In 2009, CNN asked comedian Chris Brown why it was hard to make fun of President Obama. He responded, “It's like "Ooh, you're young and virile and you've got a beautiful wife and kids. You're the first African-American president." You know, what do you say?” Fast forward 10 years and Donald Trump, the big-haired and gaudy former host of the NBC reality show The Apprentice, is the leader of free world and two years into his first term as U.S. President. It seems as if all notions of political comedy have been thrown entirely into a blender so much so that Rock’s comments might as well have been made 100 years ago.
This is why someone like Tim Heidecker, the versatile comedian from Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and countless other oddities, seems primed to point out the bleak absurdity of the current political climate. He’s spent most of the Trump years poking fun at the administration through biting and breezy ‘70s-inspired protest songs, first with 2017’s LP Too Dumb for Suicide: Tim Heidecker’s Trump Songs. Now, Heidecker’s compiled more parodies in the accurately titled EP Another Year In Hell: Compiled Songs From 2018, which is out now via Jagjaguwar.
Through six songs, Heidecker paints garish portraits of conservative depravity, tackling what a press release calls “the disasters that occur at the intersection of stupidity and cruelty.” The opener is orchestral folk about Brett Kavanaugh’s boozy past where Heidecker sings, “Basketball it beats all except lifting weights with Timmy partying with Tobin and getting blackout drunk with the judge.” The lyrics definitely have snark and righteous anger but funny isn’t entirely the right word considering Kavanaugh is literally a Supreme Court Justice.
The jaunty power pop of “Q” takes aim at the delusional paranoia of the QAnon conspiracy theory with lines like, “everyone’s guilty everyone’s in on it / Send em all to gitmo—you're gonna need a bigger island no?” Elsewhere, golden twang permeates over single “Ballad of ICE Agent Ray” as Heidecker details a protagonist who guzzles Mountain Dew while separating families at the border. There are also two different Bruce Springsteen parroting versions of the song “Ballad of the Incel Man.” Most of the songs were self-released by Heidecker on social media last year, with the exception of “Rake The Floor” which he debuted at Father John Misty’s California Wildfire Benefit Show.
For his first protest LP, Heidecker said the songs were written “with the blood still boiling from whatever indignity or absurdity had popped up on my newsfeed that day” and here, you can practically hear him gritting his teeth in anger. It must be especially frustrating considering that news cycles of the indignities and scandals of the administration move so much faster than taking the time to write and record songs. Also, because absurdity has become the norm at the highest reaches of government, these songs, which are fine facsimiles of ‘70s pop tropes, prove that it’s way too hard to effectively skewer something that’s already batshit. When Heidecker’s source material is the verbatim beliefs and lives of the people he’s attempting to skewer, it’s hard to just laugh.