Sunday, 14 July 2013

Earles and Jensen present.... 'Just Farr a Laugh Vols. 1 & 2: The Greatest Prank Phone Calls Ever!' (Matador)

I guess my own self-imposed rules about this blog say I have to write something about these two CDs of Memphis-based crank phone calls, inexplicably released by the esteemed indie giant Matador a few years back. The first disc of this was passed around between friends of mine (as a CD-r of unknown origin which someone got from someone who got it from someone, etc.) for years, so seeing this get a deluxe double CD reissue almost brought tears to my eyes, first at the sheer ridiculousness of this, and secondly because it came with a bonus second disc. Now, disc two's never really leapt out at me, but I probably listened to disc 1 thirty or forty times during the mid-00s, and this is largely the type of conceptual anti-comedy that requires repeated listenings to make an impact, so it's probably just a matter of needing to give it more time. What's brilliant about these calls is that the majority of the victims never, probably to this day, become aware that they are the recipients of a prank. Earles and Jensen create characters and situations that allow them to improvise in a manner that is ridiculous, but not so ridiculous that you realise it's a ruse. Their brilliance is in playing up stereotypes of modern life, the way desperate people talk, and by making obscure cultural references here and there. This might involve a middle-aged woman mentioning that Billy Ocean is one of her favourite blues musicians, pretending to be Jason Bonham or Morris Day, or . The most memorable character on these discs is of course Bleachy, a creation that is pretty damn racist but pretty damn hilarious. If you want your own adventure in storytelling, try to explain the cultural "meaning" of Bleachy to a European. ("Well, there is a chain of drive-through fast-food establishments largely on the East coast called Rally's, which is stereotypically frequented by African-Americans....") I can't deny that the Bleachy calls are totally fucking hilarious, though they start to drag a bit on disc 2. Throughout, the pop culture references are wonderfully American and wonderfully decrepit - Kurt Loder, Murphy's Romance, Jermaine Stewart, Simon and Simon, etc. 'The Yogurt Machine' is probably the highlight, which is worth seeking out all two hours of this just to hear Earles (or Jensen) say "Well, tell me about 'em." But this is not humour for everyone, and hopefully it will serve as some sort of weird time capsule that future generations can attempt to decipher. This was probably the last possible moment that something like this would have gotten a physical release, as it's hard to justify this needing any more deluxe of a presentation than YouTube or an RSS feed - but I'm happy for it.

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