Picks and Pans Review: Helium
The discovery of Songs by Tom Lehrer, the 1950s mother of satiric musical comedy albums, was the best and worst event in John Forster's life. Just 7 at the time, Forster, now 49, began writing and performing songs in a similar vein, and he is still doing so. Unfortunately, Lehrer—who last cut an album in 1965 and now teaches math at the University of California at Santa Cruz—will always be king of the row Forster has chosen to till. Undeniably inventive, Forster is best when he's singing about politics and—what else?—sex. He razzes those who vote to keep gays out of the military in "In the Closet" ("It can't be done said Senator Nunn") and in "Spores" reckons that war between the sexes could be averted if reproduction was left to tiny, free-floating "particles of ecstacy" ("You could date a girl and never leave your chair/ Or have every woman at the county fair/ And still have spores to spare"). At times merely clever ("The CEO of an S&L was a class-A s.o.b.," he sings in "Type A"), Forster seems to take a decidedly wrong turn in "The Juice a la Seuss," assembling a string of O.J. trial-inspired nursery rhymes ("I did not kill my former wife/I did not do it with a knife"). But then comes the absurd, chillingly real punch line: "It does not fit/You must acquit." While a gas at times, Helium doesn't quite reach Lehrer's level—sublime. (Philo)
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