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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review of ALPOCALYPSE: "Weird Al" Yankovic has conquered again!

Yesterday, June Twenty-First, Two Thousand and Eleven... was a date which will live in hilarity! It was almost five full years coming, but at last we "Yankovictims" (that term will make sense once you watch the accompanying DVD) got a new album from the crown prince of parody: "Weird Al" Yankovic!

Yes folks, the Alpocalypse has cometh!

I drove more than an hour and a half yesterday afternoon so a group of friends could party like true Al-oholics and enjoy listening to Alpocalypse together (contrary to rumor, Twinkie wiener sandwiches were not served... although they were contemplated during the planning stages).

So, what sayeth this life-long Weird Al fan? Alpocalypse was well worth the wait. And going further than that: this is some of Al's freshest and most vibrant material ever. I must confess than when Al began releasing many of the songs from this album two years ago as part of his Internet Leaks collection, that I couldn't help but worry: "If he keeps releasing songs before the album, what's going to be left for the album itself?!"

Be of good cheer, fellow Al-iens! Because this album is so well-balanced and orchestrated, that even if you know the Internet Leaks songs by heart, they'll feel all shiny and new when you hear them on Alpocalypse. How many other recording artists can pull off that trick? Only two honestly come to mind: The Beatles, and Elvis. That alone says much about Al's prowess as a musician, when ya think about it.

Okay well, on to the review!

Track 1: "Perform This Way" - A dead-on spoof of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way". Al released the music video for this song on Monday and it has gone viral big-time! I'm hearing a lot of people say that this is Al's best video since the one for "Amish Paradise" fifteen years ago... and it is definitely a hoot! The song itself is full-tilt distilled essence of Gaga's bizarre wardrobe. Al said earlier that this album was waiting for the next pop culture paradigm shift for him to parody. I would say that with "Perform This Way", mission accomplished! I foresee this song will be hot in demand on the karaoke circuit :-P

Track 2: "CNR" - One of the Internet Leaks songs (first reviewed here). A style spoof of the White Stripes, praising the metahuman might of the one and only Charles Nelson Reilly (similar to the popular "Chuck Norris Facts" floating around the Internet). I love this song! It's just plum catchy and that it's about Charles Nelson Reilly makes it all the more fun. And strangely quotable: "He had his very own line at the D-M-V, he made sweet sweet love to a manatee, oh yeah!"

Track 3: "TMZ" - A parody of Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me". Is it okay to say that "TMZ" is very entertaining... but it's also something of an indictment against our celebrity-obsessed media, and culture in general? Weird Al songs very rarely engender that kind of sober reflection on real life. But in true Al fashion, he does so with his unique style and good humor. And Al has captured Taylor Swift's style perfectly. I've already heard "Perform This Way" played on the radio and "TMZ" is just as worthy of airplay!

Track 4: "Skipper Dan" - Another song from the Internet Leaks set (first reviewed here). A Weezer-style original song about a poor guy who could have rocked 'em on stage and film, but instead has wound up a guide on the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland. Every time I listen to this, I can't help but feel sorry for this dude. But it also ends on a bit of an upbeat note (especially if you watch the music video).

Track 5: "Polka Face" - THIS MIGHT BE THE FUNNIEST POLKA MEDLEY AL HAS EVER ARRANGED!!! Obviously "Pokerface" by Lady Gaga is in the medley (it's the first song to get the polka treatment) and also in the mix are Justin Bieber's "Baby" and "Tik Tok" by Kesha. I would rank this as perhaps my favorite polka medley that Al has done alongside "Polka Your Eyes Out" from Off The Deep End and "The Alternative Polka" from Bad Hair Day. It's just... go listen to it for yourself! I haven't the verbiage to describe how awesome "Polka Face" is!

Track 6: "Craigslist" - Originally released two years ago this month (original review here), this wound up my most favorite song from the Internet Leaks set. Two years later and it seems even more energetic now that it's on a proper album! Al sings about the anarchic Craigslist website, in the style of Jim Morrison and The Doors (with Ray Manzarek himself doing keyboard accompaniment!) At our lil' Alpocalypse release party last night I was wearing my "Craigslist" t-shirt that I got at Al's concert in Knoxville last year (LOOK HERE! :-) and... just couldn't help getting up to imitate Al's performance. Probably a good thing (for once) that that won't make it on YouTube :-P This was my favorite Internet Leaks song and it's one of my favorite on Alpocalypse. And as a dear friend noted, it's likely the only song in existence to make so many references to "styrofoam peanuts"!

