Thursday, August 25, 2011
Most Sensational, Inspirational, Celebrational, Muppetational
Tuesday marked the release of The Green Album. Let's be honest, this review is just a formality. I love the Muppets. I have always loved the Muppets. I am most definitely going to tell you to go out and buy a Muppet tribute/revival album. But when you put some of my favorite artists on the album, like OK Go or Andrew Bird or Rachel Yamagata, I am even more enthusiastically going to tell you to buy it. And yes, I did pre-order the album. And I'm proud of it.
Robin Hilton also writes a lovely review of the album on the NPR First Listen blog; with which I happen to agree a great deal.
But here is my not-even-pretending-to-be-objective view on this collaboration: Love it!
The album kicks off, and I mean really kicks, with OK Go playing The Muppet Show theme. I think the Electric Mayhem would be proud of their loud and distorted take on tune. And when I think about it, OK Go just might be the real world's Electric Mayhem. Almost. Next up is Weezer + Hayley Williams (Paramore) doing Rainbow Connection. This one is a little tricky for me. That song is a classic and much beloved to me, Kermit the Frog being my dream, er, frog and all. They do it fair justice, though. There's not much playing with the arrangement, I'm not a fan of the vocal colors, but it's still a great song. Maybe the most surprising track is The Fray singing "Mahna Mahna." I had no idea who was singing when I first heard it, and when I checked in with my iPod I was so surprised! It's hard for me to hear The Fray singing this ridiculously catchy song (over and over in my head) and then try to also hear them singing "How to Save a Life." There's an extended instrumental part in the song which doesn't make much sense if you don't also picture the sketch from the show in your head at the same time, but I have repeated this track more than once. The Alkaline Trio does a fantastic version of "Movin' Right Along" which ought to be on any mixed tape you give a friend who moves away or for any road trip. It's on this track that I start to try to picture these bands seriously entering a recording studio, which is no cheap ordeal, to record tracks from The Muppet Show. Did they start to question their legitimacy as artists? Did they have a great time? Is it a dream they've finally been given permission to live out loud and proud? American rockers My Morning Jacket perform "Our World" with which I was completely unfamiliar, but is reminiscent of John Lennon to me, actually. He's not a muppet, but he'd be proud of this one I think. Would probably have sung it with them, too. And how about the nod to the Beatles "White Album" with the Muppets "Green Album." Too much? Nay, just right. Amy Lee (from Evanescence) sings "Halfway Down the Stairs," which was originally sung by Robin, Kermit's adorable nephew (and an excellent second choice for my husband I think) if I remember correctly. Her unique ethereal voice almost keeps the innocence of Robin's, but the electronic/techno background is a little too much for me. It's daring and almost commendable, except it becomes repetetive and almost trite as the song continues. Nevertheless, this song has gotten most stuck in my head. Sondre Lerche absolutely kills "Mr. Bassman" (in a good way) and sounds a bit like Ben Sollee, whom I also love. Andrew Bird does an absolutely beautiful arrangement of "Bein' Green." The entire album is worth this track, I think. Seriously. Kermit, himself, might even try to cheer Bird up. Matt Nathanson performs "I Hope That Something Better Comes Along" with a sincerity and slight sultry flavor that makes it sound like it came from one of his own albums, not a Muppet tribute. Rachel Yamagata closes the album with "I'm Going to go Back There Someday" with background vocals that sound like Glee, but it's a sweet end to a sweet trip down memory lane as an adult.
And that's the thing. This album is almost like what it would sound like if the Muppets actually did grow up, like all the rest of us did, and if maybe life taught them the same lessons it taught all of us. And if they "got the band back together" to revisit the old days. (Which apparently they do in the new movie coming out in November. Did you catch that? NEW MUPPET MOVIE!) The Green Album is sweet and sincere - like we all used to be. It's a fun refreshment from a world which is oftentimes mean and sarcastic.