Laughter is the best medicine for everything, especially during these bizarre days. With the world resembling more like The Twilight Zone which makes Shortland Street seem sensible, these times scream for a Pavement or Stephen Malkmus revival. That doesn’t seem likely, so to whom do we turn to get a dose of fantasy, humor, and entertainment? Look to New Zealand, of course, the country that gave us Flight of the Conchords and Taika Watiti. Another amusing group that the planet should start paying attention to are Two Cartoons, the Auckland-via-Dunedin duo consisting of Bradley Craig and Isaac McFarlane.
Since the early part of this decade, the twosome have been amusing Kiwis with their quirky pop music and whimsical stories. They also have the knack to take mundane events and turn them into a hilarious piece of music. Sounds like Malkmus and Flight of the Conchords, doesn’t it? Their new EP, The Great British Hangover, is a perfect microcosm of their musical and songwriting brilliance.
Despite just having four songs, the record can be divided into two halves. The first half features two of the most outrageously fun and entertaining songs of the entire year. No laugh track is required on the opener “Hospitality”, which will leave you in stitches, especially if you’ve worked in the service industry. As the Rolling Stones / Foxygen-like classic-rock vibe rings through the air, Craig and McFarlane describe the hopes, dreams, disappointments, and low ambitions that occupy the service industry. For instance:
“I love a challenge, and I work great with a team.
I can count cash.
(No need your minimum wage.)
So where can I stay?
(There’s a bed out in the back)
I love a challenge until it becomes a routine!”
Then there’s this excerpt:
“This job is a stepping stone.
(From dishes to till.)
Before long I’ll be out of here.
(You’ll die here!)
Toe-ma-toe, too-may-toe, chi-pottle, chipotle!”
The sci-fi fantasy “Tyrannosaurus A.I” follows. The song is Godzilla meets Philip K. Dick, where a giant monster emerges from the ocean waters near Auckland and demolishes the city while a groovy and bubbly pop melody rings in the background. This T-Rex, however, is man made, as its mind is the design of artificial intelligence. Kind of sounds like one of the Jurassic Park films except possibly done by Sir Peter Jackson and Weta Studios. Hopefully the band can convince the famous Wellington FX company to create the video for this song (or make a movie based on this idea!).
The second half is surprisingly a bit slower, but the quirkiness remains. On the melodic “Under Covers”, the two tell the story about rain. Yes, rain. No, it has no relationship to Prince’s all-time classic, “Purple Rain”, nor is it a love ballad like Guns N’ Roses “November Rain”. The song is about precipitation and water with the band contemplating their existence and what they think. It is weird but amusing and awfully clever.
“It’s raining outside.
I wonder if they remember all of their past lives,
Where they’re stuck in the ice
Off the coast of Antarctica or partying in a reservoir.
Do they care if they are up in the air,
Or cleaning dishes or washing my hair?
Maybe they’re just happy to please
Just happy to be eaten by trees.”
Two Cartoons do get a bit serious on the EP’s ultimate track, “E32NQ”. While they don’t explain what the letters and numbers are, a quick Google search reveals that this is the postal code for the Stratford area of London, where Craig and McFarlane likely are familiar with given they spent significant time in the English capital city. As a late-’60s psych-rock vibe streams across the track, the duo share their observations about a place where people neither succeed nor fail and where identity becomes lost. The song isn’t quite the same creative writing exercise as the previous three songs, but rather it’s the band turned sociologists. It’s an eye-opening number because the scenario they have laid out could be any neighborhood in any city while giving a hint about the EP’s title. In addition, it’s a warning of what is to come. What has come to pass.
The Great British Hangover is out today in New Zealand and tomorrow in the rest of the world. Check the duo’s Bandcamp page to pick up a copy.
Two Cartoons are hosting an EP Release Show at Thirsty Dog Tavern & Cafe in Auckland tomorrow (Saturday, November 18th). Fellow New Zealand bands BEACHWAVE and Spawts are on the bill. Find details here.
Featured photo by Connor Nestor.
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