Cure for Bedbugs
how do you pronounce your last name? signed, huge fan

johndarnielle:

It rhymes with “barn feel,” accent on the second syllable, as in the sentence, “I love John Darnielle’s hair, even when it doesn’t have the barn look it’s got that barn feel

Oh my god I have been mispronouncing John Darn-EEL’s name wrong for aeons mispronounced “AY-ONS.”

Did I ever mention here that when I taught a media literacy program I gave a copy of John DARN-EEL’S 33 1/3 book to a self-professed “goth” (believe she was c. 9th grader?) and when I asked her mom about it a year or two later she said, “oh, we don’t talk about THAT book,” and I felt like this was an enormous success story?

I’ve always wondered about Habermas’s thoughts on pasta.

I’ve always wondered about Habermas’s thoughts on pasta.

Weird Al - The Polka Medleys

This was easier to put together — this is just a list of every polka medley in chronological order (in terms of Weird Al discography, not source material — so “Hot Rocks Polka” and “Bohemian Polka” aren’t first on the list).

Not a ton to say about these, except that if Weird Al played every polka medley back to back, he’d have an entire concert’s worth of material.

There is no more direct line to your Weird Al Zodiac Sign than your favorite polka medley. Mine, for instance, is probably “Polka Your Eyes Out,” the earliest one that I “got” and subsequently stuck on a bunch of cassette tapes with names like “FUNNY STUFF #3.” As an Alapalooza/Bad Hair Day cusper, my options were “Bohemian Polka” (not strictly a medley, but functions as one) and “Alternative Polka” — the former, which also went on those mixes, mostly reflected my love of Wayne’s World; the latter, which didn’t, was too close to the music I was currently listening to.

"Polka Your Eyes Out" hit the sweet spot of music I’d heard on the radio in childhood, stuff that wafted in through the periphery of my pop consciousness, but repackaged in a way that my tween brain could process. "Do Me" by Bell Biv Devoe was too mature for me, so adding a Goofy yodel at the end stripped away the adult transgression and replaced it with kid transgression — armpit farts, etc. — while the swing take on "Humpty Dance" solidified the vague sense I had that it was a novelty song ("hump" was sex, I knew, but it’s also fun to say "hump" a lot, a premise that it would take nearly fifteen years for Black Eyed Peas to take to its logical conclusion, even if MC Hammer admirably tried it with "Pumps and a Bump," but failed with over-seriousness and an abundance of all that junk in his…uh, hood?…in the video).

The Demento pedigree helped here. When “NOW That’s What I Call Polka” was released on Mandatory Fun I immediately sourced the opening riff as “Too Fat Polka,” and throughout my history listening to Weird Al, most of the polka flourishes tickled the same vague sense of recognition and/or appreciation for tuba farts.

Oddly enough, these seemingly innocuous medleys contained the most controversial material. Weird Al only edited songs to remove curse words, and even then, “I wanna SPROING you like an animal” wasn’t exactly subtle. It was as “family-friendly” as smut got. The rationale, I suppose, was that parents would be so annoyed with the polka that they wouldn’t notice the lyrics.

The last thing I’ll point out is that the polka medleys are like the polar opposite of Al’s canniness for which songs will stand the test of time in his parodies. In lots of cases these little 10-second polka snippets are as close as I get to hearing songs even from the past decade. There’s something to be said for giving disposable songs such an unflattering new context, a kind of sick Faustian bargain for eternal life.

This was bugging me SO MUCH because it surprised me when putting together the originals playlist that “Santa” was a style parody but I was positive there was a more obvious one! Yes, this is correct.

ETA Oh wait I remember, it’s that “Syndicated Inc” is a parody-parody, not a style parody (I always skipped it, I think :/).

This was bugging me SO MUCH because it surprised me when putting together the originals playlist that “Santa” was a style parody but I was positive there was a more obvious one! Yes, this is correct.

ETA Oh wait I remember, it’s that “Syndicated Inc” is a parody-parody, not a style parody (I always skipped it, I think :/).
That’s another one whose insanity transcends mere style parody, like “Jackson Park Express” (“The Night Santa Went Crazy”). Couldn’t figure out whether to put it on style or original (it’s obviously style but doesn’t feel right on style). This song, to me, is totally independent of its style roots anyway, but kinda fell through the cracks. I recommend the "extra gory" version.