Track 7: "Party In The CIA" - Miley Cyrus' "Party In The U.S.A." goes to Langley, as Al sings about the trials, travails and tribulations of an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency. Has "water-boarding session" ever been used in a song before? Well, it sure has now. Another Al song that is inherently catchy!

Track 8: "Ringtone" - First released in August 2009, Al channels Queen and Freddie Mercury to mock the never-ending inanity of cell phone ringtones. Like the other Internet Leaks releases, "Ringtone" seems newly frenetic on this album.

Track 9: "Another Tattoo" - Parody of "Nothin' On You" by B.o.B. featuring Bruno Mars. LOVE THIS SONG!! Maybe it has something to do with how I've been watching for some time that there is too much tattooin' going on out there these days! Seriously people, don't you realize what a tattoo actually is? It's a permanent reminder of your temporary insanity! Something which Al celebrates(?) in this song. Favorite part? Boba Fett... playing clarinet!

Track 10: "If That Isn't Love" - an original song done in the style of Hanson (who I first heard about on CBS' The Weird Al Show back in '97). This one was fun the first time I listened to it and it's starting to grow on me even more. My personal favorite of Al's "love songs" is still "Since You've Been Gone" but this one is pretty good too :-)

Track 11: "Whatever You Like" - First released in October 2008, "Whatever You Like" was retro-actively declared to be the first of the Internet Leaks collection (original review here). Nearly three years later and Al's parody of T.I.'s "Whatever You Like" (yes the parody shares the same name as the original :-) seems even more fitting and appropriate to the times in which we live! A rollickin' fun anthem - or dirge, if you like - for our current economic downturn.

Track 12: "Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me" - I was literally honking with laughter when we played this song for the first time! But it took me awhile to recognize what Al is doing here: a style parody of Jim Steinman, who has written a lot of songs for Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tylor. And Al retains Steinman's signature lyrical flow with this screed-in-song protesting junk e-mail about cookie recipes and Mister Rogers' exploits in Vietnam. An awesome song and in my mind the perfect way to wind down Alpocalypse.

And that is the album itself. But that's NOT all! Because if you choose to buy Alpocalypse in stores you've got a choice between the CD alone, or for a few dollars more the CD along with a DVD with music videos for ten of the songs on Alpocalypse! The video for "CNR" (animated by JibJab.com) was released along with the Internet Leaks single two years ago. So were the videos for "Skipper Dan" (animated by Divya Srinivasan), "Craigslist" (live-action directed by Liam Lynch) and "Ringtone" (produced by Josh Faure-Brac and Steven K.L. Olson). Well for Alpocalypse we also get new videos like the Bill Plympton-animated "TMZ" (which might inure you to the sight of a naked butt, if you aren't already), "Party In The CIA" animated by a bunch of different people and directed by Roque Ballesteros, "If That Isn't Love" helmed by Brian Fisk, "Whatever You Like" (animated and directed last year by Cris Shapan) and the kinetic typographically-animated "Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me" produced by Koos Dekker. But by far the video that will be most analyzed by Al fans is the one for "Another Tattoo": Augenblick Studios' dizzying montage of eclectic body art, some of which has until now probably never been conceived of by mortal man. Or woman for that matter. And yes: Boba Fett does get to play clarinet. You'll see. Along with... wait, what is that happening to Papa Smurf? It's just a shame that the video for "Perform This Way" couldn't make it onto this disc. But word is that Al is even now working on a video for "Polka Face": his first ever for a polka medley! That means that there will soon be a music video for each and every song on Alpocalypse! Hey, maybe we'll get another release of this album with an updated DVD in the near future. I would certainly plunk down more coin for it!

So I'm gonna give Alpocalypse by "Weird Al" Yankovic my biggest-most possible recommendation: it's well worth buying from a store or from Amazon.com or from iTunes, but I must heartily suggest the CD/DVD combo: it's probably the best single original package of music entertainment that I've come across in a heap many moon. On a scale of 1 to 10, I hereby give Alpocalypse a 27... and 1/2!