Music

The Simpsons: Testify

Simpsons fans may find their souls a little less embiggened by Testify.


The Simpsons

Testify

Subtitle: A Whole Lot More Original Music from the Television Series
Label: Shout! Factory
US Release Date: 2007-09-18
UK Release Date: 2007-09-17
Amazon
iTunes
Lisa: "Mom, doesn't it bother you that they're giving you all this attention just because of those [breast implants]?"

Homer: "That's not true, Lisa. There are a lot of complicated issues here, that can only be explained through song."

While it might not appear as a perfect bell curve, the 19-season trajectory of The Simpsons follows a steady ramp-up through "kinda funny" to a blissful peak of "hilarious and surreal" and then a steady settling back into "kinda funny". Sure, the show still offers the occasional hilarious moment -- such as Bart and Lisa's elaborate cardboard fort battle with hundreds of brown-uniformed delivery workers who stream into the backyard like a horde of orcs from The Lord of the Rings -- but the show's not side-splitting anymore, and certainly not as quotable.

Part of the problem might be that, after so much time, the show's once daring humor seems more like an enjoyable old friend than the vibrant pioneer of animated comedy it used to be. It's not for lack of ambition on the show's part, though, especially regarding the musical numbers. Recent seasons have seen an American Idol parody, a full-on Evita homage, and even a stab at My Fair Lady with Groundskeeper Willie at its clearly enunciated center. But the musical segments now seem to suffer the same malaise as the show's regular comedy, often starting off with a good idea, but rarely flashing that special spark of absurdity that takes it over the top. Alf Clausen's arrangements are still top-notch, but the lyrical content just doesn't seem as sharp.

Consequently, Testify, covering Seasons 10 through 18, rarely satisfies. Nothing here equals past favorites like "We Do (The Stonecutters' Song)", "See My Vest", "Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel", or "Dr. Zaius". In fact, you forget many of Testify's tracks right after you hear them.

The disc is not without a few highlights. One shining moment is the "Everybody Hates Ned Flanders" medley, which includes Homer's original version, David Byrne's jittery pop version, a William Shatner trainwreck, and then Byrne's extended salsa remix (prompting Homer to lament, "I've come to hate my own creation. Now I know how God feels.") It's always good to hear Kelsey Grammer's ego-driven portrayals of Sideshow Bob, and you seldom go wrong with Cletus' hillbilly family (their musical abilities being exploited by Krusty the Clown, they twist a classic moment from The Sound of Music into "I have eight teeth, going on seven teeth".)

However, too many of Testify's songs rely on knowledge of the skits that spawned them (not a real problem for most Simpsons fans, but still), and the snippets of dialogue aren't as helpful as they were on earlier soundtrack discs. "King of Cats", a Lion King-on-Broadway parody that was one of the show's funniest recent moments, loses nearly all of its humor precisely because the visuals are gone. Another problem might be that The Simpsons has always been a little too successful at mimicking the very suckage that it often parodies. "They'll Never Stop the Simpsons" (in which the writers "boast" of numerous lame ideas they haven't even tried yet), "Branson" (unfortunately nowhere near as scathing as the show's stab at New Orleans), and "America Rules" (the family's musical defense of their patriotism after being imprisoned for un-American sentiments) wear the trappings of '70s Variety Hour shows so well that it's practically painful.

Those issues probably make Testify more of a diehards-only disc than either Songs in the Key of Springfield or Go Simpsonic with the Simpsons. Despite some funny moments, it's largely a reminder that The Simpsons may continue entertaining for a long time, but that the golden years have probably passed.

5

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image