Parry Gripp For Those About To Shop, We Salute You, Oglio Entertainment

The pop-punk band Nerf Herder scored a minor radio hit and a major label recording contract in 1996 with the amusing ode "Van Halen." The three members of the band, including singer/guitarist Parry Gripp, also scored a free lunch in my college cafeteria, where I interviewed them for the school newspaper. I used my own meal plan credits to pay, but I refused to comp their road manager, who was forced to shell out the eight bucks.

As the tide of my financial priorities shifted, so did the state of popular music; Nerf Herder lost its major label deal and I lost track of its musical output.

Then, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of my journalistic ambitions, I spotted Mr. Gripp's solo debut in the used bins. A steal at $7 for 51 tracks, this album is so amusing even my frugal college-age self would have paid full price with no qualms.

Inspired by the demos he created for an ad agency, selling frozen waffles that include their own dipping sauce (a deal unfortunately left unsealed at the behest of the breakfast food bigwigs), For Those About To Shop, We Salute You offers a few dozen incisive pop gems in the guise of television jingles. Many are in ironic homage to previous hits by other artists (perfectly in keeping with the TV commercial theme) and some are purely born of the goofy imagination of Mr. Gripp.

Broken up into thematic sections like "Songs About Food Other Than Waffles" and "Songs About Sales and Deals," the liner notes are almost as entertaining as the album. Mr. Gripp's motivation is succinctly described thusly:

I announced my retirement from Nerf Herder at the end of 2003, having spent a large portion of the year riding around in an RV that smelled like baloney. I had discovered that while you never outgrow feeling like a loser or being rejected by all sorts of women, you do outgrow the desire to sing about it over and over again every night.

Not surprisingly, the ghost of The Ramones looms large. Among other less blatant references, "European Football" and "More Blades = Better Shave" pay tribute to "Blitzkrieg Bop." The former recasts the familiar "Hey Ho! Hey Ho! Let's go!" refrain as "Yea Ho, Yea Ho, Let's score a goal!" and proceeds to devolve into a perfectly flaccid and grooveless dance song highlighted by Mr. Gripp exclaiming "Sexy!" apropos of nothing. Intellectuals would note the succinct roasting the latter's chorus of "More blades! Better shave!" provides against the corporate co-opting of punk - but that would just dilute the fun of it. Besides, Mr. Gripp would be more than happy to sell his tunes to the highest bidder anyway.

Half-a-hundred pop-punk fake ad jingles would surely be a nightmare. But the sheer breadth of genres - and Mr. Gripp's songwriting acumen in all of them - is a pop culture revelation. White guy funk ("Bran Flakes"), Leon Redbone old-timey ("You Ain't Never Drank No Soda Like This One Here"), country ("This Is One Hell of a Truck"), gospel-country ("Good Woman, Good Truck, Good Life"), disco-country ("When You're Hot, You're Hot" knock-off "Big Mamma-Jamma"), dated electronica ("Got to Dip It!"), dated rap ("Nice Mother@!&*$ Truck"), surf-rock, psych-rock, the song "Wully Bully" and so on, are all present - many represented by more than one track.

Indeed, Mr. Gripp, the frozen food power elite did blow it by not using your songs about waffles and will have nobody but themselves to blame when their product fails miserably in the marketplace. The breakfast world's loss is the music world's gain, however. You've created a lasting artistic achievement infinitely more valuable than the windfall of royalty money you could have received if they used your mighty tunes.

Perhaps the best album-length ode to consumerism since The Who Sell Out, For Those About To Shop, We Salute You is a singular achievement in funny rock history - another flaming arrow cast at the pretentious Williamsburg cool guys who claim humor doesn't belong in music.

- Matthew Carlin