Mixed Feelings: Parodies and the Alternative Scene
Originally written in 2015
Music is a popular pastime for most people, and when large groups of people take something seriously, satire, spoofs, and parodies are sure to spring up around it, Music is no exception.
Popular music is often parodied, most people have heard the stylings of Weird Al Yankovic; his album Mandatory Fun did quite well in 2014, parodying the hits of that year.
And most internet savvy youths of today are familiar with the YouTube musical comedians The Key of Awesome and their pop song parodies.
So, it is a testament to the rising popularity of Rock, Metal, Punk and associated sub-genres that 2015 saw the solid rise of parody albums taking the mick out of the alternative music scenes and the tropes of various genres. This can also be seen in the rise of Alternative YouTube comedians Jared Dines and Jarrod Alonge.
Jared Dines has also released a parody song, for obscure tech metal genre Aliencore.
So what makes a good rock parody? There are three case studies to examine, all released in 2015.
The first is Steve Terreberry, also known as Stevie T. Stevie T has been active on YouTube for a few years, doing guitar covers and small jokey videos. A couple of years ago he started making more musical comedy, before being picked up by Artery Records to make and release a parody album called Album Of Epicness. Whilst Stevie T is a more than competent guitarist and songwriter, his parody stylings fall a little flat in one significant manner; each song is effectively a one note joke, and whilst there is some variety between genres, each song seems to make one particular joke over and over. The A Day To Remember parody, A Night To Forget, focuses on the trope of pop punk bands wanting to ‘leave this town’ and Emotionless and White only comments that Motionless In White dresses weirdly. The first listen of each song is funny, and the videos certainly help get the joke across, but due to the one note nature of the joke they don’t merit repeat listening.
Stevie T shows us that a good joke goes a long way towards making a good parody, but overreliance can be a hindrance.
Anonymous Metalcore parody mob Chuggaboom only sprang onto the scene a couple years ago, but they’ve released both an EP and an album in that short time. Unlike the other case studies examined here, Chuggaboom only focuses directly on one genre, Metalcore and its associated tropes, music styles and techniques, and lovingly pokes fun at it. Their first EP Trust Me I’m A Proctologist feels a little rushed, and the joke of ‘Metalcore is immature and silly’ starts to wear thin before the 5 track EP ends; it makes all the obvious jokes, and the songwriting is a little basic. They fell into a pit trap of becoming too close to what they were parodying.
However Chuggaboom’s debut album Zodiac Arrest kicks things into high gear; the songwriting improves immensely, the jokes are varied and fresher, and they tackle not only the tropes of the genre but also some of the inherent problems Metalcore has. Overall, it is a more tongue-in-cheek album.
From Chuggaboom, we can ascertain that the jokes being too simplistic and obvious takes away from a good parody, but a tongue-in-cheek, appreciative deconstruction of a genre helps to make the parody more interesting, and helps us not take it too seriously.
The last artist that makes a compelling example is another YouTube comedian, the aforementioned Jarrod Alonge. Jarrod is best known for his Every <blank> Vocalist where he has made sketches about Metalcore, Hardcore, Pop Punk and such; the videos are funny and well written. Jarrod has made a fair few other sketches, usually around the subcultures surrounding alternative music, often with musicians in the scene itself. In 2015, via Patreon, Jarrod Alonge gained the funding to make his debut album Beating A Dead Horse, through which he parodies a multitude of genres, each with a different band – with a stereotypical name and style pertaining to their genre, made up of real musicians. What makes this musical comedy album work is the sheer talent that went into this, the songwriting is superb, and multiple interesting jokes are made in each song, subverting expectations while still being a clear parody on certain trends within the genres of music; the variety of genres, jokes, and styles keeps the album fresh. There is also a subtlety to the album that means that there is something there for subsequent re-listens. Above all, the music on Beating A Dead Horse is good, and the songs are hilarious; Sunrise Skater Kids – Love Me Back is a wonderful take on songs about girls, and Chewed Up – Unbreakable’s letter segment is pure genius. The album is filled with little delights.
From Jarrod Alonge we learn that variety and quality of the music behind the parody goes a long way towards making a comedy album enjoyable.
In conclusion, there aren't nearly enough parodies of alternative music out there to quantify definitively whether or not it works as a genre, but these artists and comedians have helped guide the way to a funnier future for rock music – hopefully, as it gains in popularity, we will see more.
What we’ve learned is that good music, a variety of topics and genres, and an appreciation for the music itself is what goes towards making a good parody record, but only do it if you have a good joke.