That’s another one whose insanity transcends mere style parody, like “Jackson Park Express” (“The Night Santa Went Crazy”). Couldn’t figure out whether to put it on style or original (it’s obviously style but doesn’t feel right on style). This song, to me, is totally independent of its style roots anyway, but kinda fell through the cracks. I recommend the "extra gory" version.

Weird Al - The Style Parodies

  1. Happy Birthday (Tonio K)
  2. Dare to Be Stupid (Devo)
  3. Everything You Know Is Wrong (TMBG)
  4. You Make Me (Oingo Boingo)
  5. Germs (NIN)
  6. Pancreas (Brian Wilson)
  7. Bob (Bob Dylan)
  8. Traffic Jam (Prince)
  9. First World Problems (Pixies)
  10. Ringtone (Queen)
  11. Trigger Happy (Beach Boys)
  12. Twister (Beastie Boys)
  13. Mr. Popeil (B-52s)
  14. Slime Creatures from Outer Space (Thomas Dolby)
  15. Mission Statement (CSNY)
  16. Frank’s 2000” TV (R.E.M.)
  17. Good Old Days (James Taylor)
  18. Genius in France (Frank Zappa)
  19. Don’t Download This Song (USA for Africa)

Nothing good ever came from using authenticity as a standalone noun, sure, but let me start by saying that “Weird Al” style parodies are authentic. This is often a word of praise given to his “full” parodies, but the style parodies are a subtler and stranger beast. Several commenters, for instance, got in a simultaneous kudos to Al and dig at the Pixies by noting that the Pixies style parody on Mandatory Fun (“First World Problems”) is a “better Pixies song” than anything off of the Pixies comeback EPs/albums. So Al was more authentically Pixies than the Pixies. The same could be said — even though it’d be wrong — of the They Might Be Giants parody, “Everything You Know Is Wrong” at a vulnerable point in TMBG’s discography between the (relative) explosion of Flood and the move into children’s albums and soundtracks. Weird Al is rubber and the source bands are glue — every criticism you have about the band’s inauthentic direction bounces off of Al, who keeps his shine. If a Weird Al “full” parody is a signal you’ve arrived, a Weird Al style parody is often a signal that you’re finished.

What interests me about this abstractly is that the Weird Al style parodies are self-consciously derivative with none of the baggage that homage — or plagiarism (is it same diff in music?) — tends to bring bands outside of cover versions. In part this is just the warm but generally restrictive confines of the novelty niche. But even in that context, it still means that Weird Al is for the most part alone in doing something that is taboo for the vast majority of performers in the vast majority of styles — obvious, unapologetic rip-offs.

And let’s be clear: these are all rip-offs. This is obvious in almost every instance. But that feels wrong, or not the whole story. Weird Al is unfailingly earnest in his style parodies, showing respect for the original artists in the lovingness of his replication — not note for note, as in the full parodies, but in spirit (and maybe every third note or so). Maybe this is (in part) what sets him apart — there’s a certain veil of knowingness and irony that most performers, no matter how shameless their ripping off is, are required to wear while doing even the most loving and uncanny homage. But with Al, there’s so much transparency that some of his credited “style parodies” are practically originals. E.g., “Frank’s 2000” TV” is a jangle-pop exercise that is obviously copying R.E.M. but could just as easily be predicting the Rembrandts.

And in the latter example, we have a glimpse of the power of the style parodies — as the ubiquity of the style fades over time, the songs take on a new patina of originality. Who in the Tumblr audience notices that “Slime Creatures from Outer Space” is Thomas Dolby? Who has any idea who Tonio K. is under the age of about 35? Delete the source referent and you have some pretty good originals, which, as best as I could, became my criteria for inclusion here. (I kept “Traffic Jam” because it’s the closest that Weird Al, the consummate copyright gentleman — he gets permission because he wants to, not because he has to, after all — ever got to Prince.)

