Making funny records brings its own set of unique risks. It’s easy to make someone laugh once, despite themselves, when their friends aren’t looking, or because you’ve found a way to light a birthday candle in the coal mines of human misery. To write a song where the laughs have a durable half-life takes a truly uncommon wit. Maybe Eminem is the standard-bearer given his penchant for stitching rumbling beats into cartoonish images frosted with his frat boy’s sense of yucks. Mind you, I laugh along with Eminem almost as much as I laugh at him for his paranoid masculinity and the open-veined prostitution of his trailer crank skew of the Oedipus complex.
MC Paul Barman drops ill lit flow over some of most hilarious book club one liners you’re ever gonna hear on the mic. On the plus side, he doesn’t brood over the violent deaths of his mother and wife or need to jackboot anyone else in order to swab his own ego. “Paullelujah” opens the album with Paul warbling on top of a choir chanting “Paullelujah” and proceeds into an extended screed about the idiocies of institutionalized learning over the backdrop of what sounds like a 1950s sitcom theme. “Cock Mobster” is by far one of the most pornographically singable tracks on the album, including such carnal couplets as “Sigourney Weaver, has a thrashing horny beaver” and “I’m sticking taxing long things in, Maxine Hongston”. “Cock Mobster” takes a Looney Toons slant on what amounts to a Christmas wish list of celebrity genitalia. I only wish that Paul Barman were more famous so I could watch the spectacle of Sigourney Weaver’s PR flacks issuing the statement: “Miss Weaver rejects the implication that her beaver is both thrashing and horny. Miss Weaver’s Beaver is family oriented and has given much time and money to ecological charities”. If you don’t laugh at this song, check your pulse.
Nowhere is legitimacy more contested than in the world of hip-hop. Being a white boy automatically brings with it questions about appropriation that quickly morph into accusations of cultural shoplifting. Truth be told, the popularization of hip-hop has made these questions moot. If Puff Daddy is keeping it real, than hip-hop’s core values go no deeper than the number of ho’s that can comfortably be piled poolside and the width of one’s Bentley rims. MC Paul Barman responds to his critics on “Old Paul” with flippant smarts: “Have I made a mockery of a culture like Choco Taco? / Was I to rap as France was to Morocco / Was I Colin rap?”.
“Excuse You” drops a tight, thunking beat over an old school ode to the mirror with bragadaccio such as “No one left for the restrooms when I got on stage” and “I can rock the mic to ‘Silence’ by John Cage”. The background’s painfully white choir reminds me of some of Beck’s soulful irony, winking without forgetting the need to keep heads nodding. Despite the wide range of political stabs, Barman’s true love seems to be a free-range aural fixation. Paullelujah burgeons with internally tumbled rhyme, palindromes, and an assortment of lyrical cat’s cradles. This is nowhere more evident than on “Vulture Shark Sculpture Park”, which spins a thin tale over a James Bond bass line about talking animals getting married or some shit, but is really just about Barman spitting out twisters like “little orphan dolphin gets endorphins / she’s looking lucky and reckless / thanks to her tumbleweed bumble bee necklace” and “a very goth towel / a terrycloth cowl / I, hairy moth owl”. Clearly his second aim after cracking a joke is just the sheer glee of tonguing out a lyrical knot and seeing how many he can pile up.
MC Paul Barman is an artist that seems to divide listeners into evenly cleft camps of lovers and haters. I’m not going to say I can’t see both sides. Barman’s rhythm is a bit like the gait of someone who just spent a couple of hours spinning in circles while staring up at a rake. Not to mention that his calvacade of cultural obscurity can seem forced or like the underground hip-hop version of one of those “If You Liked” Amazon.com lists. And even I have to admit that his funny bone scampers onto limbs where I simply cannot follow. Maybe it’s just that I’ve already rolled the ashes of my innocence into ciggies, but I do not think pooping and farting are drop dead hilarious. But give me nuns, nuns and more nuns and I’m in stitches. Give it a shot. Unless, of course, you’re stuck on the street cred of a bunch of pseudo-thugs propped into violently dumb poses shilling for Corporations who sell safe urban strife to deep pocketed white kids. Whatever you decide you should at least consider nominating this record as a guilty pleasure.
// Notes from the Road
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