The Lonely Island‘s third studio album The Wack Album comes at an interesting point in the comedy trio’s career. Made up of recently departed SNL cast member Andy Samberg and fellow writers and friends Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, the three-piece has been active for the better part of a decade. The group became increasingly well-known for their dozens of viral videos and inventive promotion, quickly winning the hearts and funny bones of anyone looking for a laugh of the outlandish variety. Now, nearly a half-decade since their debut album Incredibad was released comes The Wack Album: a much more cohesive, if hit-and-miss, collection of music that will undoubtedly continue to keep their fan base laughing.
The continuing trend of having a fittingly obnoxious intro track to lead off the record is carried on with The Wack Album. “Dramatic Intro” showcases the band’s rise to popularity, as well as their fictional descent into very grave territory, where they’re “beaten to death with their own dicks” – all of which happens in the first minute of the record. This appropriately leads into a series of excellent, club-ready tracks that will satisfy those ready to laugh or dance, respectively. “Go Kindergarten” features a slick hook on the chorus, courtesy of Swedish pop artist Robyn, while Taccone and Schaffer lay down the verse with loud, expletive-laden commands. Another great example of this comes from the short yet sweet “Diaper Money” – a gangster-esque ode to family struggles and fiscal responsibility.
What helps the attempt to drive The Wack Album home as an actual album is how well the overall punchlines of each song consistently work. The first ten tracks (though only a total of twenty minutes) feature some of band’s most amusing work to date. The Adam Levine and Kendrick Lamar-assisted “YOLO,” an inevitably soon-to-be-dated cut, still gets its point across and becomes one of the catchiest tracks on TWA. The same can be said about “Spell It Out” and “Semicolon,” two grammatically correct numbers with simple premises that pay off and ultimately satisfy.
Unfortunately, not all is sound in the land of The Wack Album. Though the record’s persistent reliability in delivering a much more fluid album doesn’t go unnoticed, it still suffers from a lot of the same problems that Incredibad and Turtleneck & Chain succumbed to. The biggest problem? Too many tracks with jokes that don’t always land. It seems that on all three of The Lonely Island’s releases come a hit-and-miss ratio of about 50% – for every “Punch You in the Jeans,” there’s a “Space Olympics,” an “After Party” for every “Reba: Two Worlds Collide.” This problem continues to come up on The Wack Album in a number of ways. Interlude “Where Brooklyn At?” is an unfunny attempt to bridge the gap between tracks that didn’t really need it to begin with.
Another bummer about this is that the less humorous bits end up dragging some of the album’s more notable guest stars into the mix as well. “You’ve Got the Look,” for example, had endless potential found through its special appearances by Oscar nominee Hugh Jackman and SNL alum Kristen Wiig – unfortunately the song’s gimmick doesn’t translate well to audio, resulting in a wasted opportunity for the record. Hell, even the assistance of Lady Gaga and Justin Timberlake can’t make “3-Way” work. Though this makes for Timberlake’s third consecutive guest appearance on a Lonely Island record, it ends up being the least funny of his usually stellar contributions.
These flaws end up being a majority as to why The Wack Album doesn’t end up being the vast improvement that I’m sure many fans of the act were expecting. Sure, the collection’s much more fluid than before, but many of the tracks are too short and the punchlines too thin for there to be any thorough enjoyment. The album isn’t without its strengths (the band’s continued appreciation for club music satire hasn’t gone unnoticed), but overall it struggles to find a real direction for its lunacy. Will fans enjoy it regardless? More than likely. But until The Lonely Island realizes this, they’ll continue to fall into similar pitfalls with their future material.