Archive for the ‘Dav Pilkey’ Category

recessSOUNDTRACK: BUIKA-Tiny Desk Concert #298 (August 26, 2013).

buikaI had never heard of Buika before, so I had to rely on the blurb:

Concha Buika’s voice doesn’t come from inside her petite body: It comes from Africa, and from the past. There are obvious traces of flamenco, itself a historical mash-up of the Moors and various transitory cultures in southern Spain and north Africa.

During her flights of improvisation, we also hear the influence of Cuban vocalist Celia Cruz, a product of Afro-Cuban culture, mixed in with Ella Fitzgerald, who was the pinnacle of African-American jazz vocal expression.

In these two performances, we hear Buika interpret her own lyrics after a handful of albums in which she’s interpreted others’ words. With her eyes closed tightly, she inhabits these poems of love and heartache as if she were reliving them again before our eyes.

Buika’s singular voice has attracted a cadre of fans who’ve become enchanted by her voice and her leave-it-all-on-the-stage performances in clubs and theaters around the world. Watch this video and join the club.

So as the notes say, these two pieces are improvisations.  Not knowing Spanish all that well, I don’t know how much is made up or even how much is just sounds rather than actual words.  But it certainly sounds more off the cuff than written out.

The music is just a piano and a box drum and her voice.  Her voice is raw and pained, but quite pretty.  The two songs are called “La Noche Mas Larga” and “La Nave Del Olvido.”

[READ: April 15, 2016] Comics Squad: Recess

I found out about this collection in the back of a Babymouse book.

Comics Squad is a collection of eight comics from some of my favorite artists.  It basically works as a bunch of short, shall we say graphic novellas, from Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Babymouse/Squish) ; Jarrett J.  Krosoczka (Lunch Lady) ; Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants) ; Dan Santat ; Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman  (Smile and Astronaut Academy); Ursula Vernon (Dragonbreath) ; Eric Wright (Frankie Pickle) and Gene Luen Yang.

Since it’s edited by the Holms and Krosoczka they sprinkle the book with marginal comments and interstitials from Babymouse and Lunch Lady.  But each artist/author gets a story, and I enjoyed them all.

GENE LUEN YANG-“The Super-Secret Ninja Club”  This was a really fun story about a group of boys who meet at recess.  Once they know that noone is watching, they put on their masks and become the super-secret ninja club.  But Daryl, a decidedly un-ninja like boy wants in…desperately.  He’s never had a passion for any club before but this one is totally him.  The one boy says that since winter break is about to start, when the get back to school, they can talk about him joining.  So Daryl spends all inter break practicing.  Will it be enough?  The answer is very funny.

DAV PILKEY-“Book ‘Em, Dog Man!”  This story begins with a letter to the parents of George (the main character in Captain Underpants) from his teacher saying that she asked for a written assignment and once again he drew a cartoon.  She has attached the offending (and offensive) cartoon for them to see.  Petey the cat is in jail .  He wants to beat the superhero Dog Man.  But Dog Man is too smart  So Petey realizes that if he removes all the words from books no one will be smart anymore.  He invents a ray which does just that.  What will the world do when they can’t read anymore?

JARRETT J, KROSOCZKA-“Betty and the Perilous Pizza Day”  “Lunch Lady” is a cartoon I didn’t really know before reading this collection. Lunch Lady appears in the margins of the pages of the book, but not in this actual cartoon.  Rather, the star of this cartoon is Betty, Lunch Lady’s helper. And since Lunch Lady can’t be there, Betty will have to deal with lunch.  But it is pizza day!  The only hope is the Pizzatron 2000.  Unless, of course, it develops a mind of its own and goes on a rampage.

URSULA VERNON-“The Magic Acorn”  I don’t know Dragonbreath all that well, although C.  has read all of them.  This story is pretty simple.  Although since I don’t know the characters I don’t know if it is representative of anything prior.  Scratch, a squirrel who is rather realistically drawn (Vernon’s drawings are great) is interrupted by Squeak, a far more a cartoony squirrel.  Squeak is excited because he found a magic acorn.  Scratch states that this is the 318th “magic acorn” that he’s found.  And besides they have recess in ten minutes.  Well, this acorn may not exactly be an acorn, but it is certainly magical.

JENNIFER L. HOLM & MATTHEW HOLM-“Babymouse: The Quest for Recess”  In this brief story Babymouse has a few fantasies that prevent her from actually getting outside for recess.  First she is late for school (dreaming about Camelot) then her locker brings her to Zeus, making her late for class.  A western dream makes her disrupt lunch and then the barbarian fractions invade during math class.  Can she keep it together and actually get outside?

