Album Review: Jonathan Coulton, “Best. Concert. Ever” (2009)

My fiancé turned me onto Jonathan Coulton’s music.  I’d heard the comedic singer-songwriter’s stuff a few times before; his song, “Code Monkey” was familiar to me, as was his acoustic cover of Sir. Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”.  But when my fiancé and I started dating, he gave me all of Coulton’s albums and EPs, including the live CD, Best. Concert. Ever.

Recorded in February, 2008 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, California, Best.Concert.Ever features a nice collection of some of his funniest and biggest hits, taken from his song catalogue.

Part of Coulton’s charm is his geeky persona, which is the basis of several of his songs, including the disc’s opener, The Future Soon.  The mellow acoustic number revolves around Coulton’s unrequited childhood crush and his steady reassurance that someday in the future, he’ll be cool enough to get the girl of his dreams (“Cause it’s gonna be the future soon/And I won’t always be this way/When the things that make me weak and strange get engineered away”).  It all sounds sweet on the surface, but the other part of Coulton’s charm is his quirkiness, especially when he also decides that in the future, he’ll be a crazy mad-scientist and will turn his dream girl into a robot (“She will scream and try to run/But there’s nowhere she can hide/When a crazy cyborg wants to make you his robot bride”).  It’s silly, clever, quirky and funny…which is the perfect way to describe the whole album, in fact.

Next up is Coulton’s cheeky ode to Ikea(“Long ago in days of yore/It all began with a god named Thor/There were Vikings and boats/And some plans for a furniture store…/Ikea: just some oak and some pine and a handful of Norsemen/Ikea: selling furniture for college kids and divorced men/Everyone has a home/But if you don’t have a home you can buy one there”),  as well as I’m Your Moon,  a seemingly romantic love song, which actually turns out to be a ballad dedicated to Pluto from its moon, Charon (“They invented a reason/That’s why it stings/They don’t think you matter/Because you don’t have pretty rings/I keep telling you I don’t care/I keep saying there’s one thing they can’t change/I’m your moon/You’re my moon/We go round and round”).

Of course, there are also Coulton’s aforementioned hit songs, including his remake of Baby Got Back.  There’s something inherently funny about a rap song being turned into slow, acoustic number (see: Ben Fold’s cover of Dr. Dre’s “B*tches Ain’t Sh*t”), and this rendition is exceptionally funny, particularly when Coulton sings lines like, “…but that butt you’ve got makes me so horny”, to slow, southern beat.  Coulton has described Code Monkey as a “semi-autobiographical song about a lovelorn computer programmer” and the funny, yet endearing, lyrics (“Code Monkey have every reason/To get out this place/Code Monkey just keep on working/To see your soft pretty face/Much rather wake up eat a coffee cake/Take bath, take nap/This job fulfilling in creative way/Such a load of crap”) have always made the song a favourite of mine.  That being said, though this live version is nice, I definitely prefer the faster pace and sleek production of the original song, instead.  Rockin’ number, Still Alive, was another success for Coulton (it was featured as the song for video game, Portal), and is also included on the album.

Jonathan Coulton

There are some nonsensical songs as well, but they still manage to be inexplicably funny.  Tom Cruise Crazy is a jazzy little number about how insane Tom Cruise is (“Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise crazy/Just be glad it’s him, not you/If you had Tom Cruise’s troubles/You might be Tom Cruise crazy, too/You’d flash your big white shiny smile/And buy expensive shoes/But you’d be the only man on Earth who couldn’t enjoy Tom Cruise”), and though I’m not sure why Coulton wrote a song about Cruise’s craziness (then again, why not?), it still gives me a fit of the giggles each time I listen to it.  The same could be said of Creepy Doll, a strange song about, well…a creepy doll (“And there’s a creepy doll/That always follows you/It’s got a ruined eye/That’s always open…”).  Again, there’s no real purpose for a song like this, and perhaps it falls in the category of “so-stupid-it’s-funny”, but I guess I’m too busy laughing to actually care.

The concert and disc end on a fun note with the crowd singing along to First Of May, Coulton’s infectious song about celebrating the first day of warm weather with one’s significant other (“’Cause it’s the first of May, first of May/Outdoor f**king starts today/So bring your favorite lady/Or at least your favorite lay”).

So does Jonathan Coulton put on the Best.Concert.Ever?  Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but his collection of goofy, funny- at times sentimental, and at all times entertaining- songs are well worth adding to your music collection.  If you’re a fan of acoustic/indie-rock, nerd rock, or a bit of both, then this is the perfect thing for you.

Rating: 200px-4_stars.svg

Track List
1. The Future Soon
2. Ikea
3. Shop Vac
4. I’m Your Moon
5. Baby Got Back
6. Kenesaw Mountain Landis
7. Chiron Beta Prime
8. Tom Cruise Crazy
9. Code Monkey
10. Creepy Doll
11. Still Alive
12. Mr. Fancy Pants
13. I Crush Everything
14. Skull Crusher Mountain
15. Mandelbrot Set
16. You Ruined Everything
17. Re: Your Brains
18. A Talk With George
19. I Feel Fantastic
20. First of May


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