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The Lonely Island, ‘The Wack Album’ (Republic)

The Lonely Island / Joe Scarnici/Wire Image
SPIN Rating: 5 of 10
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Label: Republic

Just how funny is whiteness? How hilarious is it to experience awkward white dudes grappling with such challenges as fitting in at the club, singing R&B hooks, impressing the opposite sex, rapping, raging on Spring Break, trying to look cool in sunglasses, and just generally attempting to get through life while not knowing how to dance? Weird Al seemingly answered this question with “White and Nerdy” — it’s funny for about five minutes — but that hasn’t stopped the Lonely Island from building an entire career off the subject.

And so, how many licks does it take to get to the center of this particular joke? On The Wack Album — the third(!) full-length from the Saturday Night Live-bolstered trio of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer — we are offered 20 more, a handful of these tracks bordering on genius, a few offering genuine yuks, and the rest sounding so half-baked they could be an ice-cream flavor. “You’ve Got the Look” maladroitly riffs on wardrobe malfunction (“Time to shake things up, so you took one out”) and manages to squander guest spots by Hugh Jackman and Kristin Wiig; “I’m a Hustler” revises “The Creep” character for a few leftover verses, which stop mid-sentence because the song is literally unfinished. “We Are a Crowd” is a dispassionate Sesame Street sing-along; “I Don’t Give a Honk” has something to do with swearing, but see if you can get through it more than once. Comedians are encouraged to fall on their faces, but many of these songs shouldn’t have made it out of dress rehearsal, so incongruous are they when surrounded by the truly good stuff.

Because there is truly good stuff. Wit abounds on “YOLO” (“Never go to saunas cause they’re crawling with piranhas”), which features Kendrick Lamar and succeeds in illustrating one of the Lonely Island’s key points: Making pop music is laughably easy. “Spring Break Anthem,” which recasts the annual bacchanal as an expression of repressed homosexuality, is actual biting satire, something these guys aren’t generally concerned with. “Go Kindergarten” (featuring Robyn), a send-up of dance-floor entreaties, and “Semicolon” (featuring Solange), a meditation on the punctuation mark in #hashtag rap, offer some gems: “Have a muthafuckin’ baby on the floor / Raise it in the club, home-school it by the door” and “You’re acting all Macchio — Ralph / But I’ll eat all you cats — Alf,” respectively.

This makes for about one-third of a quality album, and LI seem to know it: They’ve already released all the good songs online. Three albums into the honorable project of subjecting pop music to ridiculously outsized whiteness, our hosts have yet to learn one of comedy’s most important lessons: All the fart jokes in the world are no substitute for the occasional bit of restraint.