REVIEW: Free Awkward Hugs

When Draco said he wanted to get closer to dark magic, this isn't what he meantSo, The Blibbering Humdingers have been selected among other fine acts to play at LeakyCon London this year, but it turns out that getting to London from North Carolina is about as easy and cheap as Captain Katherine Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager (i.e. not at all). So, you should really consider going and contributing to their “kickdinger”, or buying one of their albums, such as 2012’s Free Awkward Hugs.

Now, while supporting a good cause while getting something in return is all well and good, is the album actually worth it? Let’s dig in to find out.

We start things off with “Awkward Hug”, which I guess is the psuedo-title song of the album. It’s a parody of… well, it’s a parody of something, because I heard a song with the same tune at a fro-yo shop, and while I was munching on my combination of melon and cranberry-pomegranate fro-yo topped with cinnamon toast crunch, kiwi pieces, every single variety of boba, and a single malted milk ball, I thought the chorus was “toxic love”. However, after literally tens of seconds of searching, I could only come up with the ICP song and the Fern Gully song, so who knows what I heard. Point is, it’s got this kind of dark electro-y 80’s feel to it, but piano, synth violin, and a rather goofy filter on Scott’s voice add more sonic texture to the piece.

Unfortunately, Kirsten’s voice is not mixed super well, and especially in the first couple verses it’s pretty hard to tell exactly what she’s singing. The chorus is clear enough though, and states the premise succinctly (Draco is weirded out by Voldemort’s awkward hug, as seen in the kind of terrible Deathly Hallows Part 2) while also throwing in a rather nice penis joke (this is the Blibs, after all). It’s a fun and funny song to start the album off with, even if it doesn’t reach the heights of “Nobody Expects The Blibbering Humdingers” in terms of album-opening title songs.

We then go from making fun of one awkward bit in the movies to another, with “Zip Me Up”, which continues the tradition of making fun of the unfortunate tradition of having the Harry-Ginny dynamic in the movies be absolutely flat, unappealing, and awkward (which to be honest is only a couple steps down from the book). I remember reviewing “Shoelaces”, the previous song in this little mini-series, as decently funny with good music, but nothing too special. “Zip Me Up” is better in all respects, going from 70’s electronica to more of a late-70’s/early-80’s rock ballad. The voices are all working well, good instrumental work, and I like how the humour has actually been toned down – it honestly for the most part plays the sexual tension between Harry and Ginny straight, which ends up being the big joke, because this song ends up being a better case for the relationship than anything in the movies ever did.

The biggest source of humour is found in the callouts and references – there’s the obligatory reference to shoe tying, and then there is a wonderful reference to The Whomping Willow’s “Don’t Let Me Explode”, which I had long ago called as sounding like a sexual euphemism, so it’s very satisfying to see it immortalized in that light. And then about halfway through the song, the whole thing suddenly shifts, going straight from the satisfyingly catchy chorus into Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round”, in a twist that is both bizarre and utterly perfect – they then lay parts of the chorus over the DoA tune, and it works so damn well.

Then we get into more of a traditional rock song with “Werewolf’s Full Moon Lament (That Time of the Month)”. The fundamental premise is hinted at by the title, and it’s pretty much what you think – the monthly transformations of a werewolf, as viewed through the lens of menstruation. How funny you find will kind of depend on how willing you are to view menstruation in a humorous light, but thankfully, while the obvious reference is there, for the most part the lyrics dwell on things specific to turning into a werewolf, and not what happens when your body gets really pissed at you for doing all this hard work preparing for a baby, and then finding out there’s no baby on the way. There are some humorous overlaps though, and of the original songs new to this album, it is the best musically – wailing guitars complemented by delightfully overzealous synths and decent drum work, with Scott really getting into belting out the lyrics and a really well-done chorus effect on the backup vocals.

