Straight Outta Lynwood
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/16/2006
It's entirely possible Weird Al can continue to make records until he dies, since his whole act consists of covering other artist's songs and then composing originals that sound like a particular band, in both cases adding funny and slightly juvenile lyrics. It's an act he has honed since 1983 and it hasn't changed much since.
This is basically the problem with Straight Outta Lynwood, his latest disc. It's got good parodies of recent hits. It's got somewhat funny originals. It's got lyrics that poke fun at losers and dorks, of which Weird Al is the latter and proud. And, of course, the fifth track is a polka medley of eight or so recent hits. Not bad and frequently worth a chuckle, but it all sounds like you've heard it before.
So what makes this better then Alapalooza or 2003's Poodle Hat, you ask? The originals, which is where Weird Al usually falters. "Pancreas" is a Beach Boys-sound alike ode to the organ, "I'll Sue Ya" is a Kid Rock/Rage Against the Machine-type tune that pokes fun at those who sue for stupid reasons ("I sued Colorado because it looks a little too much like Wyoming / I sued Neiman Marcus for putting up their Christmas decorations way out of season / I sued Ben Affleck...aw, do I need a reason?"), and "Weasel Stomping Day" is a Christmas-type tune that celebrates Weasel Stomping Day.
How do you celebrate that, Weird Al? "Put your Viking helmet on / Spread some mayonnaise on the lawn," he says. For good measure, sound effects of weasel stompage pepper the track. It's the kind of thing a 12-year-old would find funny because it's so ridiculous, but the inner adolescent can't help but laugh, no matter how old you are.
The other originals are "Close But No Cigar," a standard rock song about dumping the right girl for one stupid reason ("She was always using the word infer when she meant imply"), while the closing "Don't Download This Song" is a MOR ballad that warns against downloading because it leads to selling crack and running over schoolkids...that, and Weird Al won't be able to afford a second gold-plated Hummer. It's a joke that ceased being funny a while back, but Yankovic's sincerity makes it a better parody than other comedians have offered.
As for the parodies, "White & Nerdy" is an impressive take on Chamillionaire's "Ridin," with Yankovic boasting about all his skills of being fluent in Java and Klingon, pimping out his Myspace page, buying a fanny pack at the Gap and joining the glee club and chess team. "Canadian Idiot" is basically a good-natured rip on Canada, which has been done many times, while "Confessions Pt. III" parodies an Usher hit but doesn't offer too much in the way of humor.
The climax is the ten-minute "Trapped in the Drive-Thru," which takes the ridiculousness of R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" to new heights. In the same sort of soulful style, Yankovic details his decision to take his wife to a drive-thru and receiving the wrong order. And when I say detail, I mean mind-numbing detail, but this is what makes the track work -- despite the fact that the track is basically one long slow song and relies on Yankovic's thin voice and jokes to make it work. Fortunately, a random 10-second break for Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" breaks up the track. It's not something you need to hear more than once or twice, but it's fun while it lasts.
Which is the case for the whole disc - inessential but fun, like most of Al's work. If you like him, you'll like this disc, and it's certainly better than his last couple of releases, but if you don't like him this isn't the place to start, as many of the jokes are passe and anyone without a grip on pop culture will miss out on most musical and lyrical references. Still, it's entertaining, which is all one really expects from Weird Al at this point.