Frank Zappa once asked in an album title if humor belonged in music, which was a bit of a red herring even then. The question is really whether it works on record or CD. Does it survive a solo listening experience? Does it survive repeated listenings? The question and Zappa reference are apropos when thinking about Egg Yolk Jubilee’s Labor of Lunch because the band takes a Zappa-esque approach to the New Orleans horn-based funk rock (including a cover or “Easy Meat”), and how you’ll feel about Labor of Lunch will depend on your threshold for self-conscious weirdness. Live, I might find the shift from a leisurely “Lazy River” to a metal version—complete with growling vocalist—funny. On CD, it hasn’t happened yet. The exaggerated lounge shtick of “Grumpy Gal at the Grille” might also seem more than just clever live. For me, the forced “I’m being funny here” delivery oversells everything, making even the witty and insightful moments clownish, but humor’s even more subjective than music. For example, Dane Cook’s career is inexplicable to me, and I think Patton Oswalt deserves his own channel.
Like Zappa’s work, there’s obvious craft and intelligence behind the album. The horn arrangements have touches that recall the idioms they’re mocking, and there’s a deceptive amount of precision in the playing. Though the songs are intended to be funny, the band doesn’t play them as jokes, and they know themselves well enough to make everything they touch theirs. Labor of Lunch includes “St. James Infirmary,” Van Halen, and the Norwegian Anthem, and they make it all sound like “Rocco Fancypants.” That’s a talent; whether it’s one you value is up to you.