Incidentally, it’s in the style parodies where you see the most change in Weird Al’s approach — that is, beyond the categorical break between the early demo-quality Demento staples and his more immaculate production that followed. In his earlier albums, Al usually succeeds only when he hews close to his own strengths — new wave and related circles — where later, the further divergent he is from those strengths the better. A reggae style parody falls flat in the late-80s, but by the 00’s, Al seems limp aping Weezer but astonishes on a 9-minute Frank Zappa song or a late-Beach Boys number as meticulous as its source material. At worst, this can seem like particularly well-executed paint-by-numbers, but at best (as in the aforementioned critical reception to the Pixies track) it can gently strike a nerve missing — or at least long absent — from the artist at the center of the parody. (And stuck directly in the middle of these two poles is the Beck homage “Wanna B Ur Lover,” a kind of uncanny valley of Weird Al style parodying. I left it off.)

Which is a longwinded way of saying that beyond the removed appreciation for formalism, there are actually some pretty good songs here. So, enjoy them.

11 year old me would kick 30 year old me’s ass for that one but I can’t get through it :(

EDIT: I mean 11 yo me wouldn’t have heard it; this is mostly a Weird Al zodiacal difference.

11 year old me would kick 30 year old me’s ass for that one but I can’t get through it :(

EDIT: I mean 11 yo me wouldn’t have heard it; this is mostly a Weird Al zodiacal difference.

Weird Al - The Originals (Spotify playlist)

Now that Weird Al seems to have completed a 14-album, 30-year contract (!!!), seems like a good time to do an informal retrospective of his work. As someone who had the obligatory Weird Al obsession at age 10-12 (roughly 1994-1997), I feel about as qualified to do this as every other person who has wandered in and out of casual Al fandom since [insert number of years since you were 10-12]. In zodiac terms, I’m on the cusp of Alapalooza/Bad Hair Day (which is why, yes, “Livin’ in the Fridge” is on my parodies list).

As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up with a very well-curated set of Dr. Demento tapes that my dad received from an early internet buddy (this was c. 1988). But because of the highly selective nature of these tapes, which were, among other things, cleaned up for the glut of stupid sex-obsessed tracks that swamped any given Dr. Demento show in the late 80s, Weird Al didn’t appear very often. I think “Another One Rides the Bus” was on there somewhere, but for the most part, these tapes prepared me for Weird Al even as he was, unbeknownst to me, dominating the Demento show. What this means, I hope, is that I actually had an accidental glimpse into Weird Al’s novelty childhood — 30s and 40s big band novelties, dumber-than-norm surf rock, and comedy records from the 50s and 60s.

Sasha Frere-Jones has a nice-enough reflection on Weird Al in the New Yorker. But he’s underestimating the edge that Weird Al brought (and I’d say still can bring) to the table. First, as Anthony pointed out in his (convincing!) plea to produce Weird Al’s next phase, the early parodies are raw and off-the-cuff — “Another One Rides the Bus” has about as much relation to post-“Eat It” professionalism as “Love Me Do” has to “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Weird Al wasn’t terribly removed from the general new wave sound or spirit in the beginning; when he channels Tonio K. he’s got some real venom.

And second, anyone who has listened to a full Weird Al album in the car with their parents knows, his non-parodies get pretty ugly. As someone who still knows “One More Minute” by heart, I can attest that some of these songs were secretly tucked into the middle of genteel-sounding cassette tapes along with Adam Sandler’s “Medium Pace” and the Jerky Boys.

There are at least four distinct modes of Weird Al: parodies, style parodies, originals, and polka medleys. I’ve made four mixes, each about 50-60 minutes, for each mode, and I’m starting with the most overlooked — the Al originals.

Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between an original and a “style parody.” For the sake of coherence, I reserve “style parodies” for songs that are immediately and undeniably recognizable as a particular band or artist (or even a song, but not strictly a parody). Otherwise we’re faced with the uncategorizable mess of all influences as being “style parodies,” which isn’t even fair to Weird Al, who is very upfront about whose style he’s copying/copping.

Tracklist and commentary under the cut.

  1. The Weird Al Show Theme
  2. UHF (single version)
  3. Since You’ve Been Gone
  4. This Is the Life
  5. That Boy Could Dance
  6. Christmas at Ground Zero
  7. Melanie
  8. Gotta Boogie
  9. One More Minute
  10. Such a Groovy Guy
  11. Harvey the Wonder Hamster
  12. Hardware Store
  13. Don’t Wear Those Shoes
  14. You Don’t Love Me Anymore
  15. Weasel Stomping Day
  16. Jackson Park Express
  17. Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung

On his first few albums, Weird Al had several novelty originals, accordion-driven, ramshackle rock ‘n’ roll pastiche like “Such a Groovy Guy” (complete with Zappa-esque semi-sarcastic backup singers) and “Check’s in the Mail” and “One of Those Days.” A lot of these scan as filler, but a few are inspired, even threatening, if not quite succeeding, to transcend the novelty tag, like sprightly Elton John lite-rocker “Don’t Wear Those Shoes,” whose rush of syncopated verses presages their (better) style parody of TMBG in the 90s.

