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Unsolicited Musings On “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Mandatory Fun

- Mandatory Fun’s cover is funny, but not as funny as the fact we could go to war with North Korea over that James Franco movie

- my issues with late period Yank: he doesn’t scream as much as he used to, and rarely do any songs break mid-tempo (even the polka medley here speeds too safely); in Al’s defense, he’s creeping up on 55, and he went plenty nutso on his older albums

- I want to say the Lorde parody “Foil” should be longer to milk more out of the subject twist, but laborious college fight send-up “Sports Song” proves brevity is the soul of wit

- “Word Crimes” is disappointing because Al spends more time just shitting on the grammatically ignorant instead of trying to educate them; it’s very “get off my lawn,” but at least his heart’s in the right place

- Mandatory Fun’s polka medley may be caught in second gear but it’s also plenty fun, as most of his medleys prove to be

- while I appreciate Al taking the piss out of Frank Black on his Pixies style parody “First World Problems,” the song itself is nowhere near as clever as the first world problem rap that mush-mouthed teen posted to YouTube a few years ago; this could be because mush-mouthed teen legit feels the struggle and Al is (generationally?) removed from that kinda thing

- a few of Mandatory Fun’s originals lean alt country, which makes one wonder what a non-weird Yank album would be like at this point; maybe like Wilco, with more references to boogers and socket wrenches?

- “Weird Al” has some major cajones calling out other people for being tacky (“Tacky”) when you consider the fact he’s worn nothing but Hawaiian shirts for his entire career

- overall, Mandatory Fun is limp; not one song is on par with classic Yank, and the album’s closing ballad “Jackson Park Express” (a tale of love and miscommunication on public transit) could be the least engaging song Al’s ever done; of course, it’s all lightyears better than whatever Dr. Elmo’s doing right now, and what do you want from a guy twenty-six years after “Stuck In A Closet With Vanna White?”

- this would be a great place to post a link to the interview I did with “Weird Al” in 2011 where he clears up that rumor about getting punched by Billy Joel’s wife; alas, evil forces have taken it offline

- yes, I am bragging that I interviewed “Weird Al”; career lulls aside, he’s still “Weird Al,” American comedy god, hero of my youth, the Gozer of parody

Unsolicited Thoughts/Notes On GD’s Dookie Twenty Years Later

- the Green Day albums prior to Dookie are good but you listen to them and think, “Man, these guys need a budget”; this is that rare breed of punk (hyper melodic) that’s actually hindered by rawer sonic ethics

- the middle of “Burnout” rips off the middle of “Pictures of Lily” by the Who, but “Burnout” is faster, so…all forgiven?

- speaking of the Who, that rah rah ending of “Chump,” the bit that crashes into “Longview”…why were any of us surprised when Green Day became an arena band and started writing rock operas?

- the Green Day backlash (which occurred, what, between 1995-97?) was so intense I still feel residual guilt for ever owning an original cassette copy of this album (which is dumb, because you should just like what you like and love what you love and I’ve since owned far more dubious musical ventures, including a good portion of Leonard Nimoy’s discography)

- I’ve heard “Welcome to Paradise” so many times throughout my life (both voluntarily and involuntarily) that it no longer registers as anything except a sound that is occurring in the vicinity of my ears

- part of me wishes the entire album had the twangy tone of “Pulling Teeth” (seems a little richer)

- part of me wishes the only segment of “Basket Case” they had released was Billie’s vocal track

- people who accuse this album of being (too) juvenile have obviously never heard anything by the Queers or Screeching Weasel

- Dookie producer Rob Cavallo has worked on everything Green Day has done since 1994, including soundtrack stuff and live albums; that kind of job security is rare these days

- Dookie producer Rob Cavallo also worked on Kid Rock’s Rock n’ Roll Jesus, which makes me want to smash a fucking carp right into his face

- Dookie is fun and will always be the Rosetta Stone that made me decide to further investigate this punk rock stuff, but it stopped being my favorite Green Day album the second Insomniac dropped in ’96; they just sound like a stronger band on Insomniac, playing tighter, louder songs with way more frenzy and better melody…I don’t understand why people tend to dismiss that one sight out of hand (or w/e that nonsensical phrase is)

- the hidden song here is the aural equivalent of looking at Pauly Shore

Unsolicited Thoughts/Notes On 30 For 30: The Price Of Gold

- sometimes you read stories about our armed forces blasting heavy metal at foreign dictators to ferret them out of fortified compounds but what they really need to use is the audio of Nancy Kerrigan reeling in pain during the aftermath of her 1994 attack; that unhinged wailing jostles the moorings of my soul

- Tonya Harding’s mom dressing like a nefarious super villain (mink stole and a parrot on her shoulder?) would be funny if she hadn’t been so terrible to her daughter in her youth

- whether or not you believe Harding was in on the pre-attack conspiracy I think we can all agree the men involved made the Sweathogs look like Rhodes Scholars

- if Harding masterminded the attack, what a shame she didn’t believe in her own talents (she had already bested Kerrigan once in a 1991 World Championship); if Harding had nothing to do with the attack, what a shame she couldn’t put her issues with Kerrigan aside and reach out immediately to say, “Hey, I’m sorry, I married this clown but I want to make sure we’re square before things go any further” (Harding tried to apologize much later during an Olympic practice but Kerrigan made her talk to the hand ’cause the face wasn’t listenin’)

