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Alpo Cow Lips

Posted by Nathan Strum , 26 June 2011 · 2,636 views

Music
"Weird Famine" Yankovic doesn't quite have the ring to it that "Weird Al" does, but with his latest album, the Alpocalypse is upon us:

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Alpocalypse is Al's first album in five years (his longest break). He had quite the challenge in following up Straight Outta Lynwood, which was one of his strongest and most successful albums in his 30+ year career. (Yes... "Weird Al's" been around that long.)

There are no apocalyptic-themed parodies on the album. Rather, according to a recent interview*, the title "Alpocalypse" is just an idea that he'd been kicking around for awhile and decided to use it now. Probably trying to beat the rush.

The album took a few days to grow on me, because fully half of the tracks had already been released online. "Whatever You Like", "Craigslist", "Skipper Dan", "CNR" and "Ringtone" were all part of his Internet Leaks EP, and had been available starting as far back as October 2008, initially for free. Also, because of the recent mix-up with Lady Gaga, the lead single for the album - "Perform This Way" - was also released early, online, for free. So my initial listening to the album was diminished considerably, since it was like getting half an album of old material. And even though I'd only listened to the early releases only once or twice, the jokes/themes of those songs were effectively ruined as far as any surprises were concerned. (Consequently, I've decided any time other artists that I follow do that in the future, I'm just going to skip any previews and hold off until the album comes out.) Still, I understand the appeal of doing that from the artist's perspective, since 1) it generates some income and 2) it lets people know that they're actively working on something, and keeps them somewhat in the minds of the public.

Fortunately, after the initial listening, the album has really grown on me, and like Al's best albums, it's very re-listenable. There aren't any tracks on the album that I'd call weak, and many of them rank among his best work lyrically, spinning entertaining stories and creating fun characters. What took me a little by surprise this time, despite having followed his career for so long and being familiar with his versatility, is how good of a singer he really is. His work on "Another Tattoo" is especially impressive, and really shows a range and control over his voice that many "serious" pop stars severely lack. His band is right on point throughout the whole album, effortlessly switching styles as each song dictates. It's not just funny music, but it's good music as well. The production throughout the album is first rate. Very professional stuff, especially from someone once dismissed as a "novelty act". Apparently, he wasn't listening to them.

If I had to pick a favorite track, I'd have to go with "If That Isn't Love". "Weird Al" has done similar faux-romantic songs before ("Since You've Been Gone", "One More Minute", "Wanna B Ur Lover", etc.) but this one tops his previous efforts since it reflects a different sort of relationship in the song and the writing is more clever (I can almost picture him singing this to his wife while writing it, trying to crack her up). I'll also admit to liking "Party In The CIA" more than I probably should (I've never heard the Miley Cyrus original), because it's a great juxtaposition of lyrical content and musical style.

Overall - an excellent album, and highly recommended to fans of "Weird Al", new and old alike.

That said - besides the polka medley - it could still use more accordion**. ;)

8.5/10

Track listing:

1. Perform This Way (Parody of "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga)
2. CNR (White Stripes-style original)
3. TMZ (Parody of "You Belong With Me" by Taylor Swift)
4. Skipper Dan
5. Polka Face (medley): Liechtensteiner Polka, Poker Face, Womanizer, Right Round, Day 'N' Nite, Need You Now, Baby, So What, I Kissed A Girl, Fireflies, Blame It, Replay, Down, Break Your Heart, Tick Tolk Polka, Tik Tok, Whatever's Left Over Polka
6. Craigslist (Doors-style original)
7. Party In The CIA (Parody of "Party In The U.S.A." by Miley Cyrus)
8. Ringtone (Queen-style original)
9. Another Tattoo (Parody of "Nothin' On You" by B.o.B. featuring Bruno Mars)
10. If That Isn't Love (Hanson-style original)
11. Whatever You Like (Parody of "Whatever You Like" by T.I.)
12. Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me

*There's an excellent interview with Al on (of all places) ESPN Radio.
**If you're looking for more accordion, you can check out Al sitting in with the band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Music Videos

I bought the Deluxe version of Alpocalypse, which includes 10 music videos on a DVD. ("Perform This Way" wasn't finished until after the disc was pressed, and a "Polka Face" video will be released later.) I didn't include the videos in the score since I consider them bonus material, and you can buy them individually on iTunes or wherever. I've attached a few comments and screen grabs below.

CNR
One of the best of the bunch. Uses a cut-and-paste approach (similar to Terry Gilliam's Monty Python work), and is very funny.
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TMZ
A rare misstep by the usually excellent animator Bill Plympton. The video doesn't particularly match the song, and isn't very funny visually. It looks like about an afternoon's work for him, with very limited animation and a lot of repeated material.
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Skipper Dan
Pretty good. A fairly straightforward adaptation of the song. Limited animation, but stylistically it works and tells the story well.
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Craigslist
A live action video of Al doing his best Jim Morrison, intercut with some psychedelia and stock footage. There's not much funny going on in the video, and it really doesn't illustrate the song, but it's the only live action piece in the bunch.
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Party In The CIA
Probably my favorite, and well worth having. Tells the story well, has a wonderful visual style, and also some genuinely funny moments in it.
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Ringtone
Another excellent video, with some MAD Magazine quality caricatures in it. Fun to watch.
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Another Tattoo
Well, it tries. The animation is poor, the caricature of Al is pretty bad, but it illustrates the song adequately.
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If That Isn't Love
A pretty good video, although the song paints a better picture by itself than the video does. I was disappointed they didn't even attempt to caricature Al.
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Whatever You Like
Actually annoying to watch. Similar in approach to CNR with cut-and-paste photos, but not nearly as skillfully done (especially when Al is singing - it makes my eyes hurt). However, there are some funny background jokes if you frequently pause the video.
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Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me
Cleverly animated text, but really wears out its welcome after the first minute or so. Probably a style better suited for 30 second commercials.
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Nathan Strum
Jun 27 2011 4:04 PM
All of the videos (except "Ringtone" and "If That Isn't Love") are now available online... so there's not much point in buying the Deluxe version (no cool bonus footage or Easter Eggs on the DVD).

Perform This Way

CNR

TMZ

Skipper Dan

Craigslist

Party in the CIA

Another Tattoo

Whatever You Like

Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me

(Can't embed Vevo on AtariAge, apparently.)
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Nathan Strum
Jun 27 2011 8:02 PM
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Nathan Strum
Jun 30 2011 8:42 AM
There's a really good interview with Al at A.V. Club, in which he talks in-depth about a bunch of his songs, past and present. It gives an interesting insight into how he went about writing those songs, and what he thinks of them now.
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Nathan Strum
Jun 30 2011 5:51 PM
If That Isn't Love is now online as well.
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Nathan Strum
Jul 1 2011 6:26 PM
A timeline of Al's life and career, in case you were wondering.
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Nathan Strum
Sep 23 2011 6:20 PM
Al has a concert special airing on Comedy Central, October 1st (and appearing in a more complete edit on Blu-ray October 4th).

Not bad for a guy in his 50's...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QHI8RnUk84

Plus, he's releasing a Blu-ray version of Alpocalypse (with HD versions of some videos from Straight Outta Lynwood) on November 8th.
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Nathan Strum
Sep 28 2011 6:43 PM
And then... Polka Face.
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