Sound: Some things in life don't really change -- and that's not such a bad thing in Weird Al Yankovic's case. With his latest release Straight Outta Lynwood, Yankovic proves once again that the often humorless music world is always in need of a few good laughs. His latest CD does not quite meet the same comedic level of some of his earlier releases, but most of the songs do have some memorable lyrics that will have you chuckling out loud.
In the past Yankovic has pissed off the likes of Eminem and Coolio with the parodies he did of their songs, and it's likely he may piss off a few more with his latest record. Straight Outta Lynwood has 5 new parodies of contemporary songs like Green Day's American Idiot, which now becomes Canadian Idiot. Yankovic does have an amazing way of adapting his vocal style to fit everything from a rock song like Canadian Idiot to a rap track like Confessions Part III, his parody of Usher's Confessions Part II. Because the lyrics tend to take center stage, it's easy to forget about Yankovic's vocals. That's unfortunate, particularly considering he's tackling more genres of music than many artists would dare to try.
The standout track -- and probably the most time-consuming for Yankovic -- is Trapped In The Drive-Thru, a parody of R. Kelly's Trapped In The Closet. If you've heard Kelly's song or perhaps seen his multi-part video series, you probably know that it is one of the most unusual songs around. It basically takes everyday dialogue and inserts them as lyrics in a scene where affairs, shootings, and a midget all play a key part. Yankovic takes the same free-form narrative format, but this time the tale takes place primarily at a drive-thru. By making every little action seem over the top, Yankovic pulls off the parody perfectly. If there's one song that really conveys the talent of Weird Al, Trapped In The Drive-Thru would be it. The song is over 10 minutes long and could be tiring for the average listener, but Yankovic pulls it off pretty well.
The songs on Straight Outta Lynwood are not all works of musical genius, but most of them at least have a few laughs along the way. The song Do I Creep You Out has the hardship of overcoming a poorly written song in the first place. The original by Taylor Hicks called Do I Make You Proud is a bore, and that's a pretty tough place to start. Even with a few witty lyrics sprinkled throughout, it's still not a track that you'll probably find yourself wanting to listen to more than a few times. Hearing music behind a song like the one by Hicks actually helps you to appreciate Yankovic originals like Virus Alert. // 8
Lyrics: Weird Al Yankovic can make or break his career with the words he writes, and he does a satisfying job of supplying both odd and comical lyrics in Straight Outta Lynwood. What is the most impressive aspect is the fact that Yankovic has a few songs on the latest record that have over 100 lines of lyrics. An example is White & Nerdy, a parody of Ridin' by Chamillionaire. Because it's a rap song with a quick-time delivery, Yankovic has an even tougher job on his hands and he amazingly does some of his best work on it. He raps, I've been browsin', inspectin'; X-Men comics, you know I collect 'em; The pens in my pocket, I must protect 'em; My ergonomic keyboard never leaves me bored; Shoppin' online for deals on some writable media; I edit, Wikipedia. Imagine a song full of colorful lyrics like those and you've got White & Nerdy in a nutshell.
Don't Download This Song is a satisfying ode to the unforeseen horrors of downloading. Yankovic sings about how a simple download is pretty much the end of all things good in the world -- of course, tongue-in-cheek all the way. He sings, Oh, you don't wanna mess with the RIAA; They'll sue you if you burn that CD-R; It doesn't matter if you're a grandma or a 7-year-old girl; They'll treat you like the evil, hard-bitten criminal scum you are. Yankovic really gets the point across in the song, and even goes so far as to mention Metallica's Lars Ulrich (who infamously protested downloading) toward the end of the track. They are things that need to be said, even if it's in a comical format. // 9
Overall Impression: Probably the most impressive aspect of Straight Outta Lynwood is the amount of effort that Yankovic put into the album. If you peruse the liner notes, you'll see that he played 8 different instruments for the song Pancreas. The CD also has an accompanying DVD, which has a behind-the-scenes section that drives the point home. You see Yankovic going over each song with a fine-tooth comb, instructing his band exactly what needs to be played and how to play it. Even if you don't find one song on the CD that entertaining, you're likely to respect Yankovic for his musical skills after watching the DVD.
The DVD would not necessarily be a must-have if it was sold on it's own, but it does have a few videos that are worth the watch. The video for Weasel Stomping Day was conceptualized partly by actor Seth Green, the same man behind the Cartoon Network's show Robot Chicken. Full of slightly disturbing, but fascinating stop motion animation, Weasel Stomping Day could easily be one of the segments shown in Robot Chicken. That unique addition is the must-see item on the DVD.
Weird Al Yankovic is pretty reliable in what he puts out every few years. If you haven't been a fan of Weird Al, then this CD is not likely to change your mind. But Straight Outta Lynwood has plenty of the trademark Yankovic offerings that have made him an interesting fixture in the music industry: adaptable vocals, the ability to write memorably and witty lyrics, and that ever-present accordion. Some may call these traits cheesy, but these traits could also be the things that have kept the fans so loyal for the past 25 years. If you're on the fence about Weird Al, the latest CD will be something that evokes more than a few laughs -- and that's not something you'll get on your average emo or death metal record. // 9