Debasement Tapes

Tom Smith

Pretzel Productions, 2001

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Like most humorous singers, filker and parodist Tom Smith has always had some songs he just didn't record for one reason or another. Part of the problem might have been fear of lawsuits, part of it obscurity, part of it just sheer cussedness. However, it was a moment of sheer luck when someone or something convinced him to record a number of parodies that had been sitting around for varying lengths of time, because the results are uniformly funny. Thusly, we have Debasement Tapes.

Smith's work isn't easy to find. It took me six months to get a copy of this CD (mostly because I was stupid and didn't just order it directly from his my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 web page). But it's worth it when you do find it. His original songs are alternatively funny and poignant, surprisingly sensitive at times. The songs on Debasement Tapes, on the other hand, range from mildly funny to viciously funny.

There is the usual collection of SF fandom songs, of course. "Five Years" is a tribute to the best science fiction series in history, Babylon 5, and Smith handles it well, though he sings it slower than the song it's a parody of, Barenaked Ladies' "One Week.""Be Our GOH" is a hilarious look at SF conventions parodizing "Be Our Guest," though you have to know some of the injokes to fully appreciate the song (knowing a GOH is a Guest Of Honor helps).

These songs are not the true highlights of this CD, though. That's reserved for songs like "Honey Glazed Ham" (a parody so evil I refuse to tell you what it's about), "Barenaked Cockburn" (toss Bruce Cockburn's "Rocket Launcher" and Barenaked Ladies's "If I Had $1,000,000" in a blender and hit puree), the geek humour of "On The PC" and "PC99," and the brainbreaking "Telly Taley Heart" (yes, it's probably what you think it is). "500 Hats" deserves special mention as well, being Dr Seuss sung to the Proclaimers' "500 Miles." (I'm not sure that's a parody. I'm not sure what it is, but it's funny.)

If there is anything that doesn't work on Debasement Tapes, it's the arrangements. Smith's background vocalists are competent enough, but for some reason their voices clash with the written harmonies in a couple of places. "Time Plot," a vicious sendup of Star Trek's plot devices, is a particularly bad example, and my wife cringes and leaves the room when it comes on. The same applies to a lesser extent to "Alien Adventures" and "Smurfin' Safari."

On the whole, however, Debasement Tapes is wickedly funny and worth the effort it'll take you to find. There are too few really gifted parodists out there; we should support the ones we have.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Pretzel Productions, and is used for informational purposes only.