NPR logo Viking's Choice: Sharpless, 'Franz Kafka (Home Movies Cover)'

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Viking's Choice: Sharpless, 'Franz Kafka (Home Movies Cover)'

Sharpless. Richard Gin/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Richard Gin/Courtesy of the artist

Sharpless.

Richard Gin/Courtesy of the artist

Real talk: Scäb's "Franz Kafka" is the greatest cartoon rock opera ever. Originally featured on the Home Movies episode "Director's Cut" in 2001, the ridiculous three-minute, four-movement song about The Metamorphosis is equal parts "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Tommy, and warns, "Be careful if you get him pissed / Franz! Franz Kafka! / He'll smite you with metaphor fists!" Metaphor fists!

For all its guitar-hero whimsy, "Franz Kafka" is a nerdy teenager's rock-star dream, which is what makes it not only a fist-pumping triumph, but also a nod to naive fearlessness that's tricky to replicate. But with the can-do gusto of an earnest after-school special, Sharpless — part of the New York arts collective The Epoch — nails this cover of the rock opera for the Faux Real II compilation.

When the Home Movies episode originally aired, it was the first time the Cartoon Network audience heard the music of the show's creator, Brendon Small, written and performed as the work of 15-year-old Slash lookalike Dwayne. Small would later go on to helm the hilariously violent Metalocalypse and shred Dethklock tracks, but with Home Movies, he created characters that felt the anxieties of the world as creative, wide-eyed kids. No problem couldn't be solved with a film camera, a guitar and cardboard sets.

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Featuring covers of fake bands from TV shows and movies, Faux Real II has artists like Chumped pummeling "Threshold" (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), Quarterbacks sweetly singing "You Painted My World" (The Adventures Of Pete And Pete), and LVL UP doing its best Adam Sandler impression in "Somebody Kill Me Please" (The Wedding Singer). For its part, Sharpless ratchets up the drama: Montana Levy wails like a torch singer over metal power-ballad guitars, Jack Greenleaf's Vocoder-enhanced vocals give the middle section more of a soulful-robot Kraftwerk vibe than the arena-rock moves of the original, the MIDI strings and horns are uplifting in their over-the-top swells, and the dueling guitars that extend the "Living Like A Bug" movement are just plain righteous. Well done, Sharpless; Scäb will not smite you.

Faux Real II comes out April 28 on Father/Daughter. Sharpless' The One I Want To Be is available from Bandcamp, and the band is on tour this month.