Saturday, August 12, 2006

Weird Al Yankovic: Poodle Hat

Weird Al takes another acerbic look at modern music and shows he hasn't lost his touch. On display are the usual things one expects from a Weird Al album: plenty of spoofs of current hot songs, songs about food, songs that are really gross and a scalpel-like take on modern pop culture.

Track 1: Couch Potato spoofs Eminem's "Lose Yourself" but saves its most wicked barbs for the state of television with lyrics like "Fear Factor I watched maybe a half hour/after that felt I needed a long shower" and "next week on Fox watch lions eat Christians". When Al decides to put you in the crosshairs, he doesn't pull any punches and as someone who looks at the current flood of reality shows and says "WTF" I was laughing with every jab.

Track 2: Hardware Store is one of Weird Al's originals about, well, a hardware store opening in town and how orgasmically happy it makes him. One thing (among many) to like about Al is that he has a tremendous band, I love to see him live because his backing group is a tight, professional unit. Often the songs he covers don't give them the chance to show it. Al's originals however, are always written with his band in mind and are thus some of the most interesting songs on his albums.

Track 3: Trash Day is a parody of Nelly's "Hot in Herre". Al takes a groovy original and makes a groovy remake that is laugh out loud funny as he sings about deciding not to take the trash out for a few months.

Track 4: Party at the Leper Colony Just cataloguing all the gross double entendre in this song, in the style of songs like "Footloose"(though not directly spoofing any particular song). With lines like "met a pretty lady so pretty and young/she was quite a talker till the cat got her tongue" and "there's a guy in the hot tub I don't know who/wait a minute it looks like Stu!". Plenty of the lines in this song make you laugh and then go "ewwww" and not always in that order.

Track 5 might just be the best track on Poodle Hat and as is often the case, it's a polka, a genre of music Al loves. His polkas are much loved by his fans and this track, Angry White Boy Polka, which takes a look at "angst rock" like Pearl Jam, Rage against the Machine and similar bands shows that anything is better (and funnier!) when you make into a polka. Having listened to this track about 100 times, I am STILL trying to catch all the songs he blends together. Sometimes he gives you one line of a song and moves on.

Track 6 Wanna B Ur Lovr is another hilarious original and contains every bad pick up line known to man. Seriously. Plus a few that I hadn't even heard before like "maybe you've seen my picture it's in the dictionary under kablam".

Certainly not every track on the album is as good as these first 6, which are all winners. I think Track 9, Ode to a superhero, a spoof of the Billy Joel classic "Piano Man" is the weakest track on the album, despite being about Spiderman. While Al had a big hit as well as a tremendous success spoofing an enduring classic on his last album with the American Pie-inspired Star Wars Episode 1 send up "The Saga Begins", this track is much less successful and I can't put my finger on why.

In other places, such as Track 11, Ebay, a spoof of Backstreet Boys' "I want it that way" Al shows how much his sense of humor has entered the zeitgeist, since this song had been used in an Ebay commercial before his album was released! That said, Ebay is not one of the album's weak tracks, thanks to Al's fantastic wit and love of pop culture kitsch. Lines like "I bid on Shatner's old toupe" and "a smurf TV tray" are two of MANY lines in this song that will have you laughing, especially if you're a geek like Al (and me).

Another nice track on this album is Bob, a send up not of a specific song but of a singer, Bob Dylan. Immitating the singer's delivery and musical style, Al speak volumes about Dylan's supposedly deep lyrics and when you realize every single line in the song is a palindrome (saying the same thing forward then backwards) from the first line "I man am regal/A German am I". This song makes me laugh every time I hear it (especially the line "do nine men interpret/nine men I nod" because it's the kind of crap stoned Dylan fans have been trying to tell me was deep for decades) and has a great Dylan-inspired video to boot.

In short, Poodle Hat shows that Al hasn't yet lost the midas touch. He makes fun of us, he makes fun of our sex symbols, he makes fun of our music and we thank him for it, laughing all the way. Since a good laugh is always welcome, thanks Al.

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