Go Simpsonic with The Simpsons

©, December 9, 1999.
In the past couple of years, there's been a resurgence of "Simpsons" merchandise, which from the creators' perspective is probably a good thing considering that "Futurama" action figures probably won't be adding much to the Matt Groening empire's coffers. Back in the early day, you could buy "Simpsons" hair barrettes, bubble bath and smushy yellow dolls. The T-shirts were so hot that bootleggers nicked the designs.

Now, "Simpsons" products are made for the more-than-casual fan: books, videotapes and two CDs of music from the show. The new "Go Simpsonic with 'The Simpsons'" is certainly a fan's affair, the second CD of songs and dialog snippets that originally appeared on the show.

With 53 tracks, the disc takes some active listening. You can't put it on and settle in on the couch with a magazine. It's good for three things: answering machines bits, mix-tape segues and remembering some of the best moments of the show. And that's not a bad thing. "The Simpsons" uses music differently from every other program on television, which is part of what makes the show unlike any other.

Alf Clausen's songs and scores, to say nothing of Danny Elfman's bombastic theme, are something special. To start with, they're extraordinarily witty. Listen to the Philip Glass version of the theme song for about as highbrow a joke as ever ends up on TV. Further, Clausen's songs do everything that classic musical numbers do. They're a lapse into the surreal and unreal, sort of a meta-commentary on the straight action, which makes them even more bizarre considering that their root is an animated show somewhat free of physics where all the characters have four fingers.

The songs are exquisite parodies and satires and, at the same time, Broadway tributes -- like the "Canyonero" television commercial, a poke at suburban recreational vehicles, or the "Cape Feare" medley, which includes Sideshow Bob ("Frasier's" Kelsey Grammer) singing "H.M.S. Pinafore." It goes without saying that they're catchy as hell.

The majority of the great songs -- Tito Puentes' "Seņor Burns," the "Planet of the Apes" musical, the Stonecutters theme -- ended up on the first disc. But the second has a few jewels, including the Mary Poppins spoof, "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(annoyed grunt)cious," the "Candy Medley," which parodies Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy" and Devo's "Whip It," and "The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase," a musical number that invents theme songs for fake TV shows. It's also loaded with what's become a "Simpsons" staple: guest stars. The Ramones offer a tribute to Mr. Burns, Sonic Youth detunes the theme song, Linda Ronstadt sings a commercial for Homer's snow-removal nemesis, "Plow King," and Hank Williams Jr. does "Canyonero." (For some reason, Yo La Tengo's psychedelic take on the theme is MIA.)

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Last updated on December 22, 1999 by Jouni Paakkinen (