Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Weird Al" Yankovic's "Alpocalypse"


It's been five years since "Weird Al" Yankovic's last full-length album. Five long years. And for someone who's a huge fan of Al and his music, that's four years and 11 months too long. A lot's happened since 2006 and it seems the music scene has re-invented itself at least a dozen times over. For someone like Yankovic who has always had his finger on the pulse of pop culture, he has no problem keeping up. With the recent release of The Lonely Island's new CD, one might be tempted to assume there isn't enough room for two comedy music acts to thrive. But we all know what happens when you assume: Al makes an ass out of you, me, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, B.O.B., Bruno Mars, and T.I.

Alpocalypse follows a familiar Yankovic-ian formula whereas the track listing alternates between parodies and completely original songs. To this day it intrigues me to find people who have no idea Yankovic isn't just some guys who changes the words to popular songs. He's also an extremely talented songwriter and musician whose chops literally span every musical genre conceivable. This time around includes a nod to The Doors mixed with America's penchant for online classified ads ("Craigslist") and a White Stripes-inspired ode to the greatest bespectacled Match Game regular ever to don a neckerchief ("CNR").

One of my favorite songs on the album is "If That Isn't Love," a list of examples pointing out how much Yankovic adores the object of his affection set to a radio-friendly Hanson-esque Adult Contemporary track. Less-than-flattering love songs have always been one of Yankovic's strong suits and is often when he's at his funniest. This time around is no different.
"And if you cut the cheese then maybe I'll wink and say the dog's to blame

And I make sure to call you 'baby' every time I forget your name


I'll even tell ya girl when you start lookin' fat

'Cuz all your so-called friends will probably neglect to mention that


And if that isn't love...I don't know what love is." 

Of course, it's the parodies that made Yankovic famous and he doesn't disappoint. He and his band deserve credit not only for perfectly capturing the essence and musicianship of each twisted rendition, but also for injecting each one with a fresh sense of fun. The first track on the album, "Perform This Way", puts Lady Gaga's less-then-conventional fashion sense under a microscope and "TMZ" focuses on Harvey Levin and his pointless gang of legalized stalkers all to the tune of Taylor Swift's "You Belong To Me." "Another Tattoo" is the smile-inducing tale of a man obsessed with body art that will forever change your perception of the original B.o.B/Bruno Mars collaboration.

It wouldn't be a "Weird Al" Yankovic album without another polka medley featuring your favorite - or perhaps least-favorite - songs that have been played to death on the radio set to a rousing polka party beat. You've never heard Katy Perry so enjoyable, Owl City so upbeat, Pink so not-angry, and Justin Bieber so...um...accordian-y.

For fans of Yankovic, not all of the songs on Alpocalypse are new. Five of the 12 tracks on the album were released as part of an EP, Internet Leaks, that came out back in 2009. If I had a complaint about this new project, the fact that I already bought nearly half of the songs two years ago would be it. Because I'm a fan - and knowing it may very well be another five years before new music rolls around again - I would have preferred if the EP could have been left as its own entity, a mini-project appetizer to tide us over, before Al came out with the main course chock-full of brand new songs I hadn't heard before.

That being said, Alpocalypse is another solid release from Yankovic and it's an understatement to say that I love it. I must admit that hearing the "old" songs sandwiched in with the new ones brings a welcome freshness to each of them. Whether you've been a lifelong fan or are just beginning to dabble in his music, there are a lot of laughs to be found here that don't get old with repeated listenings. I mean, come on, he actually made a Lady Gaga song listenable. If that's not proof of musical genius, I don't know what is.

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