When reviewing musical comedian Bo Burnham's debut album, the eponymous Bo Burnham, I made specific mention of just how dense and cleverly written the comedian's songs are and how many of them require multiple listens in order to pick out all of the jokes. That's true of the songs on Burnham's follow-up album, Words, Words, Words, too, but at this point his formula is beginning to show itself. It's not that the songs on Words, Words, Words aren't clever and funny; they are. It's just that instead of feeling fresh and exciting, it feels like more of the same. With Burnham's considerable talent, that's not such a terrible thing. Just know what to expect.
Burnham's second album kicks off with the catchiest single, the title track "Words, Words, Words." If you like what you hear there -- quick rhymes, clever wordplay and dirty, often twisted wordplay -- keep listening. The song is a pretty good indication of everything else the album has to offer. And whereas Bo Burnham showcased the comic as a young (he is) geeky guy writing songs in his parents house (he did), Words finds him reinvented as a brash, cocky superstar of his own making. It's obviously intended as ironic posturing, but I'd by lying if I didn't say the album lacked some of the low-key charm of Burnham's first outing. Here, he's got all the confidence of a rap star. I miss the guy playing piano in his bedroom.
There's also some repetition on Words, Words, Words; both the title track and "Oh Bo" are presented in studio and live versions. While it can be interesting to compare the differences between the two, it's not quite interesting enough to justify hearing each song twice. I actually prefer the studio takes, if for no other reason than that they feature more elaborate production and show off Burnham's talents in a different sort of context. Perhaps making the live versions "bonus" tracks on the album would have been a good idea.
Where Words does distinguish itself is in its live stand-up bits, which Burnham performs between musical numbers. It's more than just pre-song banter this time around; Burnham is attempting full-fledged routines. They're not all entirely successful and depend perhaps too heavily on Burnham's lack of political correctness (a charge that could be leveled about all of his comedy, actually), but it's good to hear Burnham flexing some new comedy muscles. His songs are the strongest stuff on Words, Words, Words, but where they've grown a bit familiar, at least the album finds Burnham pushing himself at times. As second albums go, I guess we can't ask for a whole lot more than that.
- Album Release Date: 10/19/10
- Label: Comedy Central Records