“Hermione’s Beaded Bag” is very reminiscent of “In Which We Sing ‘Daddy’s Tattoo’ Like the B-52s”, and thus I assume it’s also intentionally in the style of the B-52s (they did Love Shack and Rock Lobster). It’s kind of like “Nobody Expects The Blibbering Humdingers” if the clever rhymes were not about fun twists on the Harry Potter characters, but instead lists of mundane items, and with nowhere near as interesting a melody. The instrumentation changes up enough times to add interest, and while it’s fun to hear the Blibs rhyme all these words, it’s just not a very compelling track. There’s a nice reference to scene mainstay Nate Bean near the end, but ultimately the song just kind of sits there – worth a listen the first time a round, but will probably be skipped on multiple listen-throughs.

“Natural 20 (album remix)” is not really a wizard rock song, seeing as it’s about DnD, and that most coveted of rolls, the Nat 20. However, it just doesn’t seem as out of place as it probably should on this album – maybe it’s because I’ve been familiar with this song for awhile, and associate it with Scott and Kirsten, so it seems natural on a Blibbering Humdingers album, maybe it’s because it’s still dripping in a fantasy setting (though more in line with Lord of the Rings than Harry Potter), and maybe it’s just because you don’t expect anything to be taken seriously on a Blibs album, much less the lines defining what is and isn’t wizard rock.

Now that that’s out of the way, how is the song? Really damn good, it turns out. The whole song has a great melody, with the chorus being especially catchy, this version of the song isn’t too different from previously released versions but the instrumentation is fuller and richer, and it makes an absolutely wonderful song to sing in triumph whenever you yourself roll a two-zero in your DnD/Pathfinder/GURPS/Call of Cthulhu/whatever game. Unfortunately, while it makes for an excellent song, the Natural 20, while an excellent dice roll, is not nearly as powerful in an actual game as the Blibs would lead you to believe, as was evidenced when I rolled a NATURAL TWENTY on my perception check IN A SMALL HALLWAY and APPARENTLY my character COULDN’T EVEN TELL THAT THERE WAS A FUCKING CORNER LITTERED WITH IMPS EVEN THOUGH I HAD A NATURAL TWENTY AND PLUS SIX TO PERCEPTION AND THE HALLWAY WAS ONLY LIKE 12 SQUARES LONG AND WHAT THE FUCK DM I ROLLED A NATURAL FUCKING TWENTY AND –

Ahem.

I apologize for that. Anyway, misleading descriptions of gameplay mechanics aside, “Natural 20” is an excellent song that fits very well on this album.

“Holding On” continues that other tradition of Blibbering Humdinger songs – to throw in one song on the album that absolutely nails you in the feels – previous examples being “Waiting on the Other Side” and “I Lose Myself”. “Holding On” falls somewhere in the middle of this subgenre – it’s better than the sweet but ultimately bland “Waiting”, but doesn’t quite reach the heights of “I Lose Myself”. It’s about those wonderful times when the wizard rock community comes together, and we celebrate our love for the books, for the music, and for the friends we have found. The lovely thing is that it’s very non-specific – it could be about any Harry Potter event, and actually, could be about any community event centered around music, art, and mutual love (I personally suspect that this song was referencing the filk and Ren Faire community just as much as it was the wrock community) – though I personally connect it to Wrockstock (“see how the trees have grown”).

We then go from one of the most heartfelt moments of the album, to the absolutely most obligatory and usually one of the funniest parts of any Blibbering Humdingers album – the “Voldemort Made Me Crap My Pants” track. With the exception of The Slightly Inappropriate and Naughty EP, I believe every single Blibs album made has had a version of this song, being both their first and most seminal tune. Unlike the rather excellent “Sleep, Voldie, Sleep”, “Voldemort Made Me Crap My Pants (ultra mega mix)” keeps with the usual instrumentation and use of back-up vocals, and honestly, for the first two minutes, it’s not much more than just a slightly updated, slightly better-sounding version of the song we all know so well.

And then it gets mega.

