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November 19, 2013

TMoRP Day 20 – Alpocalypse by Weird Al Yankovic

Despite the fact that I can never type his name right on the first attempt, I’m a lifelong fan of Weird Al Yankovic. So’s my buddy Ev (who bought me my first album ‘Weird Al Yankovic in 3D’ for my thirteenth birthday, and thus ruined me for popular music for life). I recently picked up a copy of Al’s thirteeth studio album Alpocalypse for Ev, and, as is our mutual habit, I wrote a track by track review to send along with it.

Now, I have to say this doesn’t really qualify as relentlessly positive, because not every track did much for me. But! My adoration for the works of WAY remain undiminished, despite the passage of decades of fandom (and the awfulness of parts of his mid-nineties output).

Yay for Weird Al! Yay for musicians you like, even if everybody else has formed the (demonstrably false) impression that they are rubbish. (Because hey, Duran Duran put out an album a year or two ago as well, and it was good, dammit!)

Alpocalypse by Weird Al Yankovic – Liner Notes for E-Bomb D

Perform This Way (Parody of ‘Born This Way’ by Lady Gaga)

Perfectly serviceable parody of Lady Gaga which points out that she’s a bit wacky and wears funny outfits. Elevated slightly by the controversy surrounding its launch – apparently just before the album’s release Gaga’s management put a stop to the song, saying that she hadn’t given permission. There was quite a kerfuffle on Twitter for a day or two while his fans tore into her fans and vice versa. At the absolute eleventh hour, Gaga put out an announcement that she had no problem with the parody and it had all been a misunderstanding.

I’m still pretty convinced it was a well-coordinated publicity stunt. It certainly generated a bucketload of publicity for the album and the song. I’m guessing most of his videos don’t get over 10 million hits on Youtube.

The other thing about this song is that I think it’s enhanced by the video clip, which is unsettling and has several great sight gags: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ss_BmTGv43M

CNR (Parody of the White Stripes’ style)

A bunch of Chuck Norris jokes, but about Charles Nelson Reilly, who is a wimpy comedic character actor instead of a tough action hero. That’s the joke, wrapped in a note-perfect White Stripes style parody. I pretty much just skip this track, because I don’t find it especially interesting and the White Stripes’ sound doesn’t really resonate with me anymore.

TMZ (Parody of ‘You Belong to Me’ by Taylor Swift)

This is Al doing his classic parody trick, but unlike the previous two tracks, this one completely works for me. It’s probably the match of the virginal innocence of Taylor Swift’s country-pop with the sleazy grotesquery of television paparazzo. Better still, the jokes about celebrity stalk-watching land some decent punches. Helps that the source song is pretty appealing too.

Skipper Dan (Parody of Weezer’s style)

I was divided on this one, thinking that it was a bit of a nothing song, but it grew on me. Until it was pointed out to me by the album liner notes, I didn’t realise this was a Weezer-style song. Now of course I can’t unhear the Weezery bits. But now that I know that, it elevates the song as a whole, because lyrically it’s right within spitting distance of something Weezer would sing about (a washed-up actor taking a novelty tour-guide job in an amusement park). See also “Dare to be Stupid” and “Everything You Know is Wrong” for basically perfect parodies.

Polka Face (Polka)

Makes much of the gag that Lady Gaga’s Poker Face sounds like ‘polka’ – it’s used twice – but otherwise this is a pretty forgettable entry into the polka pantheon. Frankly, most of the original songs used suck, frankly (Britney’s ‘Womanizer’ and Bieber’s ‘Baby’ – fucking ugh). The use of Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” is elegant and catchy, but other than that it’s undistinguished. Probably reflects on my Old Man total lack of with-it-ness, but it just did nothing for me. Skippable.

Craigslist (Parody of The Doors’ style)

A Doors song with Ray Manzarek on the keyboards. Your response to this song is probably exactly proportional to your tolerance for The Doors. This is, I repeat, a Doors song, albeit without Jimbo-boy’s usual ludicrous pomposity. The lyrics are a collection of faux pre-Facebook messages, so it’s kind of networking archaeology reporting on a completely dead medium, except even more obscure than listening to ‘Midnight Star’ nearly thirty years on.The bit I liked was the spoken-word “A note to the snotty barista ~” insert. It’s fine I guess.

