Weird Al Yankovic- Running With Scissors
Weird Al Yankovic: Vocals, background vocals, keyboards and accordion
Jim West: Guitars, banjo, and background vocals
Stephen Jay: Bass guitar and background vocals
Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz: Drums, percussion and background vocals
"Weird Al" Yankovic has long been a pop culture staple, having been welcomed into the very entity he seeks to parody since the early 80s. After scoring big once again with "Bad Hair Day" in 1996, Al's next studio effort was 1999's "Running With Scissors." While not as commercially successful as the previous album, this collection of pop parodies and original comedy tunes is still as entertaining as anything Al's done in the span of his career. Backed by a band of excellent studio musicians (who have been with him since his very first LP), there's no song, style, or melody that these guys can't re-create and then exploit for full comedic potential.
1. The Saga Begins (5:28)
: The album starts off with a parody of Don McLean's "American Pie." Tackling such a beloved (and lengthy) pop/folk classic couldn't have been an easy task, but Al pulls it off flawlessly. Of course, he had to sacrifice a couple of McLean's verse sections to make the song a bit shorter, but I think it's safe to say that a song
about Star Wars: Episode I is a lot more entertaining than the movie itself.
NOTE: The piano in this song (and many others) was done by longtime collaborator and semi-band member Ruben Valtierra. Anyway, the song gets a 5/5 for giving the album a strong start and making more sense than McLean's (because in case you didn't know, the infamous plane that crashed was not really named American Pie. Don McLean, you make no sense!)
2. My Baby's In Love With Eddie Vedder (3:26)
: This song has more of a polka feel to it, thanks to the jovial accordion playing by Yankovic. The song is pretty self-explanatory: a man's significant other is infatuated with the lead singer of Pearl Jam. It's more clever than just a bunch of grunge culture jokes, because I noticed this verse: "I knew we were headin' for disaster/ When she caught me hangin' out at the Ticketmaster." Ha ha, touche Al. This song gets a healthy 4/5 for accordion solos.
3. Pretty Fly For A Rabbi (3:02)
: Here we have a parody of Offspring's "Pretty Fly for a White Guy," where wigger jokes make way for some hearty jabs at Judaism. Contains a lot of Yiddish jargon (even as the beginning soundbite, replacing the original song's stolen Def Leppard bite), which is surprising because Yankovic isn't Jewish at all. Nevertheless, if he actually was a follower of the Torah, we would expect nothing less than self-deprecating wackiness. I will give this song a 3.5/5 for being fairly entertaining.
4. The Weird Al Show Theme (1:14)
: You know, Weird Al used to have his very own Saturday morning show, much like Pee Wee Herman. Al's show was cancelled for completely unrelated reasons, though, and now all we've got to cherish it by is this theme song. It's quick, funny, and would make me want to watch whatever came after it (the show). 4.5/5, losing points for length.
5. Jerry Springer (2:46)
: This is a parody of Barenaked Ladies "One Week," and it contains some of the only "blue" language you'll ever hear on a Weird Al album (except "Nature Trail to Hell"). Here we see one of Al's greatest talents: sing-talking really really fast. When done live, Al does it even faster (and the song is already sped up from the original, since faster = funnier), so that must be a real vocal exercise. Because the original song was kind of funny anyway, this can only be an improvement. 5/5
6. Germs (4:38)
: Ah yes, you may say to yourself: "This song is a parody of 'Closer' by Nine Inch Nails! I am the smart!" Sorry, but this sounds very much like the dirty industrial lurch of one of NIN's biggest hits, but this germophobic paranoia rant is actually just a parody of a general band's style. See also "Dare to Be Stupid," which lampoons a sort of Devo style. Anyway, this song isn't really that funny, but it's well-executed. 3.5/5
7. Polka Power (4:21)
: Now we come to the famous polka medley, where Al takes snippets from random popular songs and smashes them all together in one action-packed frenzy of accordions, brass bands, and fast-talking hijinks. Hell, why don't I just tell you every single song in the medley?
"Wannabe" by Spice Girls
"Flagpole Sitta" by Harvey Danger
"Ghetto Superstar" by Wyclef, Mya, etc.
"Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" by Backstreet Boys
"Walkin' on the Sun" by Smash Mouth
"Intergalactic" by Beastie Boys
"Tubthumping" by Chumbawumba
"Ray of Light" by Madonna
"Push" by Matchbox Twenty
"Semi-Charmed Life" by Third Eye Blind
"The Dope Show" by Marilyn Manson
"Mmmbop" by Hanson
"Sex and Candy" by Marcy Playground
"Closing Time" by Semisonic
Phew, that was almost as exhausting as it must be for Al to sing it. Some of the songs don't work as well as others, obviously, but it's still solid. 4.5/5
8. Your Horoscope For Today (3:59)
: This is one of the funniest songs on the album, and since it's a rundown of horoscopes, there's something for everybody (I will expect a big surprise today when I wind up with my head impaled upon a stick, according to Al). All of the predictions are hilarious, and the driving Bosstones-like ska beat makes it even better. "Sagittarius: all your friends are laughing behind your back... kill them.
" I wish The Onion could have horoscopes this funny every time. 5/5
9. It's All About The Pentiums (3:34)
: This is the parody of Puff Daddy's "All about the Benjamins," and I'm actually surprised that Puffy let Al poke fun at his deadly-serious "bad boy" image. Oh well, it all worked out for the better. Since you're reading this on the computer you'll probably find some of these jokes funny, but I think a lot of them are also pretty dated. 4/5
10. Truck Drivin' Song (2:27)
: This is a nice little disturbing number by an unusually-baritone voiced Weird Al. The driving country beat is a great companion to the transvestite-trucker lyrics, and the more macho the song makes itself, the more bizarre the singing gets. A perfect blend of hard-hitting western tunes (including a nice country guitar solo by Jim West) and typical Weird Al hilarity, this song is a solid 4.5/5
11. Grapefruit Diet (3:30)
: Next up is a parody of Cherry Poppin' Daddies swing revival song, "Zoot Suit Riot." You don't remember it either? Oh well, it looks like Al has the last laugh as usual when it comes to parodying fad musicians like this (but CPD probably takes themselves very seriously when you see them at the next bar mitzvah). It's also a song in the vein of another Weird Al strong point: fat people! Hooray for fat jokes! Yeah, I guess you could get tired of the old obesity shtick after a while, but it's still a fun song. 4/5
12. Albuquerque (11:25)
: This is it, folks: Weird Al's magnum opus. The longest and possibly best song that Weird Al Yankovic has ever done, and it's an eleven-minute epic of stream-of-consciousness lyrics and straight-up rock backing (including spicy guitar fills by West). An insane journey of one man's trip to a certain New Mexico metropolis, and the fact that he hates sauerkraut. I still laugh every time Al talks about his odyssey on the airplane ("...we went into a tailspin and crashed into a hillside and the plane exploded in a giant fireball and EVERYBODY DIED! ...except for me, you know why? Cause I had my tray table up, and my seat back in the full upright position."). You know, I once memorized this entire rambling monologue, but it's only recently coming back to me. I know there's a lot of obnoxious screaming that may turn some people off, but the fast pace of this gigantic song is enough to keep your attention once one piece of the story is gone. Point is... we're all out of bear claws! 5/5
And that's the track-by-track review. If you're already a fan of Al, then you won't be disappointed for a second. If you're not, then you may not be turned on by this one, I'm sorry. Since this album isn't significantly attractive to obtain crossover appeal, I can only give it a 4/5. But nonetheless, it is a very VERY good album!