I’m not one to lament the position of rock music in 2019. I respect the greats, but I’ll never pretend that we’re somehow musically worse off now than we were in the 70s. There’s more than enough of a scene out there if you’re willing to look around, but the problem is it’s easy to watch Bohemian Rhapsody or hear grandiose stories of Mötley Crüe partying and romanticize some long-gone era of now-unachievable Rock with a capital “R.”
While I’m not one of these “born in the wrong generation” music fans, what I do miss about this bygone era of rock music is the cheese. I’m not just talking about clever lyrics or offstage antics; I’m talking about an unabashedly over-the-top cartoonishly-hedonistic approach to life.
I’m talking about Led Zeppelin penning love songs framed in Lord of the Rings mythology. I’m talking about AC/DC firing a real-life cannon on stage every night. I’m talking about 30-foot puppets and 10-minute drum solos. I’m talking about Twisted Sister catapulting your teacher through the classroom ceiling because he just didn’t get it, maaan. This sort of outlandish commitment to good times is precisely what The Sloppy Boys offer up on their sophomore album Dancing on the Wind.
Comprised of multi-hyphenate comedian/writer/musicians Mike Hanford, Jefferson Dutton, and Tim Kalpakis, The Sloppy Boys are a “party rock” band hailing from Los Angeles, California. While the three had previously worked together on the cult IFC sketch show The Birthday Boys, it wasn’t until 2018’s Lifelong Vacation that the trio unveiled themselves to the world as the musical force that is The Sloppy Boys.
With song titles like “Let’s Party,” “Here for the Beer,” and “We Came Here To Rock,” the group has had a clear aim from the very beginning: extol the virtues of partying. While their newest record doesn’t stray far from the path set by their first album, that’s because The Sloppy Boys have already mastered the art of translating good times into song form.
Opening track “Santa Ana Winds” sees the band depicting their various east coast living situations before explaining how an overpowering wind always seems to bring them back to LA. After a couple of choruses, a Beach Boys namedrop, and a shared dream of avocados (you know, standard California staples) the song takes an immediate left turn as Kalpakis describes a fateful encounter between a Dyson Airblade his manhood. From there, the group suddenly shifts into an upbeat pop-punky ode to California that would make even the Red Hot Chili Peppers blush. It’s an overwhelming barrage of Cali-flavored adoration, but this track also acts as a perfect introduction to the band’s style of humor, setting the tone for the remainder of the record.
“Lifeguard Life” covers the group’s well-trodden “party” territory, this time depicting a lifeguard who prioritizes tanning, drinking, and double-fisting cheeseburgers over his actual job. This is all told in the style of a slightly-more-punk-rock Jimmy Buffet with a hint of the “Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” thrown in for good measure. However, partying isn’t the only thing the band cares about as seen on “I’m Taken,” a horn-infused Springsteen-esque tune about staying true to your marriage in spite of how unspeakably-attractive the opposite sex finds you. Similarly, “Tonight” subverts expectations as a sexy slow jam about the most fulfilling thing a couple can do once the lights are off... getting a good night’s sleep.
Aside from their commitment to the “bit” (read: lifestyle) of partying, one of the most admirable aspects of Dancing on the Wind is that it’s comedy rock that works. Comedic music is hard; too much humor and it loses the replayability of a standard album, too much musicality and it becomes a normal album that’s trying way too hard to be funny. While it’s easy for bands to fall into the trap of leaning too far in either direction and landing in a less-than-fulfilling middle ground, The Sloppy Boys manage to walk that fine line between genuinely funny and ‘actually good’ comedy music.
Other highlights include “Bonnaroo,” “The Bands,” and “I’m So Punk Rock” which I won’t spoil here, but all contain hilarious observations, deliveries, and rug-pulls that are guaranteed to catch you off-guard and make you laugh.
Album closer “Classic New York Night” is an 8-minute Meatloaf-level epic that compresses every possible New York stereotype (and even a Disney World trip) into the span of a single night. Mixing up every piece of New York pop-culture into one zany pastiche, the group goes from pounding beers in the Empire State Building and watching the Globetrotters play the Yankees to getting into a St. Paddy’s Day fight. It’s a raucous and relentlessly-funny eight-minutes that feels like a perfect note to send the listeners off on.
Dancing on the Wind is a joyous and personable listen, often feeling less like an album and more like you’re listening in on a group of friends making music in their living room to entertain each other. It’s clever, cutting, and most importantly, manages to strike that rare balance between “comedy” and “rock” without falling too far in one direction or the other, which elevates it over both in the end.