The Listening Room

by Bob Kanefsky

Review by Rob Wynne

Bob Kanefsky calls his muse the "Songworm", in that it does to other people's songs what a bookworm does to books -- devours them whole. In short, Bob Kanefsky is a parodist. Known for his wicked sense of humor and ability to twist almost any song into new shapes, Kanefsky has made a name for himself in the filk community despite not appearing on any of his albums.

In keeping with the theme of Songworm (which titled three books of song parody), his first three albums (all released only on cassette) were titled Tapeworm 1, Tapeworm 2, and Tapeworm 3. This album, the first released on CD, is called Roundworm (Prometheus Music, 2000, PM-2000), and was much looked forward to by people familiar with his past work. The result is a bit of a mixed bag, but there are enough gems scattered throughout to make it worth a listen.

The CD starts off with a cheerful rendition of "Acts of Parody", a takeoff on Cat Faber's "Acts of Creation". It's one of the few tracks on the album that seem genuinely cheerful -- there's a lot of stuff on here that, while funny, is played with a straight face. This may have been the producer's intent, but it often leaves the listener a bit flat.

The high points on this record are quite high indeed. Julia Ecklar is featured strongly as a vocalist, and she really brings out songs like "Doppel-entendre" (a parody of Kathy Mar's "Doppelganger"), and "By the Time I Get To...", a mournful ballad in which the space shuttle laments having to ride back to the Cape on the back of an airplane after having soared through orbit only the day before. One of my favourite tracks on the album is "Eternal Flame (God Wrote In LISP)", but that may be my own computer geek background showing through.

Ookla the Mok takes a delightful turn at Kanefsky's parody of their song "Home" in "The Comforts of Home", which wonders about the lack of bathrooms on the USS Enterprise. Steve MacDonald turns in a lovely performance of "Mutant Generations", which wonders why all the aliens on that same starship look so much alike.

"Something's Under the Bed" and "December of Cambreadth" both feature talented folk artist Heather Alexander. The former song, a delightful Calvin and Hobbes tribute, works rather better than the latter. The idea of a setting a song about Santa's reindeer to the bloodthirsty "March of Cambreadth" has the potential to be amusing, but it's played so straight here that it loses any chance of getting more than a chuckle.

There are some clunkers on this album, though. Leslie Fish does a fine performance on "Mineral Rights", but the song is a weak and somewhat redundant parody of Kathy Mar and Brenda Sutton's "Demon in the Dark". And Kanefsky's dubious sense of humor and good taste is unfortunately not restricted to the title. Dead-animal songs are somewhat of a tradition in filk, so I can't really fault "Nobody's Moggie Lands", but the necrophilia-themed "Dear Departed" and the roach-infested "Black Flag" had me lunging for the skip button. Kanefsky does address this on his web page , but I can't help but feel the album would have been stronger without these tracks.

The other thing I wonder is if these songs will play as well to someone who is not familiar with the originals. While some of the tunes ("Mutant Generations", "The Comforts of Home", the sublime "Meltdown") are perfectly capable of standing by themselves, others are perhaps not amusing if one is unfamiliar with the original. Songs like "Wise Men Fear To Tread" and "Threes: Take 3" comment closely on their original, and may require knowledge of the source tune. I admit I don't know if this is true or not, since I am familiar with the veins that are being mined, but it nags the back of my mind.

On the balance, however, I think the positives of this release outweigh the negatives. There are enough "don't miss" tracks to overshadow the "better missed" ones, and the technical production is superior throughout. I recommend Roundworm to anyone who enjoys wicked humor, song parody, or SF-themed music in general.

You can listen to selected tracks from Roundworm at

Bob Kanefsky's Homepage:

More about Roundworm

How to purchase this album

Read more by Rob Wynne

Comment on this feature in Aphelion's Lettercol!

Return to the current issue of Aphelion!