Party in the C.I.A. (Parody of ‘Party in the U.S.A.’ by Miley Cyrus)

Oh, Christ, it’s Miley Cyrus. Why? Like ‘The Complicated Song’, I’d much rather listen to this parody, which rolls out many of the same sorts of CIA jokes that American Dad does, than the original. The original is catchy but more than ordinarily teenager-anthem dumb. So in that sense I guess this is a successful parody.

Ringtone (Parody of Queen’s style)

I’m divided about this one. On the one hand, it’s a pretty slick style copy of Queen (albeit later-period Queen, say post-The Miracle). On the other hand, the lyrics are a pointless, one-note gag about having an annoying ringtone. And that’s about it. I think on the whole I’d pretty much prefer to have this as an instrumental. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way about an Al song before.

Another Tattoo (Parody of ‘Nothin on You’ by B.o.B. featuring Bruno Mars)

I have no idea why – I’m not fond of the source song at all – but I absolutely adore ‘Another Tattoo’. It’s my favourite song on the album by a fair margin. The rhymes are tight, the jokes are solid and it doesn’t outlast its welcome. This is the only song on the album I listen to on repeat.

If That Isn’t Love (Parody of Hanson’s style)

Fifteen years after ‘Mmm-Bop’ was a hit, I can really think of anything less essential than a Hanson parody. Pretty cool that Taylor Hanson plays piano on the track, but…again, there’s not much here to latch onto. The lyrics are a below-par example of standard Al fare – an awkward and passive-aggressive declaration of love, with touches of gross-out humour. Okay, but not memorable.

Whatever You Like (Parody of ‘Whatever You Like’ by T.I.)

The original is a tedious boast to a potential girlfriend that the singer is so mind-boggling rich that no desire, no matter how improbable, is out of her reach, thanks to the singer’s largesse. Al’s parody lyrics invert that, making low-rent promises consistent with the depressed economy. It’s pretty funny. And it avoids the original’s grotesque sexism, which is a bonus. The problem, as with most of the rest of the album, is that the source material is musically pretty boring, so the lyrics don’t save it. I think it’s pretty clear that I am not the market demographic for vain, sexist R&B/hip-hop, or dull music.

Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me (Parody of Jim Steinman’s style)

Spot-on aping of the Jim Steinman formula, with the slow build up to the overblown operatic climax, layered harmonies and bucketloads of rolling piano. My only real complaint is that it doesn’t quite go full-Steinman, which is to say that it stops short of the already self-parodying grandiose excess of a ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ or a ‘Bat Out of Hell’. This comes across as the sort of song Jim Steinman would write if he were not a delirious lunatic snorting the ashen remains of Wagner and Mahler. Come to think of it, that might be the joke.

 

Overall

Alpocalypse isn’t Al’s best album. Coming five years after the strong return to form of Straight Outta Lynwood, it’s not quite a disappointment but nor does it build on the momentum of the previous release. There aren’t many tracks that would argue for a place in my personal best-of compilation. I enjoy Another Tattoo, but I just can’t see it having the legs to compete with his classics. Skipper Dan is growing on me as well. Most of the rest are solid but not hugely entertaining. I suspect a couple of the songs would be pretty great in concert – Craigslist and Stop Forwarding, maybe Ringtone.

Then again, it has no absolutely unlistenable dogs either, and none of his past three albums managed that feat. I’d put this one as a solid three Kaisers and a half of Rye.

2 Comments »

  1. I saw him on a (repeat I think) episode of Spicks and Specks last night

    Comment by Jenny — November 22, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

  2. Ah, yes, it would have been a repeat – Spicks and Specks finished a couple of years ago. But I do remember that episode!

    Comment by Lexifab — November 23, 2013 @ 8:29 am

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