It’s been far too long since Weird Al graced us with his presence on record, though I have a theory as to why this isn’t his fault. I’ll get back to that in a moment though.
Poodle Hat is simultaneously a joy – heck, in some respect, anything Yankovic does is a joy – and a slight disappointment too. The latter feeling stems from a wee bit of repetition. Granted, there are always some things you can count on with Weird Al – he’ll be making fun of whatever’s been big on radio, he’ll more than likely have a polka medley that blends a bunch of disposable hits into a frothy stew of bizarre reinterpretations, and he’s got some of the best musicians on the planet helping him out, because the parody songs wind up sounding almost exactly like the originals, if not better. But here, we’re treated to some other repeated concepts too: now it seems as though a classic rock number will be turned into an only slightly tongue-in-cheek retelling of a recent big-screen hit, and there’s going to be a really long song at the end of the album.
When Running With Scissors rode into the stores on the back of “The Saga Begins”, a retelling of Star Wars Episode I to the tune of Don McLean’s “American Pie”, it was a novel, well-executed idea – and it was right on time, too, arriving just on the heels of the movie with a perfect video to match. Poodle Hat gives us a synopsis of Spider-Man set to the tune of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”, and hey, it is funny, but it’s not only a year too late, it’s a gag we’ve heard before. Maybe this is a tradition-in-the-making that needs to be rested.
As for the long song, Running With Scissors‘ “Albuquerque” need fear no competition from Poodle Hat’s “Genius In France”, a little riff on the legends of Jerry Lewis’ popularity in a certain European country. It drags on a bit too long. Like “Albuquerque”, “Genius” has a lot of time and melody changes, almost too many to keep track of – it’s like Weird Al’s doing a medley of original songs we’ve never heard before. And it’s not even as long as “Albuquerque” was…but still, it somehow doesn’t trip my trigger, becoming a bit of a “skip track.”
Now, those two complaints aside, the rest of the album is sheer genius no matter what country you’re in. I’m getting to where I like Weird Al’s originals better than his parodies, and here he puts what may be his best original song ever on display: “Hardware Store”. Not just funny, this song is a masterpiece of vocal performance. And I’m not being sarcastic there – over the years, Yankovic has parodied everyone from Michael Jackson to Madonna to R.E.M., and he couldn’t have done this without an incredibly flexible voice to pull it off, but “Hardware Store” blows away anything I’ve yet heard from him. Wow.
“eBay” is a dead-on (topically speaking) parody of both a Backstreet Boys song and everyone’s favorite (and/or least favorite) online auction service. The whole eBay culture is neatly lined up in Weird Al’s sights for this one, from “check my feedback” to the dreaded sniper bids. “A Complicated Song” neatly shreds Avril Lavigne’s Complicated, though in the course of the song, Yankovic goes from being constipated to decapitated. For those of us who instantly filed this song next to Alanis’ “Ironic” in the relevance department, it’s bliss to hear Weird Al spoof it.
The other big treat here is the “Angry White Boy Polka”, taking a bunch of angsty, supposedly hard-hitting songs and running them through the blender. It’s not quite up to the standard of some of Weird Al’s previous polka-fests, but – and this brings me neatly back to my theory of why, aside from a busy directing and producing schedule, Weird Al has been absent from the scene – maybe this is because what’s on top 40 radio lately just hasn’t provided Weird Al with the kind of fodder he needs. So much sampling of older songs, so much forgettable stuff crowds the airwaves these days, maybe it’s taken Al this long to come up with enough material to fill an album. And really, it’s a good album – my big quibbles with it aren’t that major, more along the lines of concerns that a formula may be setting in. As much as Weird Al needs decent music for his parodies to thrive, bad music also needs Weird Al to kick it back into line.
- Couch Potato (4:20)
- Hardware Store (3:46)
- Trash Day (3:13)
- Party At The Leper Colony (3:40)
- Angry White Boy Polka (5:05)
- Wanna B Ur Lovr (6:16)
- A Complicated Song (3:41)
- Why Does This Always Happen To Me (4:54)
- Ode To A Superhero (4:54)
- Bob (2:31)
- eBay (3:38)
- Genius In France (8:56)
Released by: Volcano
Release date: 2003
Total running time: 54:54