This album is not a cover album. This album is the Electric Grandmother's The Bodyguard Soundtrack.
When Mark Knopfler committed the life and times of Ray Kroc to song in the form of his catchy single "Boom, Like That", I came across a comment from a disgruntled fan on the internet (yeah, what a novelty) that read something like "I'm not sure I can get into a song about McDonald's." If you don't like your art and pop culture to mix, all bets are off when it comes to the Washington D.C.-based couple of Pete Faust and Mary Alice Hamnett who go by the name of the Electric Grandmother. Not only did they come up with their own tribute to the golden arches, they've also managed to write and record hundreds of songs with themes ranging from an '80s child grappling with the popularity of Airwolf to lamenting the creation of the short-lived TV series Dinosaurs. They've released a 100 song collection for free and have written god-knows-how-many songs pointing out just how crappy Full House was.
Welcome to sitcom-core, a musical genre that simultaneously lampoons and celebrates modern junk culture. The songs are short but numerous. The ideas behind the songs are minimal while the executions that bring them to life are delightfully weird. Loopy keyboards, a distorted treatment of Faust and Hamnett's voices, and absurd lyrical content all point to a guarantee that any given album from the Electric Grandmother isn't going to sound like anything else. The Bodyguard Soundtrack, a release that can only be considered a send-up to the Whitney Houston recording by way of the title, artwork, and 90-second opening song, is just as weird as anything they've done recently. The recording and arranging quality continues its ascent while the subject matter stays rooted in junior high. Here are some of the song titles: "Bill and Hillary Clinton Making Out in a Hot Tub Full of Poop and Pee", "We Threw Up on Nuns", "They Photographed My Penis", and "Food Gives Us Shit". So if you think that songwriters shouldn't give something as humdrum as fast food the time of day, feel free to start reading something else right now.
As per usual with the Electric Grandmother, The Bodyguard Soundtrack comes to bat with some very catchy winners that would absolutely be considered radio-friendly if their lyrics weren't so specific. The earliest example is the soaring "Madonna Was Once Just Like You", a paean to celebrities getting famous the hard way...maybe: "Don't tell me that dreams can't come true / 'Cause Madonna was once just like you!" "Mr. Madonna" segues easily into the peppy synthpop of "Mr. Mom", praising a stay-at-home dad as "the man of my dreams." An equally smooth transition happens as "We Here at NASA" melts into "The Raptor Rap", a really groove yet demented take on hip-hop. "Red Hot Oahu Blues" represents one of those genuine romantic moments that the Electric Grandmother will reserve towards the end of an album, like "Wife Gurly" from The Stenographer and "Two Dillweeds" (trust me) from Love in an Escalator. It even sneaks in a Troy McClure reference: "Met a girl that I had to know / Told my family that I had to go / On a plane and before you know / The greatest story ever hulaed."
The Bodyguard Soundtrack has 22 songs in all, so there's plenty of room for goof. "YO PALM SPRINGS" is a song that, by Faust's own admission, doesn't make much sense. "Skis CDs" is a (likely intentional) step backward into The Electric Grandmother's lo-fi past. "Three Men and a Baby", a song that sounds like vintage Electric Grandmother through-and-through if such a claim can be staked, follows all plot points of the bachelor screwball comedy: "Fuck you mom, you're not going to London!" In under two minutes, "Michael Jordan" commemorates two career touchstones that the former NBA star would probably prefer to forget -- starring in Space Jam and his brief foray into baseball. As the song gets ready to fade away, Hamnett deadpans this couplet: "Michael Jordan / Al Capone / Woody Woodpecker / Fred Flintstone." I guess...all those names go together? And Bodybuard wouldn't be an Electric Grandmother release without a song about the threatening resurrection of Full House. "Let's turn this mother out" Hamnett coos in "Fuller House", a lyric that could be of the here-we-go-again variety. "Major Dad" is nineteen seconds long. Yeah, I don't remember much about that show either.
If this is not your first Electric Grandmother release, then you already know about the "Tired Robots" and the various instrumental tracks they commandeer. Here you have "The Tired Robots Drive the Race Car" (reprising various noises from the first track) and "The Tired Robots Ride the Subway". The latter especially shows Faust's gifts for slapping together keyboard textures in a way that allows you to forget all of the silliness that takes place before and after the track. Not that the quirks of sitcom-core aren't welcome, it's just that these diversions help make a strange album from a peculiar act all the more well-rounded. And when listening to the 100 tracks that constitute Make a Joyful Noise, adapting an adjective like "well-rounded" to The Electric Grandmother's sound was probably pretty low on Faust's list of priorities. But here we are with The Bodyguard Soundtrack, a nifty 35-minute slice of what-the-hell-was-that-I-need-to-hear-it-again music for your junk culture edification.