Suddenly, the song turns into The Whomping Willows classic, “In Which Draco and Harry Secretly Want To Make Out”, but with the words altered to be about – what else – crapping. The filking is unsurprisingly superb, with many fun twists on the original lyrics, but far and away my favorite part of the entire song has got to be the incredibly simple yet incredibly clever line “Did Lavender brown?”

Think about it.

After ripping through a hefty chunk of that song, we move on to Gred and Forge’s “Our Fireworks Say Poo”, which is unsurprisingly straight up lifted with no lyrics changes. Then we get an amusing but also rather obvious twist on Harry and the Potter’s “The Weapon”, followed by an intentionally anticlimactic use of Oliver Boyd’s “End of an Era”. While with only four songs parodied, obviously this isn’t an extensive overview of wizard rock through the lens of poop, but I tried thinking of crappifying other classic wrock songs, and didn’t come up with anything particularly clever or exciting – “Looking for feces”? “You messed up in pooping yesterday”? “The Bravest Man Who Ever Pooed”? No wait, I actually like that last one.

So, the song choices work well, are a hilarious and welcome addition to the staid but true “Voldemort Made Me Crap My Pants” oeuvre, and this lovely section doesn’t outstay its welcome or drag on. The only classic wizard rock song that was crying out for crappification that was missed was The Mudbloods’ “A Pensieve Full of Unrequited Love”:

I wish feces and dung and flatulence in everything you poo
I pray that everywhere you wipe the number of plys will be two
And I know that if you sat on this porcelain toilet of my mine
That every single one of these dreams would come true

I mean, I don’t know about you, but when I hear one of the best songs ever written to explore the Snape-Lily relationship, the first thing I think of is how easily it could be made about Snape’s well-documented scat fetish.

After this wonderful two-minute interlude, the song finished as usual, but the voicework and instrumentation are both more boisterous then they’ve ever been – the instrumentation especially, with violins, synths, all sorts of stuff coming in and out at random points while somehow not quite being sonically schizophrenic, all culminating to make make a fantastic version of an already fantastic wizard rock song.

We then come down from the pumped-up high of the megamix, to the emotional centerpoint of the album – an absolutely perfect cover of the Snidget song “On My Way”, which in some ways surpasses the already very good original. For those unaware of the original song, it’s a lyrically superlative view into Harry’s last moments before his (first) death. It captures Harry’s inner turmoil about leaving behind his life and everyone he loves, perfectly displaying his not-quite reluctance, and eventual heroic resolve. This is one of those wizard rock songs that makes you appreciate a moment in the book in a whole new light, and it’s an absolute gem.

It’s nice to see a very good but not entirely well-known song given the cover treatment, and the Blibs do an able job. Scott’s voice pays decent respect to the original song, but doesn’t quite capture what Grace brought to the table – still, this is no bad vocal performance, simply not quite on par with the original. No, what makes this a great cover is the absolutely brilliant instrumentation. It starts out like the original, simple, with a lone acoustic guitar, but soon strings are added, and then the percussion kicks in, and the instrumentation becomes more and more full, never overtaking the lyrics and the message, but more buoying them to new heights.

My favorite moment, and the part of the song that really made me rate this as the original’s equal, if not surpasser, is in the post-bridge verse that begins “So I march onward, proud like my father / strong like my mother, I walk into the fray” – this was already a very powerful verse, perfectly communicating Harry’s resolve, and moving to the point of tears. The Blibbering Humdingers’ cover accentuates the power of this verse by adding in driving electric guitars and other instrumental tweaks to fill the very music with a sense of resolve, while never overtaking the lyrics or the message. This song alone makes the album worth a purchase.