ERIC WIGHT-“Jiminy Sprinkles in ‘Freeze Tag'”  So I don’t know this comic at all either. Jiminy Sprinkles is a new student to the school (he is a cupcake). He immediately befriends a peanut who tells him to watch out for The Mean Green Gang, a group of vegetables.  (Their leader is Russell from Brussels (ha)).  The Mean Green Gang is pretty tough but Jiminy has a secret weapon of his own–a very funny one that the Mean Green Gang actually gets a kick out of too.

DAN SANTAT-“300 Words” This is an interesting look at the story The Giving Tree.  The kids were assigned a book report on the story three weeks ago and it is due today.  John is one of the boys who didn’t do the assignment and he’s about to write his 300 words now.  It’s a tree. It gives things.  But another boy has a better idea–he’s going to ask Sophia for her paper.  Even though the last time he talked to her he threw up on her.   Sophia has an interesting answer for him.

DAVE ROMAN & RAINA TELGEMEIER-“The Rainy Day Monitor” is a wonderful take on kickball.  Since the kids can’t go outside to play because of the rain, their recess is indoors.  And they are closely watched by Boring Becca the totally boring fifth grader.  When they ask if they can play kickball inside she asks the kids if they have ever played Dungeons and Dragons.  They groan until she says they should play kickball using dice and imaginary characters.  Pretty great idea Becca!

The end of the book is set up with fun fake ads and useful tips.

One “ad” is an offer for Babymouse Binoculars.  I also really liked Lunch Lady’s tips on how to draw Betty (which skip from 3 to 12 while Squish sweats).

This was not only a great introduction to all of these fabulous comic writers, it was a really funny collection in its own right.

The end of the book says “Do you think there will be another one? As sure as there is syrup on pancakes there’ll be a Comics Squad #2.”  And indeed, there was a second one.

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desmond SOUNDTRACK: THE PLANTS-“Aziphrale” (2013).

plantsThe Plants are Kids Corner favorites. And why not they are Philadelphia locals.  I have enjoyed several of their songs but I wasn’t familiar with this one.  And so I was surprised that it made the Top ten Kids Corner Countdown.

This song is another story song. It’s about a Chinese dragon called Aziphrale.  It has a cool horn sound, reminding me of some mellow ska or like the Squirrel Nut Zippers.  The song is bouncy and jaunty and has a kind of moral to it, which is always nice.

It even features a lengthy pirate section with people sailing a ship across the sea–(perhaps making future Decemberists fans?).

It’s an engaging story and a good song–a sea shanty about gold and dragons, what could be better?  And I actually thought it was quite different from their other song that I reviewed–Monster Under My Bed, but that song is also a story and features prominent horns and is bouncy and jaunty.  I bet they’d be fun to see live.

[READ: January 5, 2014] Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic

Although this book is about a sixth grader, C. loved it and encouraged me to read it.  Which I did.  And it is quite enjoyable.  It reminds me of Captain Underpants in spirit. But it’s very different in execution.

Desmond Pucket is a kid who loves horror movies and special effects.  And he is a great artist and creator.  Which doesn’t always fly in school.  So he gets an F on his math test but he draws a cool picture on the back.  The teacher tells him that if he spent as much time on his math as on his drawing, he’d get straight A’s.  Sigh. (more…)

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cpatain 10 SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-Bad Hair Day (1996).

bad hair dayBad Hair Day is an uninspired album title, especially given how great of an album it is.  As I posted last week, “Amish Paradise” is great, (I forget to mention the funny Gilligan’s Island verse in the middle.  “Everything You Know is Wrong” is just a magnificent They Might be Giants parody.  Now, TMBG and Weird Al are pretty kindred spirits (they both use accordions and sing silly songs).  In that respect, this song isn’t that different from a typical Al song, but there are so many great musical nods to TMBG that the song is just awesome.  And it’s very funny too.

“Cavity Search” is a parody of U2’s “Hold Me Touch Me Kiss Me Kill Me” and it works very well, both as a great soundalike (Al’s vocal tricks get better with each album) and the way he plays with the original (the drill solo is great) are really clever.  “Calling in Sick” is a kind of Nirvana parody, although I don’t hear it as well as other band parodies.  It’s certainly a grunge song and, as such it works.  But it was “The Alternative Polka” that proved to be my favorite of his medleys so far.  “Loser,” “Sex Type Thing” “All I Wanna Do” “Closer” (hearing him do Nine Inch Nails is hilarious–especially this song!), “Bang Bang Blame” (so much R.E.M. lately), “You Oughta Know,” “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” (Weezer’s song was supposed to be included here but they asked it to be removed and he did at the last minute–see the video below).  “I’ll Stick Around,” “Black Hole Sun” and “Basket Case”–a great mix of songs that I loved at the time and still do, this song is like reliving the mid 90s.

