The Simpsons

Sharps & Flats is a daily music review in Salon Magazine

By Milo Miles
April 1, 1997 1:00AM (UTC)
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As you can guess, this is one o' them music-from-another-medium items and so is meant as a keepsake or momentary amusement and not a listen-all-the-way-through type thing. As a serious Simpsons fan, I have to have it around and think it's far more desirable than exploitative quickies like "The Simpsons Sing the Blues." The packaging, however, takes itself more seriously than the soundtrack does. Everything that's a satire or rip-off of another piece of music is called an "homage," and there seems to be oddly little awareness that these are musical jokes. I mean, the "Simpsons" main title and end-credit theme (by Danny Elfman of Oingo Boingo anti-fame) is a send-up of a gung-ho overture, not a real one. Also, lots of loose talk about the astonishing mastery of Alf Clausen, who writes much of the music and orchestrations. He sounds more like a pro who still gets a decent kick out of his job -- and that's enough, really.

"Songs in the Key of Springfield" nails down a half-dozen marvels that work as delights on their own, mostly through wickedly dark lyrics. Standouts include "We Do (The Stonecutters' Song)," "'Round Springfield" (a feature for dear departed Bleeding Gums Murphy), "Oh Streetcar!" (the funniest song of the series: "Stella! Can't you hear me yella! You're puttin' me thorough hella!"), Mr. Burns' "See My Vest" and Homer's impression of meathead maudlin, "It Was a Very Good Beer." And as is often the case with Rhino, there are a couple annoying, cheesy omissions (due to money or permissions, one assumes) such as Sonic Youth's version of the end credit theme. Almost compensating is a dandy visual gag that involves the CD disc itself, which I won't give away.


Perhaps if this collection sells like half-price fresh doughnuts, Geffen will release the completed and long-delayed "The Yellow Album" (the title is a take-off on Prince's "The Black Album," so you see how long it's been lying around). This is reportedly more numbers done by Simpsons character voices, so I do worry about the singing quality holding up. Anyway, "Songs in the Key of Springfield" is a fine excuse to immerse yourself in the "Simpsons" universe, and the God of all Simpsons Web sites is even here.

(But didja ever notice how on these
chat groups and Web sites the
participants get all hung up about
continuity details and realism quibbles
that they would never demand of a live
action show? And though I realize
these gripes are a result of compulsive
re-watching, as are the dumb
complaints that are like groaning "I
Love Lucy" doesn't work because
nobody could be that stupid, the ugly
part is the "gotcha" atmosphere, and
when somebody asks well what would
you do to prevent this "problem" from
happening the complainers take off on
some monstrously elaborate and
unconvincing solution that would just
draw attention to the original quibble
and de-rail the whole course of --
Hey! Leggo that keyboard! Wait! No

Milo Miles

Milo Miles' music commentary can be heard on National Public Radio's "Fresh Air." He is a regular contributor to Salon

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