I was very excited one evening when I stumbled upon an article talking about ‘a new Andy Kaufman album made 30 years after his death’. I thought, in true Kaufman style, that it was a joke. Although I really hoped it was true. And it was! I immediately jumped on Amazon and was surprised to find it had been released in July of this year. Rather annoyed that I missed it, I ordered it straight away and a few days later it arrived.
The album artwork looks great. The cover is a big photo of Andy smiling, which is quite funny, as if he knows the album will be released after he died. But here he is smiling his innocent smile, with the title printed small at the top. Although I don’t usually like album covers with the artist on, this is kind of an exception because it’s not your typical airbrushed seductive pose. The booklet includes a few photos of Andy in the recording studio, which is really nice to see some behind-the-scenes shots that, at least to my eyes, are previously unseen. There are also notes from Andy’s friend and writing partner, Bob Zmuda, which adds a little insight into why the album was made; Andy was never off. When he finished his routine, he was still the funny, mischievous character in real life. This is one of the things I love about Kaufman. Anyway, on to the album itself.
The album opens with a big orchestral intro and a man introducing the album in a movie trailer type way. This felt a bit… meh. I didn’t like it. It felt like they’d spoilt it by adding extra bits onto it. The voiceover returns a few times, but it’s easy to ignore.
It then cuts to Andy with his family telling them he is recording them for an album called ‘Andy and His Grandmother’ which, he explains, is a big practical joke because people will think he made an album of songs with his grandmother which must be hilarious, but it would then turn out to be just normal conversations. The fact that this is revealed less than 2 minutes into the album is typical of Andy. Even though you know the joke, for some reason it compels you to keep listening. Because if he’s given away the big joke of the album, there must be something even funnier after. For some reason this works. Most people will probably consider this album to be terrible and stupid, but those who like Kaufman’s work will enjoy it. It is just recordings. But it captures the every day brilliance of people. People trying to explain to an old woman what a tape recorder is. And when his grandmother asks him if he wants anything to eat, even though she knows she’s being recorded for future use, it’s just… it’s just people. It’s the sort of thing that happens over Christmas dinner and you and your brother sit and snigger to each other.
Track 4, Andy Loves His Tape Recorder, is great. It’s a montage of people telling him to stop recording and it’s one of my favourite tracks. At one point his mother explains that she knows why he’s recording her, and the fact that he kept that in is… it’s funny. It’s like he’s saying “I know you know what i’m doing, but i’m still going to do it and the joke will still be on you.”
Track 8, Andy Can Talk to Animals, is the track that really made me laugh out loud. It’s him having phone conversations with animals, basically them screaming and him shouting at them. But it’s very funny. Very clever.
Track 16, Andy’s English Friend Paul, is a nice recording which showcases his great talent for characters. You can really revel in his silliness of answering the phone as a different person. I imagine he did this a lot, and I bet it was quite fun if you knew it was him but played along. This recording opens up a whole train of thought about what it was like knowing Andy and how much fun it must have been to be his friend. We also hear clips of Andy being kicked out of a cinema, introducing his family to cruise control and admitting he is a genius. Some tracks do actually prove this.
Track 12, Sleep Comedy, is an experiment in creating comedy that’s only funny when you are sleeping. As far as I know, nobody has ever done this before or since. But it is actually a really interesting idea and I am going to try it one day and i’ll get back to you what happened. The album also features him talking to girls about their sex. Which sounds like risky territory to put on an album, but then it goes into abortion and Andy practically proposing to one of them. As Andy explains to one of the girls, these are the sort of things people want to hear. It’s like an improv episode of Jeremy Kyle or Cheaters. It’s Andy predicting what people would watch on TV years before they did it. He really was a man ahead of his time. At the end he even predicts that the album would be a masterpiece and discusses with Zmuda about faking his death. If anyone knows about Kaufman this would play a big part after his death. Zmuda even says “Then when you really die nobody will believe it”, which is exactly what happened.
So to sum up, this album is like something that an art student would do, but they wouldn’t understand why they’re doing it. Andy does. Andy really really does. I highly recommend you listen to this album, although I don’t suppose you will and even if you do you probably won’t get it.
Our rating: (4 / 5)