“Since You’ve Been Gone” is a fun a capella band version of a funny break up song.  He gets better and better at this kind of lyric (“a red hot cactus up my nose” is particularly wonderful).  “Gump” is a very funny parody of “Lump” by Presidents of the United States of America.  Evidently they liked his parody so much they used some of his lyrics in the final verse when they played it live.

“Sick of You” has a fun bass line (reminiscent of Elvis Costello) and a great chorus.  And “Syndicated, Inc.” is a very funny parody of that overplayed Soul Asylum song “Misery.”  It’s a very funny song about syndicated TV shows.  “I Remember Larry” is a pretty funny original about a prankster, although it’s the weakest song on the album.  “Phony Calls” is a parody of TLC’s “Waterfalls” and it’s pretty funny (especially hearing Al do TLC vocals).  The parody works pretty well, and it’s certainly helped by the sample of Bart and Moe on the Simpsons.  “The Night Santa Went Crazy” is a pretty funny twisted take on Santa.

This album is definitely one of his best.  Just about every song is a winner.  And it’s his best-selling album too.

[READ: February 22, 2013] Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers

Clark was pretty excited when this book came out.  He had just finished up book #7 or 8 when the book was published.  And so it didn’t take too long for him to get caught up with the series.  I was also pretty lucky to have just finished book nine so this “last” book (although not really) was very well timed.

When we left off in Book Nine, Tippy Tinkletrousers had inadvertently destroyed the earth and the giant zombie George and Harold were stomping through the town.  And, shockingly, they had just crushed Tippy in his robo-pants.   But as this book opens, Pilkey gives us the truth about zombies.  They are really slow.  So slow that Tippy was able to get out of the way of the giant foot (and do lots of other things) and put a giant ketchup packet under the foot so it got squished instead of him.

The rest of the book is simply chock full of time travel, overlapping people and all kinds of paradoxes.  I have to wonder if Clark got it, but he just read it again and he did seem to have decent understanding of what happened. (more…)

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ricky1.2SOUNDTRACK“WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-Alapalooza (1993).

Weird_Al_Yankovic_-_AlapaloozaAlapalooza came out hot on the heels of Off the Deep End.  I was in college, the perfect time for a “Weird Al” rebirth.  And the fact that “Jurassic Park” and “Bedrock Anthem” had a great videos (and my college cafe played MTV), meant I got to see these videos quite a bit.  (So I was surprised to read recently that this album didn’t sell like gangbusters (it went gold whereas Off the Deep End went platinum)).

“Jurassic Park” is a crazy wonderful parody–a spoof on the crazy song “MacArthur Park,” a song that I like a lot because it is over the top and absurd, although truth be told, I like “Jurassic Park” better.

“Young Dumb and Ugly” is a heavy metal song this is certainly dumb.  This is one that parodies a style so well that it’s actually not a very fun song to listen to.  “Bedrock Anthem” is a Red Hot Chili Peppers mashup/parody with the intro from “Under the Bridge” melding into a rocking parody of “Give It Away.”  I’m not exactly sure that it works as a parody (the Yabba Dabba part is a wee bit forced) but the song rocks well and Al and co. do a great job with it.

I never much liked “Frank’s 2000″ TV.”  I’m surprised to read (Wikipedia) that it’s a style parody of early R.E.M.  I can kind of hear it but compared to some of his other style parodies, I don’t think it really works.  “Achy Breaky Song” is the most apt song, lyrically, ever: “Don’t play that song, that achy breaky song, the most annoying song I know.”  It’s surprisingly mean about the song it is parodying and it turns out the proceeds from the track were donated to United Cerebral Palsy, as both Cyrus and Yankovic felt that the song was “a little bit, well, mean-spirited.”  “Traffic Jam” is a synthy number that sounds like it’s from the 80s.

“Talk Soup” was commissioned as a new theme for the show Talk Soup.  Although the producers approved the lyrics and enjoyed the final result, they decided against using it.  Which I can understand as it would make a terrible TV theme song.  It sounds a bit like Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer.

