While embarking on these Weird Al Chronicles, I realize I haven't really paid much attention to the big picture. I've just been focused on each album that I am currently writing about. It wasn't until prepping for this installment that I realized how far I, and Weird Al Yankovic himself, had come. Alapalooza is Yankovic's eighth album. That's a lot of output. However, more to the point, it came out in 1993. Weird Al Yankovic, his self-titled debut, came out in 1983. If I can do some quick math, that's 10 years. That's a decade of albums, and he was an active musician before then. He had been in UHF. He had won Grammy's. He had a greatest hits album come out in 1988! By the time of Alapalooza, Weird Al was, to paraphrase the name of the episode of my podcast featuring Blinded by Sound's own Josh Hathaway, an institution.
There is only one song to begin this with, and that's "Harvey the Wonder Hamster." I jest, of course. It is a 21 second song dedicated to the character from Al TV and The Weird Al Show. I only have a slight recollection of The Weird Al Show, Al's odd sort-of kid's show, but I was definitely an Al TV fan. I certainly would support its return. You know, Weird Al is part of the Nerdist Empire these days, and those guys do have a TV show on BBC America. All I'm saying is that, when Weird Al's next album comes out, if suddenly the Nerdist TV show was interrupted by a pirate signal from Al TV, it would be pretty awesome.
I also want to speak to the album's cover art. It is odd because it has nothing to do with music. Instead, it is a parody of the logo for Jurassic Park, to the extent that a movie can have a logo. Granted, the first song on this album is called "Jurassic Park," so it makes some sense. However, it also speaks to how Al and company were selling this album. Weird Al has often tapped into the zeitgeist, it is part of what has fueled his success, and it makes sense. He needs to stay with the times. On Off the Deep End that was achieved by parodying Nirvana. Here, Yankovic is tapping into the popularity of the movie Jurassic Park, which was so popular it has just been re-released in theaters in three dimensions. Watch it while listening to Weird Al Yankovic In 3-D. So, that's kind of interesting. Second, this album cover kind of weirds me out. Weird Al's head on a dinosaur body has an unsettling look to it. I am not a fan.
OK, now on to the real meat of the album. As I said, the album begins with "Jurassic Park," which is done to the tune of "MacArthur Park," which is an old song. Once again, this is not Yankovic playing off the popularity of a song, but of a movie, which is interesting. Weird Al had to expand his horizons to keep generating music. The song seems to be told from the perspective of Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jeff Goldblum's character from the film. I assume this because he mentions chaos theory. I don't want to merely compare this to another Weird Al song to give you the gist of it, but it's a lot like "The Saga Begins," Yankovic's very popular song about the first Star Wars prequel. It tells the tale of the movie is a humorous way, albeit it with one lame lawyer joke thrown in. Still, a success.
There are three other parody songs on Alapalooza, and they are successful to varying degrees. I shall start with "Achy Breaky Song" the best of the remaining triumvirate. This is a departure for Weird Al, but a welcome one. Obviously, this is a parody of the very popular "Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus. This is right up my alley, because "Achy Breaky Heart" was covered in my Songs We Wish We Could Forget series, although I spent much of that particularly essay talking about what a scumbag Cyrus is. I contain multitudes.
This is also a true Weird Al parody. As I have stated before, a lot of Yankovic's songs aren't true parodies. Instead, they just use existing songs as jumping off points to his comedy songs. This is in the vein of "Smells Like Nirvana" in that it actually deals with the artist of the original, but this time around Al is firing shots at Cyrus. This song is about how bad "Achy Breaky Heart" is. Weird Al lists the many artists, many of them maligned and of the easy listening variety, that he'd prefer to listen to. He also discusses the physical pain he'd rather endure than having to listen to Cyrus' one hit wonder ever again. For the normally jovial and friendly Weird Al Yankovic, this is an odd route to take. Not to say it doesn't work. Sure, I despise "Achy Breaky Heart," but that's not enough to sustain a song. This is a funny tune, although once again Weird Al delves into the sophomoric land of burps and hand farts in the music. Also, Weird Al calls out the Bee Gees. Apparently he's never heard "To Love Somebody," because that song is amazing.
"Bedrock Anthem" is a combo of two Red Hot Chili Peppers songs, "Under the Bridge" and "Give It Away." However, it's mostly just the latter. It's about The Flintstones, if you could not deduce that, and I found this song to have particularly clever lyrics. For whatever reason, this song made me chuckle aloud a few times. He's just saying stuff from The Flintstones, but it still worked. Also, while Al has struggled with rap songs in the past, he is able to recreate the vocal work of Anthony Kiedis in "Give It Away." This is probably the most successful song musically on Alapalooza.
The final parody, "Livin' in the Fridge," which is a take off of "Livin' on the Edge" by Aerosmith, is decent, but a definitely step (or two) down from the other three parodies. It's a kind of funny song about freaky things growing in Al's fridge. The more important fact is that one member of Aerosmith has been on The Simpsons twice, which is the amount of times Weird Al has been on it. That's their drummer Joey Kramer. Fun fact!
That's a strong quartet of parodies, but there are 12 songs on this album, and unfortunately the originals are not up to the quality of the parodies. I already discussed the Harvey song, and there is also "Bohemian Polka" which is literally just a polka version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen. That's a great song. This is a decent take on it. It's really just a cover, which is odd. Granted, "Bohemian Rhapsody" is a song that has a lot of different parts to it, but even so this just doesn't feel apt for a Weird Al song.
Of all the originals, "Frank's 2000'' TV" is the best, but it's not that good. It's alright, and it's about a gigantic television. I literally can't think of anything else worth saying about it. It just has that banal quality to it. "Young, Dumb, and Ugly" is a style parody of AC/DC. It succeeds at that, but it does not succeed at being a song worth listening to. "Waffle King," a Peter Gabriel style parody, is the most interesting original. When I listened to it, it did sound sort of like "Sledgehammer" to me, and I did not realize it was a style parody at the time. So, I suppose that also makes it a style parody success. This is the oddest of the originals. It has some creativity the others lack, and allows Weird Al to use that absurd humor he excels at. It just doesn't really work all that well. Again, it's a decent song, there are no "Taco Grande" level songs on Alapalooza, but it isn't something I want to listen to again.
The song "Talk Soup" is about talk shows and the ridiculous things that sometimes happen on them. There's a couple of funny things, but it is another mediocre effort. "Traffic Jam" is a pretty rote song about being stuck in a traffic jam. It seems to speak more to a Los Angeles traffic jam, however, particularly the part about motorcycles flying by. Does that happen on the highway in other cities? In LA you will be sitting in traffic that isn't moving and then suddenly a motorcycle will fly by you in between cars. When I first experienced it, it was one of the more jarring things I have experience on the road. Lastly, and perhaps leastly, there is "She Never Told Me She Was a Mime." The concept honestly doesn't really connect with me, and the execution doesn't work for me either.
Alapalooza is an album that, to a degree, slipped through the cracks. None of its songs really hit, and the album sold meagerly. While I found the parodies successful, and I enjoyed every one, and I particularly liked three of them, the rest of the album, which is two thirds of it, was unremarkable. Weird Al may be more known for his parodies, but he has had plenty of successful originals. He just failed to provide one on this album. It is still a notable Weird Al Yankovic album because of the pointed nature of "Achy Breaky Song" and the true cover song that is "Bohemian Polka," but it's not necessarily a good album. All that shows is that, even after a decade, Weird Al had not perfected making music. Then again, who has?