There are the “pure Demento” cuts, a good novelty premise given sufficiently groan-inducing genre set dressing, like honky-tonky “That Boy Could Dance,” with its sideshow goon star, one-joke disco track “Gotta Boogie” (“…on my finger and I can’t get it off!”), and the perennial “Christmas at Ground Zero.”

Weird Al has a streak of misogyny-as-commentary-or-is-it to rival John Lennon, full of self-pitying manchildren and stalkers obsessing over a woman, or the idea of one — along with “One More Minute,” there’s lugubrious creepster ballad “Melanie”; doo-wop number “Since You’ve Been Gone,” with its Tom Lehrer-ish punchline; borderline style parody (I think it’s too broad to signify) of “More Than Words” balladry “You Don’t Love Me Anymore” with its murderous, psychotic ex; and, most recently, and arguably most impressively, “Jackson Park Express,” whose description as a Cat Stevens style parody doesn’t do justice to the internal monologue of a guy reading too much into the microgestures of a woman on the bus.

The rest of the mix is rounded out by just-plain-stupid but nonetheless amusing afterthoughts like 21-second “Harvey the Wonder Hamster” (the realization that he’s just a regular hamster was a comedy revelation at 11 years old — my first taste of anti-humor!), the sickening, splattering bridge to “Weasel Stomping Day,” pitch-black “Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung,” breakneck cartoon collage “Hardware Store,” and the theme song to Weird Al’s Saturday morning TV show, an exercise similar to the unlistenable (even for Weird Al) 11-minute “Albuquerque” that is mercifully just over a minute.

And finally there are the couple of soundtrack contributions, which were more frequent in the 80s (with the exception of "Polkamon," his track for the 2000 Pokemon movie). “UHF” might be as close as Weird Al ever got to a “straight” single — a mildly amusing ode to the weird world of high-frequency but low-viewership television that people born after 1990 probably won’t understand. “This Is the Life” is a charming ragtime contribution to Depression-era gangster spoof Johnny Dangerously.

The originals are for the most part hardcore Weird Al fans only, but I’ve tried to put them together into as listenable a collection as possible. Next installment will feature the style parodies, a side of Weird Al that is, if not overlooked, then certainly less appreciated than they should be — the style parodies are consistently his best work.

Hey, OWOB is doin’ Demi!

Here’s the epic convo that Erika and I had about Demi a while back — context (sorta) was a compilation of Demi stuff around this time, which I still listen to a lot but is no longer available on the innernet.

Obviously, we very much disagree about “Every Time You Lie”!

rockroundtable:

cureforbedbugs:


DOWNLOAD

So Erika and I spent last week talking about Demi Lovato, who is probably the biggest ‘n’ bestest star to come out of Disney in the post-Hannah Montana/High School Musical era. It was in the context of putting together a mix of Demi’s three solid but inconsistent albums. So we re-sequenced and added some non-album material and called it a Mostly Mix. A track list and longish exegesis on Demi under the cut.

Read More

Hey, OWOB is doin’ Demi!

Here’s the epic convo that Erika and I had about Demi a while back — context (sorta) was a compilation of Demi stuff around this time, which I still listen to a lot but is no longer available on the innernet.

Obviously, we very much disagree about “Every Time You Lie”!

rockroundtable:

cureforbedbugs:

DOWNLOAD

So Erika and I spent last week talking about Demi Lovato, who is probably the biggest ‘n’ bestest star to come out of Disney in the post-Hannah Montana/High School Musical era. It was in the context of putting together a mix of Demi’s three solid but inconsistent albums. So we re-sequenced and added some non-album material and called it a Mostly Mix. A track list and longish exegesis on Demi under the cut.

Read More

Do you feel confident that that Play Mat is not going to collapse on our child?
My wife has the best ways of calling me an idiot.