Martin Mull Stephen Holden - Essay

Stephen Holden

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Stan Freberg, Spike Jones, Tom Lehrer, Frank Zappa, Randy Newman, even Homer & Jethro are but a few of the influences that have shaped the sensibility of singer/humorist Martin Mull. Though he is almost never as funny or savage or heartbreaking as any of the above-mentioned at their best, the difference between his first and second albums suggests that by the third time around Mull may have evolved a comic identity that has the power of institutional subversion.

The first LP consists entirely of humorous songs a la Lehrer and Newman, but lack the venom of the former and the metaphysical dimension of the latter. "Ventriloquist Love," "Livin' Above My Station," "Partly Marion," and "Margie The Midget" are essentially one-joke songs about freaks and freakish relationships, in which an idea is presented but not developed…. The funniest song, "Miami," works as well as it does, because its subject is the development, to no point, of lethally monotonous Miami Beach cocktail music, the bulk of its lyrics a maddening little refrain that is repeated over and over: "Am I in heaven or am I in Miami."

The new release, [Martin Mull and His Fabulous Furniture in Your Living Room], is much funnier…. The character Mull plays throughout is a superficially self-effacing egomaniac, who ridicules his own pretensions, as well as those of the pop world in general with the music he makes….

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(The entire section is 456 words.)