Lounge the Night Away

The Sunny Side of the Moon: The Best of Richard Cheese (Surfdog Records)

Richard Cheese

By Kevin Gibson

I admit it: I'm a sucker for a good gag. But Richard Cheese has taken a gimmick and elevated it to an art form of sorts. Sure, Pat Boone did a "metal" album and Paul Anka did a big band send-up of pop and rock hits, but Cheese is more than a one-off - he has perfected his craft of turning rock into lounge music and this disc represents a fine overview of his skills and catalog.

Staying true to a knack for choosing the unlikeliest of songs to be converted to a lounge style, this best-of opens with a cover of Nirvana's "Rape Me," complete with Cheese kicking things off with an offhand, "Here's one for the ladies," and finally bringing the tune to a head by inviting everyone to sing along.

This is a guy who not only parodies songs, but albums as well. He's released collections such as Aperitif For Destruction, I'd Like a Virgin, Lounge Against the Machine and Kid A-Flat (out of print) over the years. Yes, with titles like those, again, it would be easy to dismiss as just a gimmick. But don't. Give it a chance.

His soft piano version of Motley Crue's "Girls Girls Girls" is so spot-on that it almost hurts - I mean, how was this NOT a lounge song to begin with? Truth is, it was. Motley Crue just fooled all the kids with the loud guitars and the long hair. Richard Cheese got to the root of the song, added some horns and a subtle nod to Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" (listen for it) and made it real. (Ditto Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher.")

This best-of also includes a number of new recordings: Young MC's "Bust a Move," Korn's "Freak On a Leash" and Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" to name a few. And many of the recordings are remixed and/or have added overdubs.

Another thing Cheese and his excellent backing musicians always get right is that all but one of the songs is under three minutes long. Brevity being the soul of wit, Cheese carefully calculates just how much the listener wants to hear. And he hits the mark nearly every time.

Seriously, there's a song here from the "Dawn of the Dead" soundtrack (Disturbed's "Down With the Sickness"). And when U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" mambos in with its "uno, dos, tres, catorce!" intro, it's nearly impossible not to bend over laughing. (Honestly, if Richard Cheese can so freely mock U2, rock's most pretentious band, then he's okay in my book.)

How far do I need to go before you're convinced? Well, if you were an alt-rock nerd from the 1990s like me, then you have to hear Cheese's standup-bass-and-snap version of the Offspring's "Come Out and Play" and his take on Radiohead's "Creep." I mean, come on, it's got a whistle solo (and Cheese announces it: "Whistle solo!"). The Peanuts gang should be dancing to this. "I wish I was special / You're so f***ing special." Ooh yeah.

Okay, okay, I'll stop. But you're nuts if you don't buy this album.

For more, swing on over to www.iloverichardcheese.com.