There’s gold in that there butt.
Various Artists The Bob’s Burgers Music Album (Sub Pop)
This soundtrack was inevitable, not least because along with being the most human and honest adult animated series since The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers is also the most musical, a Meatssiah of Broadway, disco, and jock-rock parodies that transcend because they’re not merely parody. The show loves music, pure and simple — and its taste is as varied as you would expect, considering one of the main characters is an 11-year-old boy who has expressed admiration for P-Funk, Moby, and Toad the Wet Sprocket (who “gave us their magic and then disappeared” before he was even born).
The announcement that the soundtrack would consist of 112 songs was unsurprising, what with the sheer amount of music that shows up in a single episode (“My Fuzzy Valentine”!), but it was also slightly intimidating. Now that the album is out, Itty Bitty Ditty Committee fans can rest easy: More than half of the songs are under a minute, so the album falls under two hours. This is a plus, even if longer versions of some of the briefer songs (similar to the extended “Kill the Turkey,” which is granted a second verse here) would have been nice — we could do with more “Bad Girls” certainly.
The structure is the only disservice to The Bob’s Burgers Music Album, with the tracks placed in chronological order. This means that as the show finds its footing in the first season and declines somewhat in later seasons, so does the consistency of the album. From season two to season four, it’s all world-class musical comedy, from Linda Belcher (voiced by John Roberts) showtunes like “The Diarrhea Song” and “Two People” to disco jams like “Can't Get Enough (Of Your Woman Stuff)” and “Mad Pooper.”
Still, the record is packed with buried treasure, to the point where there are essentially mini-albums hidden throughout. A playlist of all the Linda songs could be a masterpiece due to the unreserved, singsongy mom’s outlandish personality, Roberts’ spectacular voice acting (the performance inspired by his own mother), and the melodic and musical power of the tunes themselves; compiling all the songs from Boyz-4-Now, the show’s fictional boy band, would be a terrific pop EP. The latter manages to lampoon the One Directions of the world without stooping to cheap shots and even rivals the real groups’ recordings, in part because the parody is so insightful about its target. Even if it wasn’t a joke, a song like “Coal Mine,” with lyrics like “My hat is hard, but my heart is soft / It’s dusty down here and so I cough” and a melody owing as much to K-pop groups like BTS as any American boy band, would be hard to resist.
The album also has plenty of solid takes on popular songs and artists, from “Taffy Butt” (a send-up of “The Goonies 'R' Good Enough” that’s sung by Cyndi Lauper herself) to the erotic, melodramatic “Oil Spill,” sung by Tabitha Johansson (voiced by Megan Mullally), the show’s take on Tori Amos. Dan Mintz’s “Just What I Needed” and John Roberts’ “Baby Hold On” are covers of the Cars and Eddie Money, respectively, and are straightforward enough to serve as tributes while also exaggerating the songs to the point of unearthing their previously untapped comedic potential.
Throughout the weighty tracklist, even the biggest Bob’s Burgers fans are sure to rediscover stuff they forgot. In the episode “Purple Rain-Union” (season 4, episode 6), “We Won the Talent Show” is used as a device, and the song itself is overshadowed by what it entails, plot-wise. But until it was isolated in this context, the viewer may not have fully grasped that it’s a goddamn Laura and Sarah Silverman L7 rip. “The Spirits of Christmas,” which escaped my memory, is maybe Kevin Kline’s best performance on the show as Mr. Fischoeder, the Belchers’ affluent, eccentric landlord.
The only competition is the intensifying Thomas Edison/Topsy the Elephant love ballad “Electric Love,” the best song Bob’s Burgers has ever done. With soaring and emotional strings, choral backing, and hilarious performances from Kline and Mullally, the song also revels in the absurdity that it’s a love song concerning the electrocution of an elephant. Some have missed the point, reducing the nuances to “Kevin Kline sing[ing] about wanting to fuck an elephant.” But lyrics like “They’ll say awwww Topsy /At my autopsy / But no one will be / More shocked than me,” ensure the electric just as important as the love.
Any doubts about the craft of these songs will cease after you hear the five interpretations at the end that are anything but tacked-on. Originally released on YouTube as a series called “Bob’s Buskers,” these covers manage to not feel tacked on through the sheer love and celebration at the heart of them. Stephin Merritt and Kenny Mellman’s accordion-based take on “Electric Love” is worthy of a Magnetic Fields album, while the National and Låpsley’s “Bad Stuff Happens in the Bathroom” is a piece of sly indie-pop that satisfies more for the slick bass and synths than the jokes. Ultimately, that’s why The Bob’s Burgers Music Album works as well as it does. The laughs and music go hand in hand — a duo almost as important as Gene Belcher and his Casio keyboard.