The Weird Al Chronicles Part VII: Off the Deep End

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After UHF and the soundtrack, Weird Al took a few years before getting to his next album. This makes sense. After all, co-writing and starring in a movie, while also having to write songs for it and adding more songs to the album bearing its name, is probably fairly time consuming. Plus, who knows how the fact that UHF was a box office failure may have impacted the process of generating a new album. Unlike pretty much every sports writer even, I'm not going to try and pretend like I know what's going on in somebody else's head. However, eventually Weird Al Yankovic released Off the Deep End in 1992, and found it to be a commercial success.

This perhaps stemmed from the same thing that lifted earlier albums like Even Worse; leading off the album with a song parodying a very popular tune of the era. In this case, the song in question is "Smells Like Nirvana," while is, obviously, a play on "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana. I find this song particularly interesting, because it is one of Weird Al's true parodies. It's not just using an existing song as the basis for a comedy ditty in a similar vein. He's actively parodying "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and the band Nirvana. This song is about how nobody can understand Nirvana's lyrics. Of course, Nirvana signed off on it, but it is still interesting that Weird Al actually took on a musical artist for once.

It's also a top notch song, one of Al's best. The music mostly just sounds like "Smells Like Teen Spirit," it's pretty much spot on, with a few goofy sound effects thrown in. Al doesn't try and match Kurt Cobain's vocals, however. It's a funny, clever song. The lyrics are humorous, and I really enough the line about having marbles in his mouth. However, the highlight of the song is when Al gargles in lieu of the guitar solo from the original. Weird Al wisely opened Off the Deep End with a song that would tap into the zeitgeist, but it also happens to be a really good song. I'm not a big fan of "Eat It" or "Fat" but "Smells Like Nirvana" works. Also, two quick side notes before I move on. First, the music video for this song is one of my favorites from Weird Al. Second, my Spanish profesora once portrayed one of the cheerleaders during a live Weird Al show. So, that's a thing that happened.

The album continues its strong start with "Trigger Happy," one of Weird Al's sharpest satires. Usually he just sticks to silly fare, but this song is about gun control. Done in the style of a surf rock song, and done quite well, the protagonist of the song loves his guns even as he ends up shooting his dad and his cat. It's funny and a bit cutting. Of course, maybe this song doesn't really work anymore, since gun control isn't really a hot button issue these days.

Unfortunately, after this strong one-two punch, Off the Deep End sort of falls apart. Part of the issue, I feel, are the choices Al made for his song parody jumping off points. When MC Hammer is the artist with the most longevity involved, it is a bit of an issue. It's not just that the artists parodied didn't last long. It's not surprising that they were pop music footnotes and one hit wonders. I mean, what do you expect when you choose "Rico Suave" by Gerardo? That the song will be a timeless classic? The only people that remember it are guys like me who watch Top 100 countdown on VH1. That is to say, awesome people.

Of course, I am not arguing that it is imperative for a song to have longevity for the parody to be good. The bummer is that Al's parodies based on these songs are mostly weak as well. All four of the parodies on this album that aren't "Smells Like Nirvana" are among Al's weakest efforts. "I Can't Watch This," a parody of "U Can't Touch This" obviously, is a mediocre song about all the bad stuff on TV. It's another example of Al trying to mimic a rapper and failing. "The White Stuff" is a parody of "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" by New Kids on the Block and it is about sugar. It is fairly flaccid and minor. Nothing about it really sticks out to me. "Taco Grande," the "Rico Suave" parody, and "The Plumbing Song" which parodies two Milli Vanilli songs, are probably the two worst Weird Al songs I have ever heard. Honestly, had I not been listening to this album for a project, I would have stopped listening to both of them before they finishing. "The Plumbing Song" is oddly of a poor quality musically. It doesn't sound good, and it isn't funny to boot. It also seemed to go on forever, even if it is just over four minutes long. "Taco Grande" is even worse. The jokes are so bad, Al's vocal choice really grates on me. I straight up dislike this song, aside from the way Yankovic says "taco" in the chorus. It's a big ol' miss.

To make matters worse, I wouldn't call any of the other originals good either. However, they aren't actively unpleasant like the latter two parodies I mentioned. "I Was Only Kidding" is pretty funny. It's a song about how a guy wasn't serious when he professed his love for a woman. However, musically it is staid and lacking. "When I Was Your Age" is an absurd list of things the protagonist had to deal with as a kid. It's like that one sketch from that one show that featured a couple of the guys from Monty Python and also Marty Feldman. I could look it up on the internet, but I find it more amusing to just talk around it and leave the audience to fill in the blanks. Since the song allows Al to just list ridiculous and absurd things, it obviously plays to his strengths, and as such it has some funny stuff in it. It's a decent little number, but nothing more.

I enjoyed "Airline Amy" to a degree because I found the subject matter clever and interesting. It's a song about the singer's love for the titular Amy, who is a flight attendant. He sings about all the great things the woman does for him, but it's all just her doing her job. Like I said, an amusing concept, and fairly well done. It's probably the second best original on the album to "Trigger Happy." Lastly, there's the album closer, "You Don't Love Me Anymore," which is about the subject of the song coming to the conclusion that his significant other doesn't really care for him anymore, what with all the violent and disturbing things she is doing to him. It's in the vein of many of Al's songs where the main character is being either oblivious or understated, or a combination thereof. It's also another Al song where the music is in juxtaposition to the subject matter. By this point, I feel like I have seen all of Weird Al's tricks. I don't say this to condemn him, by the way. There are only so many things you can do in storytelling, in music making, and in comedy. Everybody is familiar with the tropes of TV and movies. It's just a matter of doing them well.

Speaking of honing in on what Al is trying to pull off, after listening to Off the Deep End's "Polka Your Eyes Out." It's another polka where Al sings parts of songs that clash with his typical image. Things such as "Dr. Feelgood" and "Cherry Pie" and "I Touch Myself." I now think I've got the point of the polkas. Weird Al seems to be intentionally choosing songs and lyrics that are much tawdrier or ribald then he would include in his own songs, and then delivering them in an upbeat polka. Fair enough. It sounds fine.

Maybe Weird Al wasn't ready to release an album even a few years after UHF came and went, because Off the Deep End may be his worst album I have heard thus far. It starts off with two really good songs, but then the rest of the album is entirely skippable. I have no desire to listen to a single song from Off the Deep End aside from "Smells Like Nirvana" and "Trigger Happy." The rest if a big pile of mediocrity, with two actively not good songs on it, which is rare from what I have heard from Yankovic so far. This is certainly, to me, his worst album since his debut, and that was done on a low budget on a shortened time frame. That wasn't the case here, but the end result is about the same. That makes Off the Deep End a disappointment to me. Of course, we all know it didn't end his career. There is plenty more Weird Al Yankovic where this came from. Plus, we'll always have the "Smells Like Nirvana" video.