Jesse Jarnow

weird al

Weird Al’s brilliant polka medleys were my first exposure to oodles of popular songs, including a good portion of the Stones’ repertoire (“Hot Rocks Polka,” from UHF), early ’90s power pop (“Polka Your Eyes Out,” from Off The Deep End), and – since my hippie parents (Jah bless ’em) never got cable – even MTV standards (“Polka Party” from, um, Polka Party).
Tonight, I downloaded everything that I’d been missing — mostly from the albums Al has released since my 1997 high school graduation. And, having since become that most impolite breed of listener known as a “rockist,” this is some of my first exposure to many of the relatively contemporary numbers included. Once again, Al is serving as my Cliff’s Notes.
The polkas are incredible: succinct indexes of melody that create a surprisingly level playing field for the quality of the songs. Somebody could write a wonderful musicological essay about the timeless (?) themes revealed by these juxtapositions. (I’ll just add that to the list of things to do…)
In consulting the ever-helpful All Music Guide, I discovered several refreshingly thoughtful reviews of Al albums by the likes of AMG founder Stephen Thomas Erlewine and avant-garde banjoist Dr. Eugene Chadbourne (when the hell did he write for All Music?).
Erlewine’s critique of the recent Poodle Hat is genuinely impassioned — though his charges against “Angry White Boy Polka” seem overblown. While the title certainly doesn’t describe The White Stripes or The Strokes too well (at least compared to, say, Eminem), the juxtaposition of the latter and the former is preceisely what’s important. The Strokes’ “Last Nite” as doo-wop ragtime is a Zappa-like twist of genius
(And, at the risk of turning into the guy from The Onion‘s “I Must Take Issue with the Wikipedia Entry For ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic” piece, I’d also like to correct a repeated gaff in Chadbourne’s insightful reviews of Al’s first three albums — specifically that “no children of any age have expressed much interest in the original material [on In 3-D].” As literally one of the mythical 11-year olds Dr. Chad refers to elsewhere, I loved his original tunes just as much as his parodies, so much so I don’t remember even differentiating between ’em.)
Well, now that that’s outta my system…
(PS. Anybody know when The Onion’s archives became subscriber only? Weak.)