- the person my heart goes out to most in all of this is Michelle Kwan; Kwan won her right to compete in the ’94 Olympics by placing second in the U.S. Championships, but the ice skating powers that be decided Kerrigan would have clinched that spot had she not been clubbed…so they gave Kerrigan Kwan’s spot and sent Kwan to Norway as a non-competing alternate, which is a supremely shitty thing to do to a thirteen year old, if you ask me

- shady character Shawn Eckhardt (Harding’s bodyguard, now deceased) sort of resembled William Hootkins, the actor who played shady character Max Eckhardt in the first Batman; Shawn later changed his name to Brian Griffith, which is so very close to the name of portly “Family Guy” character Brian Griffin (whom he also sort of resembled)

- Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly changed his name to Jeff Stone, which is boring as hell and robs us of our god-given right to enjoy the mirth that inherently surrounds “Gillooly”

- this documentary takes the high road, making no mention of the Tonya Harding sex tape or Harding’s “foxy” boxing bout against Paula Jones

Bizarre Soft Drinks I Have Recently Encountered: 1980s Blockbuster Edition

WHAT IT IS: Ghostbusters: The Energy Drink, a carbonated tribute to the greatest horror comedy of my childhood (sorry, Gremlins).

WHERE IT WAS DISCOVERED: Amongst my birthday gifts.

WHO MAKES IT: Boston America Corp, who brag on their website about offering “the world’s most creative impulse items.” Hey, I’m not arguing.

HOW IT TASTES: The contents of the “Slimed!” can proved Rockstar-ish, which is probably what Slimer would taste like if you could lick him. From what I can gather via Google it’s the same exact liquid in each can, but if I’m wrong may Walter Peck come down from bureaucrat heaven and smack me silly.

DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS: Officially licensed Ghostbusters imagery. This ain’t no “Ghostflippers” nonsense!

NOTES: The can lists a fax number. That seems superfluous. I’m not sure what I’d want from a Ghostbusters-themed energy drink (maybe a Stay Puft marshmallow flavor?) but this stuff gets the job done. It’s tart enough, no wretched aftertaste, and it reminds me of Harold Ramis. Win/win.

Unsolicited Notes/Thoughts On We’re A Happy Family

Yes, the Ramones tribute album that came out in 2003, featuring such heavy hitters as Metallica, Garbage, Green Day, and Pete Yorn. Picked up a copy for my birthday after a decade of not really listening to it.

- wish I could say I read/enjoyed Stephen King’s liner notes but it’s four center-aligned pages with no paragraph breaks and he uses the phrase “tuff titty” in line three

- the ratio of artists who perform the songs in the style of the Ramones to artists who perform the songs in “their own unique interpretation” breaks down roughly 40/60; this is fine, as I didn’t expect Rancid to add tuba to “Sheena IAPR” and I sure didn’t expect Marilyn Manson to just plug into a Marshall to play “The KKK Took My Baby Away” at its normal tempo

- the top gun here is Tom Waits’s repurposing of “Jackie & Judy” as greasy juke joint blues howl (which has extra glow b/c it feels like Tom’s thank you note for the brilliant cover of his own “I Don’t Want To Grow Up” the ‘Mones slapped on Adios Amigos); second best is any cut where the artist commits to the melodic genius of the source material (Rooney’s “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow,” the Eddie Vedder/Zeke stuff)

- how do you sexualize “Havana Affair?” I don’t know, but the Red Hot Chili Peppers found a way

- Rob Zombie’s “Blitzkrieg Bop” is just as awkward and ham-fisted as my memory suggested; speaking of precious moments, I remember VH-1 did a special on Johnny Ramone while he was co-producing this album and the cameras were a’rollin’ when this Zombie-fied version of “Bop” first hit his ears…Johnny’s face wore a perfect mix of deer-in-headlights confusion, faint disgust, and slight arousal

- Eddie Vedder’s decision to do “Daytime Dilemma (Dangers of Love)” with America’s best punk n’ roll band is why he’s Eddie Vedder; the Offspring’s decision to turn in a copy of “I Wanna Be Sedated” they recorded five years earlier for a Seth Green comedy is why they’re the Offspring

- I don’t think U2 could do a more “U2″ version of “Beat On The Brat” but I won’t bust on them because I know Bono’s heart is in the right place when it comes to Da Bruddahs

- the inclusion of Kiss is curious, not just because they were contemporaries of the Ramones (and not part of some subsequent musical generation) but also because Johnny Ramone made a big point in his autobiography about how much he never liked the music of Peter, Paul, & the Demon; whatever the reason behind it (tax write-off?) Kiss transforms “Do You Remember Rock n’ Roll Radio?” into the Best Buy jingle you always knew it could be

- surprisingly, the tender rendition of “Something To Believe In” by the Pretenders is not the most recent thing that band has done; they had a record out in 2008!

- leave it to John Frusciante to turn “Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World” into a hippie hymnal (and a fucking good one at that)

- no photos of Richie Ramone in the booklet :(

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