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Music and Comedy CD Recommendations

Spotlight on: How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All by the Firesign Theatre
Alternate: Song Islands by the Microphones

How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All by Firesign Theatre Firesign Theatre, How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All

All right, so it isn't music, but it is one of the best comedy albums ever recorded. It was a banner day when I walked into that Record Bar (remember them?), strolled over to the comedy section and began browsing. I accidentally came across this cassette with the weirdest cover (see left): a picture of people saluting photographs of Groucho Marx and John Lennon.

Well, I got the joke, knew immediately it was the funniest album cover I had ever seen (still is!) and determined that I had to own it then and there. It also helped that it had the longest title I'd ever seen: How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All (a feat recently topped by Fiona Apple's When the Pawn, etc., etc.).

I didn't know what I was getting into, but I knew it was going to be something phenomenal.

The Firesign Theatre, or the "four or five crazee guys," are four men whose primary medium is the sound recording (whether LP, cassette tape, or CD). Rarely have they gone into visual media. What this means in effect is that all their talents go into making the best album they can. This involves a lot of overdubbing, very creative sound effects, as well as several references to the fact that you are listening to them, like on old-time radio shows. They are constantly speaking over and under each other and to catch all the lines requires several listens. One always discovers something new. I have listened to this album literally dozens of times (to the point that I can quote most of it) and am still hearing new things, especially with headphones.

It does help to be versed in the sixties and seventies to a degree, as this was the time this album was recorded. "The Further Adventures of Nick Danger," the 30-minute detective radio parody on what used to be called "side 2," contains over a dozen references to the Beatles' White Album alone.

I find it very difficult to explain what makes this so funny. But as all humor is subjective, perhaps I shouldn't try. You'll either get it or you won't.

But if you do, boy are you in for a ride.

Song Islands by the Microphones Alternate Recommendation: The Microphones, Song Islands

I was afraid it would happen, but now it's official: I have become a Microphones obsessive. Not just a fan, a fanatic. Lately, while perusing the K records website, found myself wanting everything associated with the Microphones, even non-music stuff like the button, T-shirt, and pennant (sadly, no longer available).

Not that this derides the quality of music found on Song Islands (or Island Songs, if you happen to be the proud owner of a Japanese pre-release copy). While definitely not as cohesive as a full-album effort like The Glow, Pt. 2, or even It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water, this collection of various singles released over the years by Elvrum and company is quite charming in its disconnectedness. Unlike the band's albums, this one benefits from "shuffle" play, allowing one to experience each song on its own merits and not as part of a whole. Although, listened to in order (they are arranged chronologically), it allows one to examine the growth and development of one of indie rock's finest performers.

The songs range from the campfire singalong "I Can't Believe You Actually Died" to two separate versions of "The Moon" (officially found on The Glow, Pt. 2) to the next rendition in the Glow series, "The Glow Pt. 4." Released primarily as a appetizer for the mother-of-all concept albums, Mt. Eerie, this career-spanning retrospective was more than enough to satisfy this Microphones fan until the full meal arrived.

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