Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Weird Al" Yankovic: "Mandatory Fun" (album review)

There's only one "Weird Al" Yankovic.  For three decades he's kept us laughing at musicians who take themselves too seriously.  He's back again and seemingly rejuvenated on Mandatory Fun

Food has always been a theme for Al since "I Love Rocky Road", and he hits a home run with "Foil" (based on Lorde's smash hit "Royals").

The Iggy Azalea parody "Handy" is clever, but suffers from the terrible lifeless drone of the original song.  "Word Crimes" takes the piss out of the ebonics crowd AND Robin Thicke at the same time. When Imagine Dragons scored a hit with "Radioactive" I wonder if they thought they'd be the target of a parody in the form of "Inactive".  Even kids songs aren't off limits as he turns Pharrell Williams' "Happy" into "Tacky".

The originals aren't to be overlooked either.  "Sports Song" pokes fun at college team fight songs.

There are some influences he doesn't try to mask at all.  The name-dropping "Lame Claim To Fame" has an obvious Southern Culture On the Skids rockabilly influence to it.  "Mission Statement" is the bastard child of CSNY's "Suite Judy Blue Eyes".  The Pixies-inspired "First World Problems" features an appearance by Amanda Palmer.

The mandatory polka medley is also included here.  They are never a highlight of a Weird Al record, but they serve as a way to cram in more pop music references.  This time, on "NOW That's What I Call Polk", he includes shots at "Gangum Style", "Wrecking Ball", "Call Me Maybe", "Thrift Shop" and "Pumped Up Kicks" among others.

Of course, Weird Al will never be in heavy rotation in your playlist, but he's still a charming and refreshing antidote to Top 40 radio.

Best tracks: "First World Problems", "Foil"

Track listing for Mandatory Fun:
  • Handy
  • Lame Claim To Fame
  • Foil
  • Sports Song
  • Word Crimes
  • My Own Eyes
  • NOW That's What I Call Polka
  • Mission Statement
  • Inactive
  • First World Problems
  • Tacky
  • Jackson Park Express

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