FAST & DIRTY Live From Our Pants (independent) Rating: NNNN
The best Fast & Dirty songs are about guys who try to be sensitive and caring to impress women but inevitably let rip their wildest desires. The pair have heard that sensitive songs, roses and foreign movies are the way to women's hearts, even though, as they reveal in one song, they just want honey on their chins. Rob Hawke and Gord Oxley's act isn't nearly as crude as that sounds, thanks to intelligent lyrics, Hawke's confident guitar playing and the amiable vibe the two establish from the beginning. Other highlights include a song about an accountant (hinting at the frustrated eroticism in spreadsheets), a deadpan parody of gung-ho American film ads and a clever poke at jazz. The award-winning duo's signature song, a mix of dumb rock lyrics pasted together, holds up even after dozens of hearings. A class act.
THE ARROGANT WORMS Semi-Conducted (independent) Rating: NN
Backed by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, the likeable trio's act gets smothered under syrupy, too-rich arrangements that kill their material's spontaneity and simplicity. Despite all that, their best bits squeak through, whether they're satirizing Canada's natural resources or our national sport. There's a nice edge to their song about stalking Celine Dion, and a pun-laden song about computers is the best thing of its kind I've heard. But the CBC-friendly disc is hit-and-miss. An attempt to send up health food seems hopelessly off mark, as does a silly ditty about being a cow.
MARGARET CHO Revolution (Nettwerk) Rating: NNN
A live comedy record is something of a Matrix-style paradox. At one point, it made perfect sense, but in this era of DVDs, the lack of visuals is noticeable. Revolution is a fine recording of Cho's most recent tour, and it is hilarious. Her talent and ability to tell stories that both explode and celebrate the humour in stereotypes shines through. But without any extras, it feels a bit thrifty. As with most comedy albums, it's difficult to imagine listening to this one more than three or four times, but that's not the fault of Cho's quality material.
THE FRANTICS Frantic Times (Deep Shag) Rating: NNN
It's easy to see the influence of this now defunct 1980s sketch quartet on everyone from the Kids in the Hall (same facility with drag characters) to the Red Green Show (lots of corny Canadiana). That also means their material no longer feels as novel as it must have when they recorded it, mostly for the CBC, in the early 80s. The best bits work well without visuals, like the opening track, a well-oiled sketch about car noises. The foursome play the clever nerd card a lot, as in their classic Darwinian-inspired human race gag. What they lack is a recognizable voice and consistent tone - which could explain why they never broke out. Of interest only to Canadian comedy fans and CBC devotees.