Lounge music is, as ever, an acquired taste.
Most aficionados of cheesy lounge singers will tell you that Bill Murray’s
“Saturday Night Live” character, Nick (his last name was different in every
sketch, you may recall), defined the concept for most of America, but when
lounge had a comeback during the ‘90s, several artists tried to pick up the
torch and run with it. The Mike Flowers Pops scored their 3 minutes of fame with
their tongue-in-cheek take on Oasis’s “Wonderwall,” while folks like the Mello
Cads (Soft as a Rock) and Love Jones (Here’s to the Losers) took
it to the next level, writing originals that were a straight-up homage to the
martini- sipping days of yore.
Richard Cheese, however, is making a full-on run at the comedic angle,
performing lounge-ified covers of rock, rap, and alternative his.
Apertif For Destruction is Cheese’s fourth album with his band, Lounge
Against The Machine, but, unfortunately, it’s the weakest of the bunch. Perhaps
the biggest misstep is to open with two obscenity-laden numbers: “Me So Horny”
(2 Live Crew) and “People = Shit” (Slipknot). Cheese crosses the threshold of
maximum smugness within a minute’s time; while the concept of hearing a lounge
singer crooning the lines, “Girls always ask me why I fuck so much / What’s
wrong, baby doll, with a quick nut,” could potentially be funny, Cheese’s
delivery finds him all but screaming, “Aren’t I just hysterical...?!?!?” When
delivered without even a hint of subtlety, the joke isn’t nearly as funny.
There are certainly some legitimately clever moments. The cover of Guns n’
Roses’s “Welcome to the Jungle,” which begins with the tinkling of piano keys,
is inspired, as is the blending of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” into the song.
(You’re a better man than I am if you can keep from laughing at Cheese’s
delivery when he asks, “Pardon me, do you know where you are? You’re in the
jungle, baby!”) Adapting Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” to sound similar to the
Chordette’s “Mr. Sandman” is worth a laugh, and the versions of the Beastie
Boys’ “Brass Monkey” and the Violent Femmes’ “Add It Up” are both a solid match
for Cheese’s style. Even the take on the Black Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get It Started”
It’s moments when Cheese sinks to low jokes like performing a duet on “The Girl
Is Mine” with “Stephen Hawking” (just in case you really thought Hawking had
lowered his standards, the last seconds of the track find a voice intoning,
“Celebrity voices impersonated”) or, during his one-man cover of “We Are The
World,” singing, “We are the world / Keep Michael Jackson away from your
children,” that inspire cringing.
Ironically, Paul Anka also recently
released a CD containing lounge versions of pop, rock, and alternative
hits, and he succeeded where Richard Cheese so often fails...a fact which has
apparently reeeeeeally gotten under Cheese’s skin. In fact, there’s apparently
been a war of words going on between Anka and Cheese, with Anka suggesting that
Cheese’s band doesn’t contain any “real” musicians. Cheese’s response – posted
on his website – is to refer to Anka as “very, very, very devilish” and ask his
fans to “smack down Paul Anka's lame rip-off album and get your pals to buy our
Aperitif For Destruction CD,” adding, “I hope you yourself will consider
buying another copy of our CD and giving the gift of Dick. Then, we can overtake
his record sales and defeat the evil empire and bring peace and freedom to the
galaxy. Or whatever.”
Dude, this is just not even in the same class as what Anka’s doing. Paul Anka is
serious. Richard Cheese is not even pretending to be, and that’s fine. The
problem is that, more often than not, Cheese doesn’t give anyone a chance to get
the joke before he’s delivering a sharp jab to the ribs and yelling, “Ya get it?
Ya get it?!?” On the songs where he isn’t afraid to be a little understated,
he’s pretty damned funny; would that he spent more time pursuing that angle in