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I guess I just like liking things

Michelangelo moved from nunchuks to axes

Michelangelo moved from nunchuks to axes

A couple of months ago a friend gave me a cassette tape of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Coming Out of Their Shells concert/musical.  He found it at a rummage sale and I don’t know how much he paid for it, but it was clearly too much/not enough, depending on your point of view. I actually owned a copy of this tape back in the day, but didn’t remember much about it. I must not have thought too much of it since I didn’t still have my copy.

This is how the Turtlepedia describes what this soundtrack is:

The Ninja Turtles have decided to travel around the world to meet their fans face to face. singing songs they wrote such as “Coming Out of Our Shells”“Pizza Power”,“Skippin Stones”“Walk Straight”, and “Tubin'”. Though while the Turtles are enjoying their time singing and dancing for the fans, Shredder decides to make an attempt to stop the Turtles from making people happy. Shredder, with the help of Baxter Stockman comes forth with his De-Harmonic Convergence Converter. Using this device they will steal all the music in the world, and it also weakens the Turtles if they stand in front of it. Once Shredder arrives on stage with the De-Marmonic Controller the Turtles have to retreat and come up with a plan to save the day. As the fans are tortured by Shredder’s bad jokes and singing.

Uh… that’s where the description ends and, really, it’s kind of fitting.  I’m just going to tell you flat out: this is not good.  I haven’t yet seen the Star Wars Holiday Special [spoiler alert: I have plans for an article in December], but from what I’ve heard about how awful it is it seems like a corollary to what COoTS is to the Turtles. I know there’s a temptation to cash in on something popular in as many ways as you possibly can as quickly as you possibly can, but I would love to have been in the meetings where this was planned:

“Okay, so get this: the Turtles plan to defeat evil by playing music!  We’ll have dudes dressed up in Turtle costumes on stage with special effects and choreography and it’ll be totally rad!”  (This was in the early 90s and had to have been at least partially planned in the late 80s, so the use of the word “rad” was not unexpected.)

The tour was sponsored by Pizza Hut, which I’m sure was a reaction to Domino’s being featured in the first TMNT movie.

At this point I’m going to link you to something because I feel I need to, but you have to promise me you will not click on it. It is the first part of the officially released video of the concert and I am not kidding: if you love the Ninja Turtles at all, you will not want to click on the link.  I have to provide it as part of my solemn duty, but you do not and should not click on it. Here it is. I listened to the whole album many, many times before I dug up the video to watch the concert. The sense I got from the album was “Okay, I can deal with this, it’s kind of fun even though some of the songs aren’t great.” But then I watched the video and the whole experience changed for me. I kept apologizing to my wife for having it on our main TV – “I’m sorry, I really need to watch this. I know it’s awful.”

The costumes are bad. The “jokes” are bad. The plot was bad. The music is… well, let’s talk about the music.  If the Turtles plan to defeat evil with music rather than with buttkickery, you’d expect the music to be pretty awesome. Your expectations in this instance are misplaced and laughable.  Here is the tracklist:

  • “Coming Out of Our Shells!” – You need an introductory song to tell us what’s going on, definitely.  I still don’t understand what “coming out of our shells” means, though.  Like, is the shell the sewer where they live? Or is the shell their martial arts training? Or secrecy in general?  Because “coming out of my shell” usually means a shy person opening up, but the Ninja Turtles have never been shy, so I really don’t get this metaphor at all.
  • “Sing About It” – This song tells you that if you sing about stuff, it’ll be okay.
  • “Tubin'” – This song talks about surfing/tubing in the sewers and it is one of the grossest concepts I’ve ever had suggested to me.
  • “Skipping Stones” – I think this is supposed to be thought provoking and spiritual and yada yada yada, but it will grate on you like you wouldn’t believe. Sorry, Master Splinter.
  • “Pizza Power” – This song is okay!
  • “Walk Straight” – This song’s chorus would cause an uproar today like you wouldn’t believe: “Talk straight! Live straight! Be straight!” It’s actually kind of catchy, but someone is likely to sue you for hate speech if you sing/play it in public.
  • “No Treaties” – This song is okay, too! I mean, I don’t understand it, but it’s not unpleasant to listen to.  Who is reading them their rights?  Why will there not be any treaties?  Is this basically saying “we’re going to kill Shredder because that’s the only way to end this”?  I think it might be, but I’m not sure.
  • “Cowabunga” – I wanted this rap to be good. I mean, all the pieces are there, and the idea is actually sound, but… wow.  It’s so bad.  Lines don’t rhyme, the meter’s all off, and the rapping is unpleasant. This song actually makes me sad.
  • “April’s Ballad” – Starts off rough, but I actually kind of like it by the end. It presents an April who is afraid, though, and that’s not the April I’m familiar with. The song talks about how having people you love can help you through tough times, but it seems kind of “I am woman, I need help from dudes” which isn’t necessarily a powerful message, you know?
  • “Count On Us” – Here’s where we find Good Things in Bad Stuff, because I absolutely and unabashedly love this song. It reminds me of a group from the 80s, but I can’t place exactly who (maybe Van Halen?), and it’s some good old-fashioned arena rock that will pump you up. I also love the harmonies, and I wish there was a whole album of this kind of thing.  Give it a listen down below!  You likely won’t enjoy it as much as I do, but I have added this one to my MP3 player for regular rotation. In the last month I have listened to this song more than 30 times, and that is not an exaggeration.

I’m glad there’s a lot of great TMNT stuff to choose from. If this were one of, like, three things you could see the Turtles in, I’d probably have to write the whole thing off. As it is, it’s a misstep in a franchise that averages out to be pretty good, so it’s forgivable.

So help me, I can’t get past this thought, though: if I had a time machine freely available for my use, after I was done checking out major historical events, I’m pretty sure I’d use it to go back and attend one of these showings.

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