“Livin’ in the Fridge” is a fun parody of Aerosmith and it really sounds like them.  This parody works both as a twist on the original and lyrically–it’s very funny.  “She Never Told Me She was a Mime” is a weird original.  It doesn’t sound like any other bands, and is kind of a classic rock type of song.  The lyrics are pretty funny, but not all that funny.  And there’s not all that much to enjoy musically.

“Harvey the Wonder Hamster” is an awesome anthem which at 21 seconds, can be enjoyed again and again and again.  It’s funny that I felt that “Talk Soup” sounded like Peter Gabriel because “Waffle King” is actually a style parody of Gabriel.  This is a weird song because the verses are good, but the chorus falls kind of flat.  But the final song is a wonderful twist on Al’s usual polka medley.  This is a polka version of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  I read complaints that it sounds too much like the original (which it doesn’t) but it’s a testament to Al’s skill as a mimic that he can make his crazy polka version (which is much faster and with lots of his silliness thrown in) sounds so much like queen.  It’s certainly an Al highlight.

After this release, Al put out Al in the Box a 4 CD box set and then a series of greatest hits type albums–an actual Greatest Hits and then a collection of Food Songs and TV Songs.  I would never have bought the Food album except that I got to meet him after a show and I wanted something for him to autograph (which he did).  He was super duper nice and very cool.

[READ: February 22, 2013] Ricky Ricotta Books 7

Dav Pilkey planned to do nine books in this series (with Martin Ontiveros adding pictures).  According to Wikipedia, he had serious family emergencies for a while, which is why such a prolific author had literally no output for a number of years (from 2007-2010).  It also explains why book 7 is the last book that Pilkey has written in the series.  But the good news is that he’s back writing and that the eighth book is due out in December.

Of 2014.  Oh.

Well, in the meantime we have this book to enjoy.  Ricky and the Mighty Robot are learning what is fun and what is not fun (most of the things that Ricky likes to do are too small  for the robot to do and are consequently not fun for him).  Meanwhile, Uncle Unicorn lives on Uranus.  And he has turned it into a universe-wide dumping ground for toxic waste. I really liked seeing that all of the other bad guys from the series had a cameo dumping their stuff on Uranus.

But then Uncle Unicorn has had enough of the trash and he wants to leave.  He plans on going to Earth, but he knows that Mighty Robot is his major enemy.  So he sends Mighty Robot a gift–a Ladybot who immediately hypnotizes him and chains him up.  And now Ricky is alone. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: “Me Ol’ Bamboo” (1968).

bamboo  rickymarsThis song comes from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the movie.  It is a strange little set piece in the early section of the film.  In terms of the movie it is utterly absurd: Caracticus Potts (Dick van Dyke) is looking to make some quick cash.  He heads to a carny circus (that has just popped up) with his crazy haircutting invention.  A brawny guy sits down and gets a terrible scalping.  Potts runs away through various parts of the circus and ultimately ends up in the chorus-line-type set up with a dozen or so guys getting ready to sing this song.

When the song starts Potts is able to follow the routine fairly well, although he’s always a step or two behind. But by the second verse he is now in charge of the song, singing extra lyrics and then doing a bit of a solo routine which the other guys then follow.  Now, I realize it’s a musical and as Clark asked the unasked question, “how do she know the song they sing when she is hearing it for the first time?” But even in the logic-defying world of musicals, shoehorning this set piece into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a stretch.

And yet, if you’ve been reading, you know we watched this weeks ago and I can’t get it out of my head.  The song (weird as it is being about a bamboo pole) is really catchy.  And the dance routine is, simply, amazing.  I don’t know much about Dick van Dyke’s performing skills, but man he knocks it out of the park.  And, more amazingly, there are some really long takes before they cut away.  And ensemble of 12 or so doing a very complicated routine for more than a few measures is really impressive.

The more I watch it, the more impressed I am and the more I understand why they shoehorned it in.  Check it out:

[READ: February 22, 2013] Ricky Ricotta Books 4-6

This is the second set of three Ricky Ricotta books.  They don’t vary all that much from the first three–Ricky and his Might Robot get in trouble, and then they save the day.  What I did like was that Pilkey adds some valiant assistants who add a new dimension to the rather simple story.

In Book 4 Ricky and his Robot are bored of playing hide and seek so they decide to go skateboarding   The Robot uses the Ricotta’s minivan as a skateboard and of course, he crushes it.  His parents hold them responsible for paying for it (which Ricky calculates will take 259 years).  Meanwhile on Mars, Major Monkey hates living on a cold, dead planet and he wants to take over Earth.  But he has been watching what’s been going on down there and he knows what happened to the three previous villains (I though that was a nice touch).  He also knows that the Mighty Robot has stopped all of their plans.  So he sends a decoy to distract the Robot.

