccentrics, the Coen brothers featured the group’s music in Burn After Reading. Patrick And Eugene are a duo who are about as hip as they get right now. They are funny as hell, and belong on the musical continuum that stretches from Spike Jones right through Spinal Tap.

If you enjoy the thoroughly British, understated humor of those I have mentioned above, then by all means, get Altogether Now. Just owning it will up your coolness factor by a good 50 degrees.

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About Greg Barbrick