Back in the day, when it came to comic social protest songs there was one name that led all the rest: Tom Lehrer. Songs like “The Vatican Rag,” “I Wanna Go Back to Dixie,” and “My Home Town” were catchy, clever and cutting in their critique of what was wrong in the country and the world.
Now along comes Trevor Moore to take up the Lehrer cudgel, and take it up he does, but less as a cudgel and more as an assault rifle. His debut album from Comedy Cental, Drunk Texts to Myself, is an all-out, no holds barred attack on everything from the founding fathers to Tom Hanks (from the sublime to the sublime), attacks that make Tom Lehrer’s critiques sound mealy-mouthed. There doesn’t seem to be a sacred cow that Moore won’t make into hamburger, and while he will have many listeners rolling on the floor, I imagine that there will be just as many, if not more, lamenting what this world is coming to. This is not an album for the faint of heart, for the easily offended, and perhaps even for those who take some time to get offended.
He starts by taking on American idols George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln as they rap about drugs and guns in the “Founding Fathers Rap.” Then he moves on to the parents and record executives who exploit young kids like Justin Bieber; the Pope and the Catholic establishment; circumcision; and even motherhood. Whoever you are, whatever you believe, it is likely you will find something in this album to upset you, even as you find yourself grinning at something that might offend sombody else. Using a variety of musical forms, everything from rap and metal to country and pop, and getting by with the help of a lot of his friends, Moore at his best skewers the contradictions between what we profess to believe and the way we practice what we believe.
“The Pope Rap” is all about money and profit. “God Hates the Tips” ridicules (I was going to say pokes fun, but pokes fun isn’t strong enough by any means) the ritual of circumcision, in a tune that reminds me of “Fat Bottomed Girls.” “What About Mouthwash?” helpfully explains how to get around liquor control laws with alternatives always available. “Tom Hanks is an Asshole” demonstrates that the actor isn’t the nicest guy in Hollywood.
Less controversial perhaps are the title track where, assisted by Reggie Watts, Moore runs through a number of text messages he sent to himself but can’t recall why, and “Maybe It’s Because” where a bear is speaking to a woman he is mauling. Of course, if you see the bear as a metaphor, you may want to move this track back up to the last paragraph.
The album ends with “Time For Guillotines,” an anthem for Occupy Wall Street. Here the sweetness of the chorus (he is joined by seven of his friends) and the lovely melody contrast with the violence of the message. And the final kiss-off to Gandhi and Martin Luther King is bound to raise a hackle or two – hell, hackles by the dozen.
If you like your protests kind and gentle, Drunk Texts to Myself is not for you. If you prefer taking no prisoners in the war on hypocrisy, Trevor Moore awaits.