The decoy says that Mars is in trouble so the Mighty Robot flies off to help.  But when he gets there he is trapped by Major Monkey’s ambush and he is stuck on Mars!  Then Major Monkey flies aback to Earth knowing no one can stop him. (more…)

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tippy SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-UHF Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1989).

UHFsingleHot on the success of Even Worse, Al was given the green light to make a movie.  It was called UHF and it tested very well with audiences.  But then it tanked at the box office (well, it made back the money but little more).  Although it has since gained a huge following as a cult movie.  It is very weird indeed (and Kramer is in it!) but it’s also very quotable and quite funny.  The soundtrack has a few songs and skits from the movie as well as a few extra songs that were not in the movie.  And, despite it’s rather middling status as a soundtrack, it features a couple of Al’s best songs.

“Beverly Hillbillies” is a surprisingly effective pastiche of Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” and the theme from the “Beverly Hillbillies.”  The fact that Al originally wanted to use a prince song (but was not given permission) shows just how creative he can be to twist it around in a totally different way.  Mark Knopfler plays guitar.  Another sci-fi original is “Attack of the Radioactive Hamsters from a Planet Near Mars.”  It kind of updates “Slime Creatures from Outer Space” which also wasn’t that good.  “Isle Thing” is a parody of Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing” which is about Gilligan’s Island, but from the POV of someone who hasn’t watched the show and whose girlfriend is hooked on it.  It’s surprisingly funny   It’s interesting that Tone Loc sampled Van Halen, but I believe Al’s band plays the whole thing.

The Medley returns on this album (sorely missed on Even Worse).  Strangely, “The Hot Rocks Polka” is a medley of Rolling Stones songs.  The theme song “UHF” is a good theme song.  It’s funny but more importantly it explains the movie nicely.

The disc also includes snippets from the movie Gandhi II promo.  “Let Me Be Your Hog” is a 17 second clip from a show in the movie.  There’s also the awesome commercial for Spatula City.  And “Fun Zone” is a 2 minute instrumental that is the theme to Stanley Spadowski’s Clubhouse.

“She Drives Like Crazy” is a parody of Fine Young Cannibals (the fact that Al can hit Roland Gift’s notes is quite impressive) although the song is merely okay.  “Generic Blues” is just that–an over the top version of any blues song you’ve heard.  Those few low points are more than made up for by these closing high points.  “Spam” is a great parody of R.E.M’s “Stand.”  It works as both parody and as its own lyrical theme.  “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota” is the first of Al’s epic songs (this one clocks in at almost 7 minutes).  It’s a story song told in the spirit of Harry Chapin’s  30,000 Pounds of Bananas.”  It’s one of my favorite early Al songs.  It’s fun and silly but it never loses focus.  And the thought of the family loving the biggest ball of twine is just too funny.  And who knew there were so many things that rhymed with Minnesota?

But the tanking of UHF meant that Al had to regroup.  And as he waited for the next Michael Jackson song to parody, a little thing called grunge happened.

[READ: February 22, 2013] Captain Underpants and the Terrifying reTurn of Tippy Tinkletrousers

Pilkey had been away from writing for several years with family emergencies.  So it has been six years since the previous Captain Underpants book–that’s a long time for most readers who may now feel too old for the books, although no doubt many new readers to the series (like me!) have sprung up in the meantime.

So, what does Pilkey do for his return?  He produces a 300 page epic!  One that brings back a bad guys from past books (as was promised in the last book), one that features a lot of mind bending time travel and, ultimately, one which focuses mostly on George and Harold as kindergarteners (five years before the usual present in his books).  And it is an amazing book, one that really shows how creative the boys are and one which deals with bullying–a subject that has never really been present in these books (except from the teachers).  Pilkey really created a great book (the other books were great too, but they were more slight.  This one is packed with goodness).  And I have to assume he aimed the books for slightly older audiences.

The book opens with the usual history of Captain Underpants by George and Harold, although given the six year absence, this one recaps everything that has gone before.  It also explains how in the last book, George and Harold were getting in trouble because of their evil twins from another dimension when Professor Poopypants (now named Tippy Tinkletrousers) showed up in his mechanical pants shooting ice rays at everyone.

