In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, as part of our salute to artificial intelligence, we’re looking at songs about robots and/or computers.
It’s easy enough to make a movie about robots or aliens or some other sentient being taking over the world. It’s another thing entirely to write a song about it. Fortunately, that’s what Flight Of The Conchords’ Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement are for.
In 2007, “New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo-acapella-rap-funk-comedy-folk duo” introduced the world to its low-budget production aesthetic and out-there attitude with “Sally,” the pilot episode to the group’s titular HBO show. That episode featured a couple of great FOTC songs, including “The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room),” but “Robots” was the episode’s standout cut, bridging several parts of the storyline. Though the track had been kicking around online and live for a while, both as “Robots” and as “The Humans Are Dead,” “Sally” put the song in context, as viewers watched a struggling and oddly conceptual band try to find its place in the music marketplace.
On top of that, “Robots” worked in the episode because, as frank as McKenzie and Clement are, they also appear to live a world of their own design. (That also might be because they’re from New Zealand too, or at least the New Zealand McKenzie and Clement have tried to convey.) Since they’re simultaneously eccentric and matter-of-fact, it’s entirely possible that the Flight boys might actually believe robots are coming to take over the world. It’s also entirely possible that they’re in on the joke. That paradox is one of the things that makes Flight Of The Conchords great. The robo-boogieing doesn’t hurt either.