Dare To Be Stupid
Rock & Roll Records, 1985
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/02/2001
Back in the days of radio - meaning, kids, when there wasn't television - there used to be a program called "Can You Top This?". Somehow, I think that if the show had made it to the days of television, in 1985 "Weird Al" Yankovic would have been a guest. Someone would have held up a copy of his In 3-D album and asked him, "Can you top this?"
To expect him to top his most popular album (and the one that shot him to stardom thanks to "Eat It") would be asking a lot from Yankovic. If anything, that expectation almost forced Yankovic to take the popular songs from 1984 and 1985 and spoof them, simply because a follow-up disc was expected. Dare To Be Stupid, Yankovic's third album, sounds a bit hollow in some of the parodies, but it is the strength of many of the original songs that keeps this album afloat.
I remember when I was 14 years old, I rode my bike to the local record store and discovered "Like A Surgeon," the first single from this album. (Not being as involved in the music industry as I am now, I had no idea that Yankovic even had a new album coming out.) But when I got it home and put it on my little cheese-box stereo, I remember being somewhat disappointed in it. Sixteen years later, I still don't consider "Like A Surgeon" in the top echelon of Yankovic's parodies, but since I've developed a healthy distrust of the medical community, I appreciate the somewhat biting sarcasm that Yankovic works in from time to time.
Other parodies just fail right out of the box. Yankovic sounds like he's absolutely disgusted with the song "Girls Just Want To Have Lunch," delivering it almost entirely in a groan. By the end of the song, you'll be groaning too. Likewise, "I Want A New Duck" - give me a break, Al! Oh, sure, the kiddies will probably laugh their butts off at some of the jokes on this one, but they probably won't understand the references to pate and duct tape... not that adults will find them knee-slapping funny. Listening to these two songs make me wonder if Yankovic didn't rush this album out under the pressure of the label.
This isn't to say that all the parodies on Dare To Be Stupid sink like lead weights. The one brilliant piece of work, "Yoda," not only keeps the flavor of the Kinks's original song ("Lola"), but pretty well captures the essence of the Star Wars theme... with a touch of humor thrown in here and there. There's a reason this song has remained popular in Yankovic's catalog - especially teamed up with "The Saga Begins" in his last series of tours.
Oh - and as for the cover of "George Of The Jungle"... hey, why not? If anyone was qualified enough to cover the theme to a cartoon classic, it's Yankovic. (He hits it dead center, as well... there's a reason his version was featured in the soundtrack to the film version of the cartoon.)
If Dare To Be Stupid does anything, it shows that Yankovic was most definitely coming into his own as a songwriter. "One More Minute" is absolutely hilarious as it captures the '50s doo-wop theme and mixes it with the anger (relief?) of ending a relationship. "Slime Creatures From Outer Space" is just fun to listen to, while "This Is The Life" (originally meant for the film Johnny Dangerously; occasionally you'll see a version playing with this song as the theme) has Yankovic daring to try and bring the feel of '20s music to today's generation. In retrospect, he does a pretty good job. "Cable TV" captures both the inanity of what the medium delivers to us and how we're such sheep to sit there and watch it. And don't be surprused if you're embarrassed at how many of the songs you recognize in "Hooked On Polkas".
While Dare To Be Stupid is not Yankovic's finest album, it shows that there was still great promise in his songwriting - and, occasionally, in his parodies. There's enough on this one to recommend it, but I wouldn't rule out calling this one a "for the fans only" disc.