Good impressionists are hard to come by, but for every few hacks doing awful Obama impressions at your local comedy club, there are guys like Bill Hader and Fred Armisen – legit comedic shapeshifters who can masterfully inhabit new and absurd identities. The two Saturday Night Live alums’ latest project is the Blue Jean Committee, a mock-rock group that they’ve brought to life on SNL and their own show, Documentary Now! The joke is simple: These guys are the epitome of every breezy Seventies light-rock cliché imaginable, like a pile of Eagles and Peter Frampton LPs come to life. Unfortunately, the peaceful easy feelings only go so far on the duo’s debut album. Without the hilarious sight of the two comedians in head-to-toe denim and absurdly shaggy wigs, the kitschy lyrics about champagne-filled coconuts don’t quite stand up on their own.
Armisen, who spearheaded the recording sessions, deserves some credit for how accurate the style parodies on Catalina Breeze are. He recorded the LP at Los Angeles’ historic Vox studios, ladling on Fender Rhodes keyboards straight out of a Chicago record (see the title track) and background singers à la “I’d Like to Buy the World A Coke” (“Freeway Song,” “Mama, You’re a Dancer”). These musical easter eggs make Catalina Breeze worth a second or third listen. Any more than that, though, and you’ll be left with some watered-down punchlines and a nagging sense of toothless satire. “Wise men say if you want to know a man, walk a mile in his shoes/I don’t know about you, but I’m more of a barefoot guy,” Armisen sings on the flat, meandering drifter anthem “Walking Shoes.” Spinal Tap it’s not.