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CD Reviews: Review of Aperitif for Destruction by Richard Cheese
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Click here to buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com Richard Cheese: Aperitif for Destruction (Surfdog Records 2005)

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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” is funny.

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 his interpretations.  

~Will Harris 


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