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First Accordionist of the Apocalypse

16/06/2011

Know who the greatest musician in the world is? “Weird” Al” Yankovic. You know why? He gives his fans what they want. In this case, it’s an early release of his new album, Alpocalypse!

Click here if you’re in the U.S. | Click here if you aren’t

Note, this is the first the entire album has been made available at one time. Some of the tracks were previously released through iTunes under the title Internet Leaks, a way of Al keeping his fans sated during the 5 year wait for this album. In another classy step, people who purchased the Internet Leaks album will be able to ‘upgrade’ to the full Alpocalypse album at a discounted price.

I listened to it about half a dozen times, and here’s what I think of it…Like Al’s previous albums, Alpocalypse is a mix of direct parodies and style parodies, with an equal mix of the two. Here’s a break down of the album, track by track:

The album starts strong with the briefly infamous Perform This Way, Al’s take on Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”. I’m not a huge fan of Gaga, but this song is pretty catchy. The song makes a number of references to Gaga’s career, and many of the funnier lines will be lost on those who’ve managed to ignore her thus far.

Next up is the first style parody on the album, CNR. This song is an attempt by Al to turn the TV legend Charles Nelson Reilly into a mythical superstar by using Chuck Norris  style hyperbole and beats normally associated with The White Stripes. We never got to see Match Game here in New Zealand (or if we did it was before my time), so my only real experience with CNR is from his appearance in The X-Files episode Jose Chung’s From Outer Space. I consider this one of the best episodes ever made and well worth watching, even if you’re not a fan of the show. In fact, go watch it now. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Once you’re done, check out the Jib-Jab video. Just remember that this isn’t the full version of the song. You’ll need to get Alpocalypse for that.

Following CNR is another acronym-titled song: TMZ. For the three of you who haven’t heard of them, TMZ are the TV equivalent of the trashy tabloid magazines you see at the supermarket. They follow celebrities around, commenting on their every move. This song takes Taylor Swift’s song “You Belong To Me” and uses it to tell us how these licenses stalkers live their lives.

Skipper Dan is the only completely original track on the album, and it’s pretty good. The song relates the story of the titular character’s failed attempt to make it in showbiz and how he has settled for being a tour guide at Disneyland, performing the same act 34 times a day. It’s a little melancholy, but then the whole album can’t be as upbeat as CNR.

One of the more interesting features of Al’s albums are his polka medleys as they serve as cross sections of what is popular at the time. As the title suggests, Polka Face features Lady Gaga’s first big hit, and fills out the rest of the track with Britney Spears (“Womanizer”), Lady Antebellum (“Need You Now”), Ke$ha (“Tik Tok”), and even a bit of Justin Bieber (“Baby Baby”). Fun fact: This is the first time I’ve been able to listen to many of these songs without wanting to pierce my eardrums.

Craigslist is another style parody, and Al really went to the next level with this one. Not only does he parody The Doors, but he even got Ray Manzarek to play the keyboard on this track. Basing the song on the sorts of classified found on Craigslist leads to somewhat disjointed lyrics, but if you take it in chunks it works well.

Party in the C.I.A. is a parody of “Party in the U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus (or is that Hannah Montana). Like Skipper Dan, this is an autobiographical tale, this time of an agent working for the Agency. Combining Miley’s musical style and stories of killing foreign agents is a little odd, but would make a good soundtrack for an Office Space-style movie about the C.I.A.

Ringtone is possibly the most subtle of the style parodies on this album. You may not spot it at first, but this song about a man stuck with an annoying cellphone ringtone borrows heavily from the work of Queen, especially “Don’t Stop Me Now”. The song is classic Al, a weird situation that only gets weirder as the song goes on, though I don’t think it would be any good as an actual ringtone.

The next three tracks – Another Tattoo, If That Isn’t Love, and Whatever You Like – are my least favourite. It’s not because I don’t give two shits about Bruno Mars, or because Al got one of the Hanson boys to play piano on Love, or because I generally despise hip-hop music. None of these songs really grab me in any real way.

Unlike his last few albums, the last track on Alpocalypse isn’t a ten minute plus epic. Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me weighs in at a mere 5.42 and channels enough Meat Loaf to keep you sitting through the whole thing.

Overall, this is a good collection of songs. Early greatness balances out the later weak spots, and CNR will certainly be making regular appearances on my MP3 player.

I just hope we don’t have to wait another five years for Al’s next album.

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