This marks the halfway of the album, as we are mostly done with the new(ish) songs, and we know enter the Lost and Forbidden Realm of Filler. We start off with three live tracks, “Dobby, Bang Your Head”, “Hufflepuff Sandwich Wrap”, and “I Lose Myself”, all from the Blibs’ mainstage performance at Wrockstock IV. They’re all decent live tracks, but none of them really add much more than the original tracks, which all have better recording quality anyway. “Hufflepuff Sandwich Wrap” has a fun story about the song’s inception at the beginning, and it’s fun to hear the audience sing along to a couple portions in the songs, but that’s about it. I have fond memories of the acappella sing-along of the end of “I Lose Myself”, but it’s the end of the show and Scott and Kirsten’s voices are tired, and while the track makes for a nice memory keepsake, you’d be much better off listening to the original track. Still, these live tracks are nice to have for historical purposes if nothing else, they don’t really hurt anything, and there’s worse stuff out there than shameless padding.

We then move on to the last real song of the album, “Lily’s Worst Memory – Orchestral version (Gray Underpants)”. It’s pretty much what it says on the tin – it’s the classic Humdingers track about how what repulsed Lily from Snape was not his casual racism, but his choice of schlong shielding, but this time with orchestral instrumentation. It’s a great song so it’s fun to hear it again, but honestly, the orchestral instrumentation doesn’t really add a lot. There are a few moments with striving string sections and the like which add some nice flair to the song, but it doesn’t make nearly as much difference as the “On My Way” cover had when compared to the original.

I think the biggest cause of this is the drum track – sure, it probably would sound kind of weird without one, but it seems lifted wholesale from the original, and just doesn’t jive super well with the purported orchestral aesthetic. This doesn’t make for a bad song, it just overshadows and obscures the orchestral part of the song – this was also one of the chief complaints with the orchestral version of Fuchsia Ruler – this seems like a common problem with turning such songs orchestral, so I can’t fault the Blibs too much, especially when it gave me the chance to pimp out some Homestuck music.

The last six tracks of the album are all karaoke tracks of various songs across the Blibbering Humdingers’ career. Each song used is a fun song to belt along to, so they make a welcome addition, and some of the tracks even work pretty well as stand-alone instrumental tracks, especially “Shoelace”, “Nobody Expects the Blibbering Humdingers”, and “Werewolf’s Lament”, the latter of which I especially like because with the inclusion of the backing vocals singing “That time of the month!” it turns the song into an even more bizarre entity – an 80’s synthy grunge song exclusively about menstruation.

My only complaint with this section is that they left out the song that I feel would be most obvious for turning into a karaoke track – “Voldemort Made Me Crap My Pants”. I mean seriously – this is your most popular song, and one very fun to sing along to, and you DIDN’T make a karaoke track for it? Seems like a major missed opportunity to me – such a track would have by far been the most used of the bunch by me, if it existed, which, like the chances of the J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars reboot being equally loved by fanboys and general audiences, it does not.

So, while as mentioned nearly three thousand words ago, the Blibs are certainly deserving of your money so they can go play in London, is this album really worth the ten bucks you’d have to spend on it? I’d say that it totally is. Sure, only five tracks are completely original, but the various covers and new mixes of old songs range from “no worse than the original” to “better in every way”. So there’s Seven of Nine, shit, I mean seven or nine (or eight too, I guess, but then I couldn’t make this “funny” Star Trek joke) good to great songs right there, and then nine more live and karaoke tracks of varying use. By my math (even if it doesn’t exist), that equals the equivalent of at least ten tracks well worth your time, making this album a definite buy.

And here’s where I would put a giant letter if I still thought quantifying three thousand words of opinion with a single numerical value was at all a worthwhile endeavor. Instead, a few words of business – I will be posting another article sometime this week, probably a long unfinished one from the vault. Also, I forgot to mention in the last post that I have instituted a new tagging system, with a full list of tag now in the sidebar, so if for some god-awful reason you ever wanted to read every single article I ever wrote about MoM, it’s now easier than ever to immerse yourself in thousands of words of barely coherent whinging!

Wrock Snob out.

