A complex album for adults that can also be listened to by kids about fairy tales. Mission accomplished?
Any release from MC Frontalot, the widely recognised godfather of Nerdcore hip-hop, is cause for celebration and anticipation from his, not insignificant, fan-base. The artist, now in his forties, brings with him a unique and quirky flow unlike any other rapper in any other genre or sub-genre of the artform. He maintains a career from his music with forays into other mediums. A stint as a judge on the television show, King Of The Nerds, and a short promotional track and video for New Relic indicate his elevation from being just an indie rapper.
His newest and sixth album Question Bedtime comes with an ambitious goal. Fourteen tracks, including his now famous skits, based on fairy tales that can be enjoyed by adults as well as being suitable for kids. As a result there is no explicit language. But this isn’t a dumbed down album which maps out familiar plots of common told tales of goblins and werewolves, quite the opposite. Frontalot has taken a select number of fairy tales ranging from Little Red Riding Hood to the Three Billygoats Gruff and used the basis of the tales to build a different narrative or tell the story from a unusual perspective. Along the way we ‘re treated to the involvement of some cool and unexpected guests.
Hip comedians Kyle Kinane, P.F Tomkins, Negin Farsad and Lisa Delarios offer resistance to the bedtime routine in skits that echo those any parent should recognise whilst replacing childish concerns with adult neurosis and absurdity. Each is delivered in a dry matter-of-fact style with Frontalot playing the role of babysitter. Musically Nerdcore enthusiasts with be familiar with Adam Warrock and MC Chris whilst Front’s appreciation of current art rap finds contributions from the excruciatingly talented Open Mike Eagle on the pre-release track Much Chubbier (worked around the Three Billygoats Gruff) and fellow Hellfyre Club emcee Busdriver as well as Jean Grae amongst other incredible talents.
To listen to, the album provides crisp and clean production with involvement once again from Wheatus front-man Brendan B. Brown who has fulfilled the same role on previous releases. Songs are full sounding and up-beat providing listeners with Front’s trademark quirky flow and subtle humour permeating throughout. It’s difficult not to get a warm sense of satisfaction from listening to any new release from MC Frontalot as each clever lyric feels like a personalised gift. And the enjoyment continues with multiple listens as you scratch deeper than the surface to discover smart wordplay and hidden meaning. This is perhaps more prevalent in Question Bedtime than any of his previous releases. As mentioned before, in most instances the source material provides a basis for a retelling of the tale from the perspective of a different character or offers a counter-version to the widely accepted turn of events. I’ve played this album through upwards of ten times now and still feel like there’s much, much more enjoyment to be had.
Whilst there are hooks and choruses aplenty to enjoy for fans of the music Question Bedtime fails to replicate the pure catchiness found on his second release Secrets From The Future that endeared me to Front’s work all those years ago. That’s personal preference of course and fans of his subsequent work will feel in familiar territory whilst still being able to recognise a progression in the overall sound. My standout track of the album is Chisel Down which features Busdriver and John Roderick, a more minimal track instrumentally that relies on a complex drum sequence and strong vocals.
Question Bedtime provides all the ingredients of a great album. It’s a pleasure to listen to, has longevity, the ability to brighten your day, contains catchy music, clever lyrics, entertaining skits all presented with perfect production. A must for any Nerdcore fan’s collection.
But how does stand up as an album that can be listened to by adults and children alike? Regrettably it failed to capture the imagination of my children who are 4 and 6 years old respectively (Both girls, both fans of fairy tales), they require simple lyrics and a catchy melody to really find any traction. Will they be singing the songs from Disney’s Frozen over breakfast or a track from Question Bedtime? It’s going to be Frozen every time. Perhaps the better gauge would be with an older demographic. 12 years and up, the tweens? I can see it. The album may be suitable for any age but the fact that the songs are not dumbed down and the lyrics remain complex mean that it’s not necessarily accessible by any age. I’d be interested to hear from other parents.
MC Frontalot’s sixth album Question Bedtime is available to pre-order now. Grab the CD package and receive a full download now. Otherwise general release is the 26th of August via all major online music outlets.
Frontalot will also be embarking on an extensive promotional tour including a month long visit to the UK in support of Wheatus. Tour dates available at frontalot.com.
Hear an interview with MC Frontalot from The Unheard Nerd now where we discuss his career to date and the new album.