Harry Shearer

Songs Pointed and Pointless

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Given that he's nearly as well known as Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls as he is for providing the voice of C. Montgomery Burns (among many other characters) on The Simpsons, most fans are likely aware that Harry Shearer has a keen talent for music as well as comedy, and on his 2007 album Songs Pointed and Pointless, Shearer tries to embrace the best of both worlds, writing and performing 13 pop tunes that give him plenty of room to show off his sharply satirical wit. While one of the songs on Songs Pointed and Pointless was written for the movie A Mighty Wind but didn't make the cut ("Corn Wine") and another was penned for Shearer's ill-fated directorial effort Teddy Bears Picnic ("New York Is My Lady"), the rest were created for Shearer's public radio series Le Show and generally focus on various topics that have been in the news in recent years -- flag burning ("Let the Flag Burners Fry [On the Fourth of July]"), the wake of Hurricane Katrina ("Make New Orleans Whole"), the politics of torture ("Waterboardin', USA"), the myriad failings of the Bush administration ("Crossing Fingers" and "Connect the Dots"), and Michael Jackson's career woes ("Sugar Daddy"). Shearer can write a strong and catchy melody, and as a skillful musical satirist he can conjure up the musical rudiments of Brian Wilson's surf music, Michael Jackson's funk-leaning pop, New Orleans second-line R&B, and Kingston Trio-era folk with grace and accuracy. As a lyricist, Shearer shows no mercy, which works to his advantage when he's taking on the White House but seems a bit much when he's going on about Elvis Presley's digestive problems (hardly a new or original topic), and as a singer he's hit and miss, especially when he's impersonating George W. Bush (try as he might, Shearer can't help sounding a lot more like Dubya's daddy). The high points of Songs Pointed and Pointless are very high indeed, and Shearer gets some very impressive help in the studio (Judith Owens, his wife, does a wicked Shirley Bassey imitation on "Connect the Dots" and Jeffrey Foskett brings an authentic 1970s Beach Boys sound to "Waterboardin', USA" and "American Guys on Mars"), but enough of it is great that it's hard not to be disappointed by the tunes that are merely good.

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