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Russtopher B. (@russtopherb)
    Jun 05, 2013 @ 07:15:41

    Sometimes, I think the links are even better than the reviews. And this was a really good review, too.

    Reply

  2. imamedia
    Jun 05, 2013 @ 10:46:37

    Please refrain to diss book!Harry/Ginny till you’re as awesome as them.

    Their movie versions are fair game, tho.

    Reply

    • wrocksnob
      Jun 05, 2013 @ 11:16:29

      I’m sorry, but Harry/Ginny is one of those fictional couples that work decently in canon, but require fanfic to be any sort of moving. To be clear, I’m talking about canon-compliant fanfic – the groundwork is all there, but there just isn’t that much effort put into the relationship in canon. Ron and Hermione had seven years of tension building up, whereas Harry gets one book with her in a romantic sense and then he’s separated from her for most of DH. The problem with their relationship is that it is mostly comprised of good character moments, but not a lot of good couple moments. For example, that bit in Book 5 when Ginny snaps Harry out of his funk, or stands up to him in Book 6 about taking advice from a mysterious book, are very good character moments for Ginny (who, let’s be honest, is a character that needed more of those), and they set up the relationship somewhat, but there aren’t a lot of moments that are good moments for building up the character of the relationship. It’s just kind of build up, then they’re dating and presumably happy, then they aren’t. Then Wizard Hitler takes over. Woo.

      And I don’t just mean good moments as a romantic couple, I mean as two characters together at all. Again, I’m not saying they’re a bad pairing, there just wasn’t as much time and effort put into them, and the romance itself honestly works more as a motivator for Harry to do plot-related things or to feel things at emotionally poignant moments than anything else. With Ron and Hermione, if you took away the romance, the sexual tension, all of that, you would lose a large part of the story and the characters. If you took away the Harry-Ginny romance, you would be left with the odd feeling that structurally speaking, Harry probably should have had a love interest by now, but you don’t lose large parts of the characters.

      Again, I don’t think it’s a bad pairing, it’s just a merely adequate one, that set up for the fandom to take it and craft some very good stories about the pairing, allowing one to imagine that there was all of these great character moments that did happen, just not when the camera lens was on Harry.

      Reply

      • b.h.quinn
        Jun 06, 2013 @ 23:07:06

        I completely agree with that. Every once in a while you get Harry saying something like “Oh, yeah, Ginny. Totally in love with that girl.” But the fanfiction can be awesome.

        Reply

  3. voldemargo
    Jun 05, 2013 @ 11:28:52

    Replace ‘toilet’ in your little filk-sesh with ‘throne’ and it’s all good.
    This makes me verrry excited to see the Humdingers at London Leaky.

    Reply

    • wrocksnob
      Jun 05, 2013 @ 11:52:13

      I was also considering the simplicity of “bowl”, but whatevs. I guess I probably shouldn’t have tried to stick a second syllable in there. Also, you should be! They’re gonna rock dome, sphere, and maybe even cuboids.

      Reply

  4. Scott Humdinger
    Jun 05, 2013 @ 21:03:23

    The song title you’re searching for on Awkward Hug is “Tainted Love” written by Ed Cobb (1965) and recoded by various artists over the years. The most popular version you’re probably thinking of is from Soft Cell (circa 1981).

    Zip Me up was sorta inspired by ‘When Doves Cry’ by Prince.

    For ‘Werewolf’ we looked to Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ for inspiration.

    Glad you liked ‘On My Way’ as much as we liked covering it. Grace (aka Snidget) is a really brilliant songwriter and all around awesome person. I think she is destined to become the next Amanda Palmer.

    Also, sorry to hear about your perception check.

    Reply

  5. Scott Humdinger
    Jun 06, 2013 @ 06:45:22

    My favorite version of “Tainted Love” is by Max Raabe.

    Reply

  6. Raina
    Apr 19, 2014 @ 12:32:13

    It’s amazing in support of me to have a web page, which is useful in
    support of my experience. thanks admin

    Reply

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