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Borken Telephone: Hilarious, inventive pop-rock


Borken Telephone by Rock, Paper, Cynic is a hilarious album. It packs more funny jokes in than I thought could reasonably fit on a pop-rock album. Now, it helps that I am an appreciator of nerd culture and an academic, and therefore get a lot of the video game references and a lot of the philosophy references. (“The Philosophical Zombie Slayer” is a pun-filled description of exactly what the title says.)

There are also references to Cthulhu, a whole song about a woolly mammoth seeking a mate at the end of the ice age, an anti-war song written via Mario Kart references, a paean to Netflix (featuring an A+ punchline at the end of the song),  and an 18-minute game of Broken Telephone. Put a different way: this album is largely here for the lyrics. The stomping pop-rock that forms the majority of the musical work here may not be your favorite, or you may not like Peter Chiykowski’s vocals, but if you think that some of these songs are funny, you’re getting it. (If you’re determined to find the musical apex, skip straight to the poignant ode to roommate friendship “This Will Never End,” which is a great folk tune, complete with pedal steel and shuffle-snare drums.)

The tune that gives the album its name is actually an 18-minute collection of songs that are a literal game of broken telephone: 15 artists from across the geek/nerd music landscape each got to hear the previous song before them in the chain only once and try to recreate it in their own style (lyrics, melody, and all). RPC starts off with a lovely acoustic ditty, and by the end of the 18 minutes, the song is 100% different. It is really, really funny to listen and hear how the song changes–some artists are faithful in attempting to copy the previous song, while others basically rewrote it based on an impression. (Maybe they were playing video games while listening?) Jokes fall apart, new ones appear, and the lyrics change dramatically. It’s a really fun experience that I haven’t heard before, and it’s fully worth the price of admission. But the great news is that you get that and all these other funny tunes. If you’re into nerd culture or funny pop-rock, you should be all over this.