Among the most well-known figures in the musical comedy community, Stephen Lynch has recently put out his seventh release, a two-disc effort of his signature brand of acoustic guitar-driven hilarity.
Titled “Lion,” the album includes one disc of studio recordings and another of a live show in which he performs each of the new songs.
Among the funniest aspects of the album is how unexpectedly beautiful the music actually sounds; if “Lion” was playing in a bookstore or other quiet setting, listeners may completely overlook the lyrical content, lost in the finely-crafted vocal harmonies by Lynch and guest vocalist Courtney Jaye.
It’s crucial to maintain a sense of humor when listening to much of Lynch’s work. Those who are easily offended may find it considerably less enjoyable as Lynch humorously sings about subjects like sex and dysfunctional relationships, and, though it is obviously not meant to offend, he occasionally lacks political correctness.
In past releases, Lynch’s recordings have been far less well-produced; they included primarily his voice and guitar with few added effects, bare bones when compared to the production value “Lion” boasts.
The album opens with “Tattoo,” a quiet yet upbeat-sounding song about the various types of common embarrassing tattoos. Jaye’s harmonies add a lot of humor to the song; her voice is made for alternative-pop and is undeniably pretty, yet she is using it to harmonize with lines like “Your child’s name with the words ‘be strong’ would be beautiful, but they spelled ‘strong’ wrong.”
A few songs later, “Lorelai,” a piano-driven tune about a few women with defects such as a lazy eye and unusual body odor, turns into a ballad of sorts. An organ makes a subtle entrance, giving it a subtle blues feel. While musically the song is enjoyable, it falls short lyrically as Lynch’s humor falls flat.
One highlight on the album is the title track, a musical duel between two men for the heart of a woman. Lynch has done a similar duet in the past; “Best Friend Song” featured Lynch’s friend Mark Teich and also highlighted differences between the two singers, ending with Lynch scream-singing that he wanted to sleep with Teich’s young sister. “Lion” has a poppy, sing-along feel to it.
Most songs on the album are slow-and-sleepy, sung in an almost lullaby-like voice to little more than Lynch’s own acoustic guitar. The song “The Night I Laid You Down” is another duet, again featuring Jaye.
The rest of the album flows in a similar fashion and is peppered with banjos, harmonicas and cello, to name a few added musical elements.
While “Lion” is a perfectly enjoyable album, it is comically disappointing when compared to Lynch’s previous work. To put it simply, it doesn’t hit the mark that Lynch has set for himself, and isn’t on the same level as releases like “Superhero,” a live album released by the artist in 2003.
“Lion” noticeably lacks the fast-paced zingers that Lynch fans often find stuck in their heads, and while the jokes are funny to a certain degree, they are seldom laugh-out-loud funny.
The songs on which Jaye are featured are definite highlights on “Lion” as she is an unexpected addition to Lynch’s blend of musical comedy. She and Lynch are equally funny on these songs and complement each other tremendously.
Overall, “Lion” is only a good album. Lynch’s sense of humor remains the same, but he doesn’t seem to have quite as much fun as he has in the past. It is musically beautiful, but falls flat comically.
Ellie Rulon-Miller can be reached at email@example.com.