Then Pilkey breaks the story and the animation style to introduce the banana cream pie paradox (in a very formal computer generated style of picture which really sets it apart).  In a nutshell–a man makes a banana cream pie.  He goes back in time and the tree that he got the bananas from is killed–so how can he have made the pie?  (His version is much funnier).  But the point is, be really really REALLY careful when you time travel. (more…)

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daiper2SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-Even Worse (1988).

evenAfter the slump of Polka Party, Al took a little time off and then released Even Worse.  It features his second Michael Jackson parody and this one was destined to be huge!  The song and especially the video for “Fat” was amazing–a big budget extravaganza that really captured the original (amazingly).  The jokes are awful throughout the song (every fat cliche ever) but there’s something about singing them in a Michael Jackson style that is really funny).

“Stuck in a Closet with Vanna White” is an 80’s metal type song about nightmares   It’s pretty funny and it actually rocks pretty hard–and might fool those who don’t really listen to  the lyrics.  “This Song is Just Six Words Long” is a genius parody of the dreadful George Harrison song “I’ve Got My Mind Set on You” which really is just six words long.

“You Make Me” is a funny, weird song about the kinds of crazy things that being in love makes you do.  The song is frenetic with crazy sound effects.  Wikipedia says it is a style parody of Oingo Boingo which I never would have guessed, but I can certainly see it in retrospect.

“I Think I’m a Clone Now” is a pretty fun parody of that ubiquitous Tiffany song.  “Lasagna” is a parody of La Bamba and it starts with a very proper-sounding Italian accordion Italian solo.  The song turns into a preposterous over the top Eye-talian accented song about food.  “Melanie” is a song to a girl who won’t go out with him.  Perhaps because he is a stalker (and a weirdo!).  “Alimony” is a parody of “Mony Mony,” a song I particularly dislike, but I like Al’s parody which doesn’t exactly duplicate the sound of the original.

“Velvet Elvis” is in the style of The Police and you can certainly tell, but it doesn’t hit you over the head.  And yet when you hear all of the musical details, you realize just how genius the song is.  And I find that the more I listen to it the better it sounds. And the more you know The Police, the more you should be impressed by the musicianship of Al’s band.  “Twister” is a style parody of The Beastie Boys. It’s basically a commercial for the game and it works well in the style.  It wouldn’t work if it was longer than a minute, but for what it is, it works very well (and is funny to imagine the Beastie Boys doing it (especially circa 1987).  “Good Old Days” ends the disc as a sweet James Taylor-esque ballad about how things were so good way back when.  Of course it’s written from the point of view of a serial killer, so there is that.

This album showed Al really improving his musicianship and the quality of his parodies.  And more importantly, his originals (and the style parodies  were really taking off.  Al looked like he was on a major roll.  And then he made UHF.

[READ: March 13, 2013] Super Diaper Baby 2

As this sequel opens we see that professor Krupp was not amused by George and Harold’s first Super Diaper Baby comic book.  And he demands to know why all they can write about is poo.  Their answer, logically: what else is there?  But they take the Principal’s words to heart and decide to write about something else for the sequel.

And it has some surprisingly sensitive ideas in it.  As the proper story opens, we see Super Diaper Baby and Diaper Dog come to the rescue in a number of situations.  But they realize that Billy’s dad is feeling a little bummed because the people came to him for help first but the superheros took over.  It’s not easy being the father of  superhero.  They’re not sure what they can to help Billy’s dad.

Meanwhile, Dr Dilbert Dinkle, a mad scientist, has created the Liquidator 2000.  It will change anything into water.  And he demonstrates on the wall of a bank.  He explains the machine to his evil cat, Petey, who is bored by the doctor and does nothing but mock him.  (He is quiet evil).  Petey says it’s boring being the lookout for him.  But Dr Dinkle replies that that’s a Y.P. not an M.P (your problem not my problem).  Petey is not amused by this and continues to mock the Doctor’s breath.  Then he accidentally leans on the lever and turns the doctor into a puddle of water. (more…)

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ookSOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-“Polka Party!” (1986).

Weird_Al_Yankovic_-_Polka_Party!Despite how much I loved Weird Al, I turned up my nose at this album when it came out.  I distinctly remember seeing it in the Ridgewood books and records store (records in the basement) where I bought my vinyl and dismissing the platter.  It’s a little unfair to have dismissed it based on the cover since Al was all about the accordion but I thought it was a serious polka album and I was too cool by half for that nonsense.  Interestingly, the album sold very very poorly, and I’m not sure if it was because of the cover.

