Off The Deep End
Scotti Brothers Records, 1992
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/12/1999
Back in the early '90s, "Weird Al" Yankovic was hurting. His movie UHF was a critical failure (though it was slowly on its way to becoming a cult favorite, thanks to machine-gum airings by Comedy Central), and musically, he seemed at a standstill. He needed a new target for his unique brand of satire besides Michael Jackson.
Enter Nirvana in 1992 -- and with them would come Yankovic's "comeback" (though he hates that word) album Off The Deep End, an album which re-affirmed his place as one of this generation's leading satirists. It's only been seven years since this disc was released, and while every single group he parodied (not counting the "medley") has gone the way of the passenger pigeon, the material still sounds fresh.
The highlight for me on this disc, ironically, isn't a parody; rather, it's a Yankovic original, "You Don't Love Me Anymore." A tale of love that has run its course, Yankovic questions the, aah, "actions" of his inamorata. (Almost sounds like the woman in the song was a relative of Lorena Bobbitt.) No matter how many times I listen to this song, it's guaranteed to at least put a smile on my face, if not put me on the floor in hysterics. Likewise, "Trigger Happy" is a powerful original that, at least at one time, would have been hilarious. (Unfortunately, with the outbreak of gun violence these days, jokes about guns and an itchy trigger finger might not seem funny to some people -- but at least Yankovic means no malice towards anyone.)
In fact, it's strange to admit, but the originals on Off The Deep End actually are, at times, stronger than the parodies. I mean, I love the slam against television and M.C. Hammer with "I Can't Watch This," and "Smells Like Nirvana" has its charms. But a few others sound a bit forced. "The White Stuff" dares to bring New Kids On The Block back to the forefront, even if it's only for target practice; regrettably, Yankovic's ode to the Oreo just doesn't have the kind of punch one would come to expect from him. Same goes with "The Plumbing Song" -- and, let's face it, parodying Milli Vanilli is kind of like hitting below the belt with an 18-pound sledgehammer.
Even there, a few of the originals aren't always of the same caliber as the powerful material. "Airline Amy" is a decent enough song, but it's definitely not as strong a cut as, say, "Trigger Happy." "I Was Only Joking" attempts to be madcap a la Spike Jones, but it falls a little short, albeit not by much.
One song which grew on me was "Taco Grande," a parody of Gerardo's "Rico Suave." It's kind of interesting to hear Yankovic's rapid-fire, Speedy Gonzalez-like delivery and dry humor regarding Mexican food. What might go unnoticed is a brief cameo from Cheech Marin, which really doesn't add too much to the song.
The one thing I'll call Yankovic on the carpet for is the "hidden" track that plays 10 minutes after the final fade-out of "You Don't Love Me Anymore." All it's comprised of is about three seconds of primal screaming, and if you're not expecting it, it's going to scare the hell out of you. But I'm getting sick of sitting through minutes of silence to get to this stuff -- and I'm sorry, but Yankovic's no exception.
Off The Deep End could be seen as Yankovic getting his "parody sea legs" back, but there's no denying his original material was good fun on this one. The parodies might have been a bit hit-and-miss, but overall this album was a nice "welcome back" from one of comedy's favorite sons.