April Fools’ Day is possibly the most hilarious (and torturous) 24 hours of the year, a day filled with plastic dog poop, really awful pranks that result in moderate-to-severe head injuries and guilting and shaming those closest to you. Or, at least, that’s how it is here at MTV headquarters.
So, in the spirit of the day — and in an attempt to avoid being Maced by MTV News Director of Operations Jonathan Goldner (that dude’s hilarious) — I’ve holed myself up in my office and have decided to grind out a list of the funniest albums of all time. These are the musical equivalents of plastic dog poop … records that must surely be a joke (perhaps even a mean-spirited one), because there really is no other explanation for their existence.
As a side note, just because I find all these albums to be hilarious doesn’t mean they’re terrible. In fact, looking at the list again, I’m struck by how many of them I actually like. Still, that’s beside the point. April 1 is a cruel day, and I must roll with the punches. So, for your April Fools’ Day pleasure, may I present the greatest musical pranks of all time — a handful of records that probably aren’t meant to be laughed at, but, as Q-Tip once said, sometimes you’ve gotta laugh to keep from crying.
Lou Reed, Metal Machine Music (1975): Either the funniest album of all time or the worst (or probably both), Lou Reed’s ear-splitting, dissonant and downright atonal double album (!) was greeted with reviews that compared it to “the tubular groaning of a galactic refrigerator” and “a night in a bus terminal” upon its initial release. Anyone who made it through the album’s four noisy, feedback-drenched sides probably agreed — they probably also believed that Reed was either joking or had gone completely insane. Reed himself maintained the album was not a joke (he reportedly also claimed it “invented” heavy metal), though in a 2002 interview, he did admit, “I was serious about it. I was also really, really stoned.” We’re laughing with you, Lou.
Bob & Doug McKenzie, The Great White North (1981): Toqued up Canadian brothers (as played by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas) record comedy/concept album about beer, back bacon and black holes, land an improbable cameo by Rush’s Geddy Lee, inexplicably score a hit single (“Take Off”) as a result. All very funny. The fact that this won the Canadian Grammy for Comedy Album of the Year? Hilarious.
Neil Young, Trans (1982): Imagine Neil Young — hirsute, warbly godfather of grunge — singing almost entirely through a Vocoder. Now imagine he’s singing songs with titles like “Computer Age,” “Transformer Man” and “Computer Cowboy.” Slap a goofy, “Tron”-esque cover on that nightmare, and you’ve got Trans, an album that befuddled pretty much, well, everyone. Most thought it was an elaborate joke; others believed it was Young at his most satirical, poking fun at the soulless, electro-pop that dominated the decade. Regardless, his record label — Geffen — wasn’t pleased, and thanks to this album (and 1983’s goofy, 25-minute long Everybody’s Rockin’), they sued Young for releasing “uncharacteristic, uncommercial” records. For that reason alone, you need to listen to this.
Ween, 12 Golden Country Greats (1996): OK, for starters, this is a Ween album, recorded using legendary Nashville session musicians like Hargus “Pig” Robbins and Russ Hicks. There are songs featuring Muhammad Ali samples and songs with titles like “Piss Up a Rope” and “Mr. Richard Smoker.” Oh, and despite the title, there are only 10 tracks on 12 Golden Country Greats.
Beastie Boys,Country Mike’s Greatest Hits (1998): Hey, another country piss-take … and this one is due to severe head trauma! Sometime between the release of 1994’s Ill Communication and 1998’s Hello Nasty, Mike D was hit on the head and lost all his memory. According to fellow Beastie Adam Yauch, while he was in the grips of amnesia, D believed himself to be a crooner named Country Mike. Acting on a psychologist’s advice, the Beasties played along, recording an album of country cuts with titles like “Don’t Let the Air Out of My Tires” and “Country Delight.” Some appeared on the 1999 Sounds of Science anthology; the rest have become much-sought Beasties’ nuggets. Roughly 90 percent of this is actually true, BTW.
Beck, Midnite Vultures (1999): Do you like party-dude, popping-and-locking Beck, or serious, guy-and-an-acoustic-guitar Beck? Well, if you prefer the former, then boy you must love this album. Sadly, most didn’t … mostly because, for the first time in his entire career, people weren’t sure if Beck was joking or not. And while the jury’s still out, it’s hard to think of anyone being serious while thrusting through tracks like “Sexx Laws” or “Hollywood Freaks.” And don’t even get me started on album closer “Debra,” a gut-busting exercise in libidinous bleating and pleading. Beck hasn’t been nearly as funny at any point before (or after).
The Bloodhound Gang, Hooray for Boobies (2000): This album is called Hooray for Boobies. What more do you need to know?
Coheed and Cambria, Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness (2005): Possibly the goofiest thing Coheed have ever done, and given everything they’ve done, well, that’s saying something. From the doomy riffs of “Welcome Home” to the overarching (and overwrought) story line to the hidden tribute to Led Zeppelin that closes the record, this is prog rock at its most hilarious (to say nothing about Claudio Sanchez’s hair or the fact that the band toured behind the album with a winged guillotine onstage). The fact that no one in the band seems to be laughing along with the listener transports this into the realm of high art.
Trans Am, T.A. (2002): Washington, D.C.’s Trans Am have always excelled at pointing out the rather ridiculous extremes of genres like prog and post-rock, but on T.A., they push the pointing into overdrive. Positively bathed in ’80s synth sheen and featuring feathered and airbrushed liner notes, it’s a completely hilarious send-up, one that also includes brilliantly stoopid joints like “Party Station” and “Different Kind of Love,” not to mention a drunken impression of Derek Fisher lifted off someone’s answering machine. You have to be smart to be this dumb.
Questions? Concerns? Hit me up at BTTS@MTVStaff.com.