Would You Consider Having Sex With A Novelty Act?
Australia loves novelty acts. They do incredibly well here. Something about musical comedy tickles our nation's collective funny bone in a way that seems unique to Australia. You remember Tripod, don't you? Capping off episodes of skitHOUSE with songs about buying your girlfriend an Xbox and getting into stuff after it was cool. And Tim Minchin? The man who gave a voice and a piano to minorities like red-heads? And let's not forget Flight of the Conchords. Yeah they're not Australian, but their tour sold out in minutes despite an outrageous ticket price and the fact the Conchords had a penchant for mocking us during the two seasons of their HBO sitcom.
And now the Beards, the world's most notoriously bearded rock band since ZZ Top, are taking their hirsute gospel on tour across the country. Despite forming in 2005, the Beards really shot into the spotlight in the last two years with the hair metal-esque "You Should Consider Having Sex With A Bearded Man" sliding into Triple J's Hottest 100 at 99 last year. The popularity of the Beards' gimmick is fairly obvious to explain, as certain segments of pop culture go through a phase in which traditional masculine stereotypes are winkingly celebrated. Among the current lineup of characters on American television, a particularly strong cult of personality has sprung up around Parks & Recreation
's Ron Swanson
- whose love for red meat and working with his hands is appealingly novel to a generation of men who have been so emasculated by digital technology - as if in response to the barrage of headlines we've had to endure over the past few years distraughtly wondering "Where Have All The Real Men Gone?"
Nick Offerman, who portrays Swanson, addressed this in a recent interview with the AV Club
: "Our society has distanced itself so far from working with its hands that those incredibly pedestrian skills are perceived as somehow being extraordinary." In a culture where the paradigm for male sexiness previously constituted being pretty and hairless, growing a beard is no different, evoking nostalgia for a past age in which "real men" spent less time in the bathroom than their chosen steadies. The Beards nailed it with the title of their latest album: Having a Beard is the New Not Having a Beard
These 'joke-bands' find themselves at a strange intersection between music and comedy. The best novelty acts are largely not as funny as the best comedians, nor as evocative as the best not-joke-bands, and they escape the scrutiny of either by being wholly neither. One friend believes novelty acts should be judged on the basis of their comedy, not their music, but as a comedy act the Beards are a one-note joke (although that single-mindedness is part of their charm). Fortunately for the Beards, that joke is delivered via some pretty anthemic and sometimes diverse rock which asks nothing more from the audience than that they enjoy an undemanding good time, and are willing to consider going home with a bearded man.
: Jake Cleland