As a result I don’t really know these songs all that well.  Those first three discs I listened to all the time but I didn’t get this one till much much later.  And it seems that four albums so quickly may have sapped some of Al;s creativity or at the very least eroded the good songs to parody (his more recent releases come every three years or so and they are really solid).

“Living with a Hernia” I like because the video is funny, although I did not care for the original.  “Dog Eat Dog” is a Talking Heads style parody and it’s really good–sounds a lot like the Talking Heads, although I’m not sure it’s all that funny (at least not any funnier than a Talking Heads song). Sometimes the original songs that Al parodies are so bad that I don’t want to like the parodies.  “Addicted to Spuds” is one of those songs.  The parody is very funny, but I hate the original so much that I can’t entirely enjoy this song.  “One of Those Days” is another of his earlier generic rockers (piano and simple structures that don’t lend itself to a lot of fun) and lyrically, it’s a little blah.  “Polka Party!” is what the album was named for and it’s another medley of tracks.  Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” sounds so different here, totally removed from it’s original music.  It’s amazing, though, how many of these original songs I didn’t know (what was going on in 1986?).  I do like the little sneak of INXS.  This song is also the first one where Al’s lyrics became racey because of the songs that were so popular (“Nasty,” “Venus”).

“Here’s Johnny” is  parody of  a song I don’t know at all although I can tell immediately that he sounds just like the original–he manipulated his voice perfectly.    “Don’t Wear Those Shoes” is another blah song.  Al tends to use really over the top violent imagery but it’s  unfortunate when it seems to be the only thing funny in a song like this one.  “Toothless People” is a parody of “Ruthless People” which I don’t even remember being a song.  I don’t even remember the movie being all that popular.  I couldn’t even tell who the original was by even though Al is putting on a good voice (it was Mick Jagger).  “Good Enough for Now” is a decent country song–pretty funny, and yet really not that far from country songs that you hear now (and maybe then, too–I’m not much of a country fan).

The lackluster side 2 is utterly redeemed by the fantastic and awesome “Christmas at Ground Zero” a stellar and hilarious song about nuclear panic it even includes a sample from Ronald Reagan (in the video).  Outstanding.

Overall this disc is pretty disappointing   Al took two years to make the next one and whatever he did on the break certainly worked because the next album was Even Worse!

[READ: January 22, 2013] The Adventures of Ook and Gluk Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future

This is a pretty surprising book.  It is drawn by George and Harold who made the hilarious Super Diaper Baby which was based on an incredibly childish premise.  But this book, even though the spelling is awful like when George and Harold make comics, is book is pretty smart and intense.  And very Zen.

So Ook and Gluk are cavemen.  They are in a tribe whose king is King Goppernopper (the fact that everyone gets his name wrong cracks me up, I love that kind of juvenile joke).  Goppernopper hates Ook and Gluk (the fact that he gets their names wrong and his minions help him to pronounce it is very funny as well).  Ook and Gluk rescue a dinosaur who is trapped in quicksand (and yes there is a scientists disclaimer that cavemen and dinosaurs did not live at the same time, but George and Harold offer a disclaimer that the scientist is dumb and their story tells the truth).  And the dinosaur and her baby (Lily) make the King look foolish.   The King promises revenge.

Which he gets in Chapter Two when a Goppernopper from the future comes back in a time machine to 500,001 B.C and steals natural resources from the cavemen (to sell at a huge profit in 2222 AD.  Future Goppernopper traps Ook and Gluk in the future and King Goppernopper promises to bring the rest of the cavemen to the future to work as slaves. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-Dare to Be Stupid (1985).

dareAfter In 3-D, Al came out with Dare to Be Stupid the following year.  It wasn’t quite as big a hit as In 3-D, even though it had the Madonna parody as well as a couple of really great originals–“One More Minute” and “This is the Life” (as seen sometimes in Johnny Dangerously–not on the VHS version for legal reasons, although it is on the DVD).

“Like a Surgeon” wonderfully skewers Madonna–Al doesn’t often do women’s songs, but this one fits his range very well.  “Dare to Be Stupid” is a Devo parody (well, more tribute as this is no weirder than any Devo song).  It’s a frenetic and wild song telling yo to do all the things that you were told don’t do.  Okay I can hear you now.

“I Want a New Duck” is a really lame lame parody.  It’s weird and while he fills out the nonsense pretty well, it sounds like he came up with the idea because nothing else sounded like Drug (the original is pretty stupid too, so there ya go).

But then there’s the sublime “One More Minute” a hilarious doo wop “love song” in which the backing band really shows off what they can do.  “I’m stranded all alone in the gas station of love and I have to use the self station pumps” is absolutely hilarious and a completely under appreciated line.  “Yoda” is a good parody, one that has not only held up but has been resurrected with the new Star Wars franchise.

