If you've been around Los Angeles comedy there's a good chance you got to see Matt Braunger once or twice. He's a funny guy, and his second album Shovel Fighter both embraces and shuns the cliche of what makes a stand-up album work. What does that mean to you? There's stuff about Chippendales, vomiting, and being drunk next to tracks dancing gleefully in some of the darkest corners of the human imagination. In its 55 minutes, Shovel Fighter zigs and zags from things that would probably make a great set on a late-night talk show to stuff you'd put on a mix tape for your buddies because, honestly, they're going to want to hear it. The first half of the album doesn't really set you up for where the last few tracks go, and its unpredictable unraveling is a treat I dare not ruin for you.
The former Mad TV player has done a good chunk of stand-up and has opened for some great acts, but what really matters is that he's clearly carved out his own voice involving important things like food. Lots of food. It's not necessarily something you'll even notice on the first listen, but this is someone who plays the culinary world like a golden fiddle and manages to pull out wonders the likes of which I almost feel bad describing to you in fear that it will ruin the surprise. I've never heard someone who actually had a good casting choice for a Willy Wonka remake before, but "Savory Willy Wonka" manages to put up a pretty good suggestion. The Wonka track followed a bit about Inception which seems slightly dated-- the CD was after all released in 2011-- but you get a solid payoff which fans of certain musicians will delight in hearing.
For those raised on a steady diet of Patton Oswalt and David Cross, the mostly goofy, affable, and not-comedy-nerdy Braunger may seem like bait-and-switch. A couple of tracks reveal an incredibly dark comic who is going to bring us great things for years to come, while the opening seems like what you might have heard when a comic played your college. Did you think it was going to be all bridal parties and penis hats? Nope! There's an orphan that needs to narrowly avoid death. This is one of those albums you want to bring on road trips with your buddies, especially as certain bits fade in and out with your conversation. If you're the mix tape type, be sure to grab "It's Spaghetti Time!" as well as "Shovel Fighter" and "A Ghost at the Two Man Party." There's more to enjoy on here, but those really seem to do the best at grabbing the listener by the throat. Comedically speaking, of course.
July 23, 2012
Album release date July 17, 2012
Review copy courtesy Matt Braunger's PR people