Music Reviews

"Weird Al" Yankovic Alpocalypse

(Volcano) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

If there's one thing that's harder than writing a good song, it's writing a good parody song. Think about it – when was the last time you heard a good parody? One that didn't resort to stereotypes, crass rhymes or predictable jibes, whilst remaining genuinely funny. My guess is that it's been a while.

If a song did come to mind, then I wouldn't be surprised if that song was performed by “Weird Al” Yankovic, for Yankovic is something of a legend when it comes to musical parodies. Over the past thirty years, Yankovic has helped prove that it's possible to produce a higher standard of parody by writing witty and occasionally satirical songs that appeal to a mass audience. That's not to say that Yankovic is a consistently good parody writer – several of his previous releases have (to be generous) been somewhat hit-and-miss. However, Alpocalypse, the thirteenth studio album from Yankovic, is his best album in years, and a fine demonstration of his talent, both as a lyricist and musician.

Without exception, the songs on Alpocalypse are well-written, relevant to today's popular culture and, above all else, fun. Hello Kitty, the Lady Gaga egg-hatching incident, the toppling of third world countries – the references to the world we live in come thick and fast, and only rarely do the lyrics feel clichéd or overdone.

Equally as impressive is the way that Yankovic and his backing group are able to compliment the strong lyrics with so many different styles of music. The hard-hitting rock of The White Stripes (RIP), the pop-country softness of Taylor Swift, the R&B stylings of B.O.B., the same band accurately mimic all these styles, and more. And whilst the range of musical styles on the album is notable, it doesn't feel as though Yankovic is simply trying to cover as much musical ground as possible for the sake of it; you can sense a real appreciation for the original artists' work.

One style of music that you can guarantee will appear at some point on a “Weird Al” Yankovic album is polka. Yankovic's polka medleys are some of his finest and most creative work, and this album includes what is possibly his best medley yet (with the possible exception of Angry White Boy Polka from 2003's Poodle Hat). Polka Face takes some of the biggest hits of the last few years and blends them into five minutes of pure polka-style madness, covering as only “Weird Al” can - incorporating a ukelele into Britney's Womanizer, a trumpet wah-wah into a cover of Justin Bieber's Baby and some melodic yodelling into Ke$ha's Tik Tok.

With the exception of opening track Perform This Way (a cover of Lady Gaga's Born This Way), the songs and artists that are covered on Alpocalypse are not obvious choices; in addition to those already listed, Miley Cyrus, Hanson, T.I., Meatloaf and The Doors-style songs all make appearances on the album. The topics covered in the songs are equally as diverse as the range of music itself, ranging from a self-confessed ink-obsessive boasting about a new tattoo (Another Tattoo), to a fan of the American actor and comedian Charles Nelson Reilly explaining his fictional supernatural abilities (CNR) to an explanation of how D-list celebrities having their pictures uploaded to celebrity gossip website (TMZ).

At a time when parodies across all media are becoming increasingly lazy and predictable, it's good to hear a parody album that stands so strong. It's not just that the lyrics are creative, smooth and down right funny, but it's the references to today's culture and society that Yankovic is able to weave into the lyrics so seemlessly that make this album so impressive. Alpocalypse is a fine reflection on our world as it stands in this modern age, and well worth a listen, if only for a laugh to brighten up your day.