Weird Al Yankovic
|©1983 Scotti Bros.
2. Gotta Boogie
3. I Love Rocky Road
4. Buckingham Blues
5. Happy Birthday
6. Stop Draggin' My Car Around
7. My Bologna
8. The Check's In The Mail
9. Another One Rides The Bus
10. I'll Be Mellow When I'm Dead
11. Such A Groovy Guy
12. Mr. Frump In The Iron Lung
That excrescence called MTV has made exactly one contribution toward the betterment of humanity: its presentation of the wacky world of Weird Al Yankovic to people who don't listen to Doctor Demento's syndicated radio show. Weird Al, who first gained exposure on the good Doctor's program, issued several videos from his eponymous debut album, which is mostly a comedy album with lead accordion and a backup band rather than a primarily musical album with hysterical lyrics. In what became a pattern over the rest of Weird Al's albums, the best songs are the parodies of other artists' popular tunes and, as also became the pattern, his lyrics are often more memorable than the original words.
For the...let's call them the "less knowledgeable" among us...here's the rundown on Weird Al's parodies: "Ricky" is a hysterical spoof of one-hit-wondercheerleader Toni Basil's song "Mickey." "I Love Rocky Road" takes Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' sleazy rock anthem "I Love Rock And Roll" to high-calorie heaven. Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks can both quit whining for someone to "Stop Dragging My Heart Around" because poor Al's getting his car dragged off to the impregnable fortress of suburbia, the auto impound yard, in "Stop Dragging My Car Around." The Knack's (who?) mega-hit "My Sharona" gets finely ground up into a mushy, indeterminate-colored, sausage-like product in the memorable "My Bologna". And finally, Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust" becomes a struggle for survival aboard The Bus From Hell entitled "Another One Rides The Bus", which was recorded live in the broadcast booth on Doctor Demento's radio show.
Even the original songs are worth a listen, the best of which is the frenetic "Happy Birthday", an ideal track for inclusion on birthday-gift mix tapes or CDs. Also of special note is the somewhat eerie "Buckingham Blues", which mocks the easy life of royalty led by Prince Charles and Lady Diana. In hindsight, it's kinda creepy. Still a funny song, but...
Weird Al's debut disc is a bit rough around the edges but is entirely worth owning if you enjoy his schtick. My only complaint is that the twelve tracks only run 32:52. If you can get beyond that, shell out the bucks and stick this in your player. You're gonna like it.
Review by Jonathan Arnett
Review date: 11/2000
|©1984 Rock N Roll
1. Like A Surgeon
2. Dare To Be Stupid
3. I Want A New Duck
4. One More Minute
6. George Of The Jungle
7. Slime Creatures From Outer Space
8. Girls Just Want To Have Lunch
9. This Is The Life
10. Cable TV
11. Hooked On Polkas
If only more people kept in mind this one, simple concept, the Earth would be a better place: “Mashed potatoes can be your friends.” This, and other pearls of wisdom, are yours to own if you suddenly grow a brain and complete your life by purchasing Weird Al Yankovic’s third album, Dare To Be Stupid. Being both a superb comic album and a nifty slice-o’-pop culture from the early Eighties, it’s one of his best releases and is well worth the price of admission.
The first track, “Like A Surgeon,” has far more memorable lyrics than Madonna’s original words to her hit “Like A Virgin.” Huey Lewis and The News were also a hot item at the time this album was released and “I Want A New Duck,” an excellent parody of their hit “I Want A New Drug”, is a fond reminder of those days. Likewise, “Yoda” and “Girls Just Want To Have Lunch” serve as reminders that The Kinks and Cyndi Lauper were once forces to be reckoned with on the Top Ten chart. The title track, Weird Al’s best original composition, bar none, deserves special mention for being the best song that Devo never wrote. The music is simple and repetitive, the sound unabashedly electronic and arpeggio, and the lyrics ironic and demented. Mark Mothersbaugh would be rolling in his grave if it weren’t for the fact that he’s still alive.
As far as the other original tracks go, unlike what happened on later Weird Al albums, the lyrics are neither self-consciously wacky nor somewhat creepy. True, “Slime Creatures From Outer Space” does approach the limits of human toleration via the cheese factor but it never actually becomes unbearable. Two other original songs are particularly good. “This Is The Life”, about the spendthrift ways of the ultra-rich, holds special relevance today because it could’ve been written about a nouveau riche dot-com millionaire. “Cable TV” is reminiscent of the days when cable TV became the luxury du jour and, although there was really nothing to watch, people were willing to shell out vast amounts of money for the ability to view Porky’s 27 times in one week. The more things change, eh?
Finally, this album’s obligatory polka tune containing snippets of popular songs, “Hooked On Polkas,” is neato neato neato. How can one not like a song cobbled together with random verses from hits by ZZ Top, Tina Turner, Yes, Twisted Sister, Nina, Kenny Loggins, Duran Duran, Quiet Riot, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and others?
Dare To Be Stupid is a solid album, start to finish. Be a good little Do-Bee and pick it up at your earliest convenience.
