The Completely Canadian Compilation, by Arrogant Worms
Suggested by Nick Hall
Comedy is a subjective thing.
I’m quite militant in what I find funny. I won’t bore you with the details, but you’ll find my tastes to be away from the mainstream. Give me Brass Eye over Mrs Brown’s Boys every day of the week.
Music is comedy is a well-trodden path, so I’ve high hopes for the Arrogant Worms. Will I be writing my review through tears of laugher? First, let’s talk about the music.
To a certain point, no one is really bothered about the music that sits behind a comedy song. It’s there as a vehicle for the laughter. And when the majority of the recordings are from live performances, this attitude is amplified. Nevertheless, the music here is nice enough, with the genre-trope strumming guitar the backbone throughout, and some decent harmonies when the mood requires it.
So, it’s musically passable… but is it funny?
No, not really.
The Completely Canadian Compilation is one joke, stretched over seventeen tracks. Canada is funny, because it’s big. Canada is funny, because it’s full of rocks and trees. See this pirate? He’s funny because he’s a Canadian. This superhero, he’s Canadian too. Beavers are funny, right? They are, because of TEETH, and Canada! On and on it goes, poking gentle fun at the many cultural tropes about Canada that are lost on this English audience member. Sure, I know the broad trokes (kind, French, free health care, hockey, flip-top heads), but so much of this is lost on me. I feel the humour is grimly thwarted by the album’s central conceit.
It’s also gentle humour, far too gentle for my palate. I prefer much darker meat. My favourite acts in this arena are probably We Are Klang and the incredible Doug Anthony All Stars (DAAS), who are much neared the knuckle. As I said above, humour is subjective, but if I’m laughing at beautiful ballads called I F**k Dogs, and songs with lines about Myra Hindley babysitting, you’ll see why gentle tracts on why Canadians are nicer than Americans is like going from Slayer to The Wiggles. I appreciate that’s a bed of filth of my own devising, and I’ll likely rot in hell because of it, but a joke’s a joke.
Finally, the live tracks on this album all contain some form of visual performance aspect which is entirely lost on the listener. Again, I realise that’s a fault of the medium rather than the artist, but perhaps more focus on songs in which the audience didn’t laugh for two minutes while someone did a funny dance would be better suited.
There are a few positives here, such as the stalker’s ode to Celine Dion (Cel Dio), which raised a good smile. This takes my top spot. I found a lot to like in Me Like Hockey, with the lines “Me work hard five days a week / Sweeping garbage from the street.” At last, a song about binmen!
Ultimately, to enjoy this album, you’d have to have grown up with it, as the humour feels anodyne for any world-weary adult. I stretch to 3/10 for this. Maybe a less thematic release would serve Arrogant Worms better. I’m sure Canadians laugh up their kidneys at every damn song.