Weird Al And Punk Rock (03-12-23)
One of my absolute favorite albums that Al’s released is his self titled. I’ve always said it has a different vibe from the rest of his work, and that makes sense, it was his first album, he was working in a mail room at the time, and he was still a bit of an edgy, sometimes raunchy college student. Weird Al Yankovic is grungy, rough around the edges, surprisingly political, and countercultural. I’ve always seen it as more than a little punk rock.
Me and my friends have all shared this sentiment, but I wasn’t sure if anyone else felt this way. However, when I shared the video of Al’s first appearance on national TV to r/oldschoolcool, several users commented that the entire thing felt very punk rock to them. And I can absolutely understand why, Al, barefoot, in patchwork pants, with frizzy, wild hair, plays a spoof of a hugely popular song on a folk instrument that he’d learned to play as a child, while a friend of his uses the case of said instrument and a slew of toy horns as accompaniment. While this performance sounded nothing like the bands people usually associate with the punk movement, the spirit of counterculture and DIY was absolutely there.
Even the most lighthearted and shallow of spoofs is some kind of statement, and many of Al’s songs on his self-titled are much deeper than Another One Rides The Bus. Buckingham Blues can be interpreted as frustration against monarchy or aristocracy in general, I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead presents Al’s frustration with yuppie culture, and, probably the most glaring, Happy Birthday illustrates many issues, both social and political, that Al appears to be genuinely frustrated about. Hell, it’s even in a punk-rock style.
After this album, Al cooled down a bit, taking on a more family-friendly image. But I don’t think this spirit ever left his work. As I said, even a shallow spoof can be some kind of statement, and Al’s spent 40 years poking fun at Hollywood, celebrity culture, and the music industry. Not to mention there’s been a handful of his songs that have a definite message.
A decade after Al released his first album, Al released Off The Deep End, an album best known for its Nirvana spoof, appropriately named Smells Like Nirvana. One of the songs on this album, Trigger Happy, is definitely one of Al’s most politically charged to date. This song is a Beach Boys pastiche highlighting both the absurdity and danger of American gun culture, complete with graphic depictions of violence and animal cruelty. Al didn’t hold back in showing the ugliest side of gun obsession.
To be fair, this song has definitely become more polarizing over time. But even in the early 90s this was a definite political statement, and Al’s recently released an illustrated version of the song that includes references to the capitol riots that occurred on January 6, 2021, a depiction of Kyle Rittenhouse (that's meant to mock him), and a page that likens police officers to “drug-crazed nazis”. Out of any song Al has released, ever, this one is without a doubt his most punk rock.
I don’t really know how to end this. I don’t have a conclusion. This isn’t an essay for school, so I don’t need one, anyways. I just wanted to say Al’s punk as fuck. Oh, yeah. He also covered Beat On The Brat by The Ramones back in 2017. It was pretty sick.
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