Humour in music is difficult to write about. Is a humorous act just a joke or something to be listened to in the same manner one would listen to the latest album from, say, Ryan Adams? Probably not yet the rock’n’roll road is littered with some great songs, usually listed under “novelty,” that stand the test of time. One of the arbiters of what’s a good “novelty” song is the great Dr. Demento, an LA institution since the early seventies and champion of Nervous Norfus, Weird Al Jankovic and Barnes and Barnes (the exquisite song, Fish Heads). So, it’s a badge of honour that Dr. Demento has recently cast his eye in the direction of Scotland, specifically those kings of Mirth ‘n’ Roll Roberto & The Tickety 2 featuring two of their songs on his show, White Wine from their first album and Harley Davidson from Middle Age Spread, their latest release.
Well, who are we to disagree with Dr. Demento as he’s spot on with his picks here. Roberto & The Tickety 2 are a Perthshire based trio who actually have some great musical chops. Roberto handles his double bass with some dexterity as Dave Clelland lays down some fine percussion. Topping this is the guitar work of Owen Nicholson, an ace guitarist who, instead of his usual country rock licks, plays some excellent jazzy guitar lines; in fact I’m sure that if you were to hear the album without the vocal track you’d think this was by someone like Barney Kessel. Fine as that is Roberto Cassani ensures that the songs have the main ingredient required of a fine novelty song, i.e. novelty, fun, humour and such. Listening to the songs here which accurately spear some social notions and poke fun at well-deserved targets there was a thought that he’s working in the same sphere as ace humorists Tom Lehrer and Ivor Cutler, his words fired at various Aunt Sally’s. So we get a salute to baldness (“men are boys until they’re bald”), the perils of the male menopause (Harley Davidson) and a jab at hipsters (Grizzly Adams) among others. There’s broad humour in the very funny Man For My Mum with Cassani importuning George Clooney lookalikes in the pub lavatory in a search for a new dad, sleazy Soho boho jazz on Pane & Salame with Cassani coming across like Paulo Conte and some very fine cod Mexicali drama on Pedro. Best of all is the hazy, almost Tiki laidback groove of Don’t Grow Up, a fine warning to children throughout the world.
It’s all still tongue in cheek but definitely a step up from their first album Manflu and best of all for a comedy album it’s one that you can listen to time and again as it does groove and the lyrics reveal new nuggets time and again.