I never understood why they did a cover of George of the Jungle, but I never watched the show so it doesn’t have any meaning for me.  “Slime Creatures from Outer Space” is a goof of a sci-fi song which doesn’t quite match the absurd heights of “Nature Trail to Hell.”  Al says that “Girls Just Want to Have Lunch” is his least favorite parody (the label asked him to do Cyndi Lauper) and it’s really not very good–again, the song was too goofy to mess around with that much, but even in his recording it’s not very convincing (and he returned to the hand farts) the way that he and the backing vocalists are singing even sounds like they are disdainful of the song.

“This is the Life” was commissioned for Johnny Dangerously and he really ups his game for it–lots of genre jokes and a really good quality of recording.  “Cable TV” is a pretty uninspired song about TV (which is surprising given how many songs he has written about TV) which has an awful sax solo–joke or not it’s bad.  “Hooked on Polkas” is the second of his mashups of songs.  The banjo version of “Sharp Dressed Man” is cool as is the use of the sounds from Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart” there’s also some pop metal Twisted Sister and Quiet Riot–and where else would you hear Quiet Riot next to Frankie Goes to Hollywood?

All in all some hits and misses.  And yes, maybe this stuff was funnier  in the 80s?

[READ: February 22, 2013] Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People 

I can’t believe how much I enjoyed this story   The first few Underpants books were silly and a funny way to make a story about a guy in his underwear.  But as the series has progressed it has gotten far more complex with fascinating twists and recurring characters (and how does he keep a storyline fresh in his head three years later?).

So Booger Boy Part 2 actually ended in the middle of a cliffhanger (but this one is not a Part 3 because the Booger Boy is no longer relevant).  Rather, when we left George and Harold they were in the purple potty time machine with Sulu the hamster and Crackers the pterodactyl and they were hurtling…. somewhere.

When they exit the potty, they are in the library, but the library is full of books!  The exact opposite of their own school library (and the librarian is even holding a copy of Mommy has Two Heathers.  In fact everything is the opposite–the school is encouraging creativity  the teachers are nice and Principal Krupp is happy to see everyone   It’s really weird.  Especially when the boys see themselves across the school.   And they turn out to be…evil!  Yes Evil George and Evil Harold look like normal George and Harold do, but they do things that are evil (they change sign letters to read anarchy rules…yipes). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-“I Can Be a Frog” on Yo Gabba Gabba ( 2010).

gabbaThe Flaming Lips make songs about all kinds of things.  This track, from Embryonic, always had a feel of a kid’s song.  So much so that when they modified it for Yo Gabba Gabba, they merely changed the word “She” to the more inclusive “You.”

You can be a frog / You can be a bat / You can be a bear / Or you can be a cat

This version sounds very similar to the record, but it’s really fun to see the guys playing on the hugely cartoonish instruments.  I also like when they pull back to show DJ Lance and his pals  dancing along (they dance very well for creatures in large costumes).

I’ve always been a little sad that my kids didn’t like this show.


[READ: February 22, 2013] Ricky Ricotta Books 1-3

Ricky Ricotta is a book series that Dav Pilkey created (with Pictures by Martin Ontiveros) in the middle of the Captain Underpants series (the guy never rests!).  He has nine books planned for the series (one for each planet).  This series is aimed at a younger audience than the Captain and is less “naughty.”  Ricky is a mouse who wishes he had a friend.  He is also picked on by bullies at school.  His parents tell him that one day something big will happen to him.  And indeed, one day something big does happen to him.

The evil mad scientist Dr Stinky has created a robot and wants it to destroy the earth.  But the robot doesn’t want to.  So the evil scientist blasts it with a laser ray.  Ricky sees the whole thing and he kicks a kickball at the scientist, making him drop and smash the ray gun.  Ricky and the Mighty Robot become friends.  Indeed the robot becomes Ricky’s best friend.  The robot immediately gets the bullies to stop picking on Ricky (without harming anyone).  And Ricky is happy for the first time.

But soon Dr Stinky is back for revenge.  He blasts the classroom iguana turning it into a huge, vicious monster which goes on a rampage.  Mighty Robot and the iguana fight (in Flip-O-Rama!).  By the end of the book the bad guy is punished and the iguana is restored to its normal self.  There is no indication of a continuation of the story (like in Captain Underpants), although we know from the back of the book that he has a while series planned. (more…)

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