Review by Jonathan Arnett
Review date: 07/2000
|©1988 Rock N Roll
2. Stuck In A Closet With Vanna White
3. (This Song's Just) Six Words Long
4. You Make Me
5. I Think I'm A Clone Now
9. Velvet Elvi
11. Good Old Days
Can anyone remember the words to "Bad," the title track to the Michael Jackson album? (No, sorry, "woo!" doesn't count.) Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?* Okay, how about the words to "Fat," by Weird Al Yanko…oh, put your hands down, I can't possibly count all of you.
The point is this: Weird Al is the master of parody. On this album alone, he skewers the music made (in)famous by Michael "Damn, but it looks like Michelle" Jackson, George "I used to be Fab" Harrison, Tiffany "That pointy-faced chick with no last name who's probably living in a trailer park now after her only hit was an inferior cover version," Richie "Impact Crater" Valens, Tommy "Billy Idol owes me big time" James, and the faceless adman who wrote the jingle for the Twister commercials. These songs are funny as hell—classic examples of Weird Al wackiness.
However, so are the other tracks on the album—but not in such a good way. Al, baby, lemme give ya some career advice. Avoid original songs. Do parodies. I don't care if fourth-graders like forced goofiness; I don't want to hear you yelling about being stuck in a closet with Vanna White or the cheesy things "You Make Me" do. "Velvet Elvis" is decent (I can relate to the song because my former roommate hung two velvet Elvi in our living room), but "Melanie" and "Good Old Days" are just plain creepy, not funny. I like those two songs more than when I first heard them, but that's not saying much, since they still suck.
Even so, You Must Buy This Disc. The parodies are killer and they're reason enough to part with your hard-earned bread. Besides, it's a vital part of our nation's musical heritage and no collection can be complete without a dose of Weird Al. Just make sure to buy the CD version so you can program your player to skip the lame tracks.
*If you don't get the reference, you're too young to use the computer without parental supervision. Exit this website immediately.
Review by Jonathan Arnett
Review date: 07/1999
|©2003 Volcano Entertainment
1. Couch Potato
2. Hardware Store
3. Trash Day
4. Party At The Leper Colony
5. Angry White Boy Polka
6. Wanna B Ur Lover
7. A Complicated Song
8. Why Does This Always Happen To Me?
9. Ode To A Superhero
12. Genius In France
In his latest installment, Poodle Hat, our close personal friend Al transforms recent hit songs — the current victims are Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, Nelly’s “Hot in Here”, Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated”, the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” and a bevy of nu-metal/rap-rock bands immortalized in “The Angry White Boy Polka” — into bits of musical comedy genius. He even dips into the well of pop music history and reincarnates Billy Joel’s classic “Piano Man” as “Ode to A Superhero”. (For those of you who aren’t in the know, this is of note because Weird Al seriously annoyed Billy Joel many years ago by making him the butt of a satirical ditty entitled, “It’s Still Billy Joel to Me”.) I take this as a good sign; rock’s back catalogue is full of parody-ready gems, and I’m all for more side-splitters like “Ode to a Superhero” or “The Saga Begins” from Al’s last effort, Running with Scissors.
Also, it appears that Al’s been having some success with the opposite sex; “Trash Day” contains mention of a wife (Al mentions a woman who didn't dump, ignore, or take out a restraining order against him? That’s quite a switch...), and the quasi-love song addressed to a woman — “Wanna B Ur Lovr” — is neither a whinefest nor an anti-love song, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny. That being said, I’m a bit annoyed because Al stole my best pickup lines for that song: “Girl, you must be Jamaican / Because Jamaican me crazy,” and “Well, how’d you get through security? / ‘Cause baby, you’re the bomb.” Oh, quit laughing. Just because they haven’t worked yet doesn’t mean that I’m fated to die without ever getting...
Er, yes... Um...
Anyway, the original songs on Poodle Hat are among the best that Al’s done yet. They’re still undeniably Weird Al creations, but he’s branched out a bit, expanded his compositional range, made his style parodies sound closer than ever to the style of the artists he’s satirizing. There are some neato choral bits in “Hardware Store”; the Bo Diddley beat and wailing sax in “Party at the Leper Colony” invoke George Thorogood’s “Who Do You Love?” and any number of 1950s-style rock ’n’ roll songs; the guitar strumming, idiosyncratic vocal mannerisms, and hilariously oblique lyrics make it abundantly clear that Bob Dylan is the inspiration for the song “Bob”; and the stop-start “Genius In France” is pure Frank Zappa, risen from the grave to terrorize Tipper Gore and any cheese-eating surrender monkeys he encounters.
Once again, Weird Al Yankovic has turned popular dross into shiny gold. Or at least a tasty plastic-and-aluminum sandwich. Go, buy, listen. And for Pete’s sake, don’t drink chocolate milk while you’re playing Poodle Hat, ‘cuz it’s gonna spray out your nose and your mom is gonna be pissed.
Review by Jonathan Arnett
Review date: 09/2003