William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

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RetroReview: "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D

I've probably listened to this cassette more than any others except Alapalooza and Bad Hair Day - those two were listened to so much not because of their quality but rather because they were almost all I had for music in the bad-old-days of early-to-mid adolescence. In fact, my copies of both were duplicates of my cousin's tapes - I was so poor then that I once walked all the way into Bedford for a haircut but couldn't get it because my mother's mother had written the wrong year on a cheque she gave me for the purpose, leaving me walking all the way back home empty-handed and non-coiffed.

2. "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D
1984, Rock 'n Roll Records

"Eat It"
parody of "Beat It" by Michael Jackson
+ Everybody has heard this song, so it must at least be OK.
+ I forgot about this one when I declared "My Bolgna" to be the best food song. I'll defend myself by saying the song is so mainstream that it transcends the "Weird Al's food songs" sub-genre.
+ The lyrics are classic, and genuinely funny: "Don't you know that other kids are starving in Japan?"
- It's often the only "Weird Al" song that anybody has ever heard of. It's one of the better ones, but his talents go beyond 'easy' Michael Jackson parodies.
KEEP (is it really up for debate?)

"Midnight Star"
+ A very funny send up of supermarket tabloids.
+ Musically, it's one of my favorite 'originals' to this day.
+ I guess this is another song of the older kind where Al can poke fun at things without having to go so over-the-top.
+ The song inspired the name of Weird Al's fan newsletter.

"The Brady Bunch"
parody of "The Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats
+ Canadian content! I mean, how could you go wrong with Men Without Hats?
- Unfortunately, it's MWH's most overplayed song, and not one of my favorites. I'll see if I can name five MWH songs I like more: "I Know Their Name", "Folk of the 80's", "Messiahs Die Young", "Where Do the Boys Go?", "I Like"... okay, we're done.
+ I think I might like The Brady Bunch's lyrics more than Safety Dance's...
- But that's not saying much, because I never saw The Brady Bunch and only vaugely appreciate the jokes.
- If I only like it for the beat, that credit goes more to MWH (they wrote the music) than it does to Al's excellent band.
- When I can't decide whether to keep or toss a song, I ask myself, "Would I want this on my playlist if I were entertaining female company?" Safety Dance, sure. Brady Bunch... not so much.

"Buy Me A Condo"
+ Musically, it's an OK reggae pastiche.
- When the best, most universal joke is an Amway joke, the song's a little bit weak. (It looks like they're invading Halifax again, if the billboards are any indication. Why you'd need network marketing in the internet age is beyond me, though. It's a glorified pyramid operation.)
+ "Gonna sell my Bob Marley records, gonna get me some Jackson Browne."

"I Lost On Jeopardy"
parody of "Jeopardy" by The Greg Kihn Band
+ It's a little dark and slow, but that's also the perfect way to illustrate the despair of the hapless Jeopardy! contestant.
+ Don Pardo comes on and speaks: "That's right Al, you lost! Now let me tell you what you didn't win..."
- It's the Art Fleming version, so there's no Canadian content.
+ You get to remember that there was Jeopardy! before Alex Trebek

"Polkas On 45"
+ Weird Al's first and possibly the freshest polka medley. He basically sings snippets of popular rock songs played at high speed on his accordion.
+ The pauses between songs are milked for great effect.
- I don't think it's necessary to have a polka on every album - and every album from here on has a polka medley.
KEEP (from here on, a polka will have to be fantastic to get in, because a lot of them tend to sound the same)

- - -

"Mr. Popeil"
+ A funny send-up of Sam Popeil (inventor) and son Ron Popeil (infomercial tycoon), who you mightn't have heard of, but you have heard "But wait, there's more..." - that's Ron.
+ The names of all the junk you could buy are funny, but it's even funnier when you see that some of the stuff was really up for sale.
+ And it's another rockin' track.

"King Of Suede"
+ This is one of my favorite Weird Al parodies. It's delightful.
+ He picked a great-sounding song to parody, too - King of Pain just might be my favorite Police song. Or at least tied with "Message in a Bottle".
+ "Is my size up there?"
+ I wish I could have gone to this store to outfit myself for my high school prom.

"That Boy Could Dance"
+ Another track that rocks. A straight-up tribute to a savant. That boy couldn't do much well... but he sure could dance!
+ It's like Weird Al's own Johnny B. Goode. Not the same style, certainly, but a nice 'story' in its own way, though Weird Al's much more liberal with hyperbole, e.g. "he had a complexion that resembled the surface of Mars".

"Theme From Rocky XIII"
+ The title alone is worth a point, though the endless-Rocky-sequels joke has been done, to say the least.
+ Again, he picked a great-sounding song to parody.
+ Funny lyrics - the idea is that Rocky's retired and is running a deli: "You can have your roast beef on the Rye... or the Kaiser."
+ The real "Eye of the Tiger" was in Rocky III. It all fits together remarkably well.

"Nature Trail To Hell"
- It's not a song lambasting hiking as a fad...
+ But it does effectively make fun of horror movies.
+ It's appropriately dark, but also humourous.
- The title is PG-13, which is something to consider when you're a kid playing tapes in your relative's cassette deck or in their car.
+ It hold up well over it's 5:50 running time. It's an effective epic, with a long build, an expressive climax, and overall impressive production.
- The backwards message is just "Satan eats Cheez Whiz".

So how'd we do? We're keeping 4 originals, 4 parodies, and 1 polka, so our respective running category totals are 10, 8, and 1. Again, the B-side performs more strongly than the A-side - all the B-sides so far have been keepers so far! How long can this go on? Find out next time, when I capsule review Dare to Be Stupid.

Second opinion:
allmusic - 4½ out of 5 stars

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