There’s a reason that the existence of comedy bands is usually kept to a minimum. It’s because, compared to their more serious, grounded counterparts, the success these bands receive (if any) orbits around one song and never changes course. Take The Bloodhound Gang for example – for as much of a cult following that band have garnered over the years, the mere mention of their name is likely to bring up (probably repressed) memories of The Bad Touch and nothing more. That’s why it’s more than a bit surprising that, not only Korean Fire Drill openly identify as a comedy band, but they’re one whose existence as such hinges on full album concepts.
And maybe even more surprising still is that sophomore album More Badass Than Half Ass isn’t an utter train wreck. It’s nothing close to great or recommended listening, but there’s actually a moderate attempt made to follow a through line that kind of pans out, and actually makes them a somewhat interesting concept. It certainly isn’t the music itself that does that, the kind of goofy alt-metal you’d expect from a band like Alien Ant Farm or Green Jellÿ, and though there’s a bit more of a hedonistic hard rock flair that makes tracks like Country Sowng stand out (probably the best song on here), there’s really nothing to write home about in that department.
No, it’s the narrative that’s the key feature of this album, chronicling the (presumably fictionalised) events surrounding the addition of new co-vocalist Lydia to the band, and how she drives the band completely off the rails conveyed through phone call skits between each song. The storyline more or less falls apart halfway through, but it’s an interesting experiment nonetheless, and as a vocalist, Lydia is easily the driving force of this album, so much better than her male counterpart Matt, with the kind of classic rock vocals that make tracks like their take on Heart’s Barracuda feel completely natural. And granted, there are very few songs on here that can survive outside the concentrated ecosystem of the entire album, especially without their accompanying skit, but as a whole, albeit long project (including skits, there are twenty-six tracks on this thing), More Badass Than Half Ass makes an admirable effort of making this sort of thing work on a wider scale.
But to wholeheartedly praise this album would be ignoring the elephant in the room – this may just be one of the most cringeworthy albums ever released. Forget the skits which are cursed with worse over-acting than an episode of The Big Bang Theory, in terms of actual songs on here, Korean Fire Drill consistently go out of their way to feel so forced and cheesy. The covers are probably the easiest target – sure, Barracuda isn’t bad, and their rendition of Gorillaz’ Feel Good Inc. as the hidden track stays largely true to the original but with a bit more beef so it still clicks. But beyond that, there’s probably the whitest version of Dr. Dre’s California Love ever recorded, and for some ungodly reason, the corpse of Ylvis’s utterly execrable song / meme The Fox is exhumed and turned into a brainless, alt-metal chug-fest – lovely. Then there are the original songs, some of which manage to sink even lower – the hokey, phoned-in lesbianism of Scissor Sisters is presumably only here to further contribute to the stereotypical rockstar image, and if Austin, Texas originated as a Guantanamo Bay torture device, that would be all too believable.
But at the end of the day, the fact that Korean Fire Drill manage any sort of quality at all is a borderline miracle, and in the right mood More Badass Than Half Ass is a fairly enjoyable listen, nothing groundbreaking but nowhere near as bad as it could’ve been, and with a couple of moments that are good for at least a chuckle. It’s definitely worth a listen if you’re up for this sort of thing, but one with a caveat – know what you’re in for, because this has the potential to grate fast.
For fans of: Alien Ant Farm, The Bloodhound Gang, Green Jellÿ
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘More Badass Than Half Ass’ by Korean Fire Drill is released on 29th November.