Weird Al Yankovic Career-Spanning Box Set, Squeeze Box: Should You Buy It?

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By Scott Muller
 
“Weird Al” Yankovic’s career-spanning box set is available to preorder at PledgeMusic.
 
As a nearly-lifelong fan of “Weird Al.” I’d like to take a little bit of time to tell you about why should invest the money in a preorder, and give you a little bit of information about what you’re purchasing.
 
“Weird Al” released his first self-titled album in 1983. I didn’t hop on the “Weird Al” train until fifth grade in 1988, when I heard Al’s fifth album, Even Worse at my friend Josh Becky’s birthday party. I remember hearing “Lasagna” and thinking, “Hey, that guy’s singing La Bamba, but about Italian food!” I couldn’t stop laughing. I was hooked.
 
I’ve attended nearly a dozen “Weird Al” concerts. I have almost every “Weird Al” album on tape, CD, and download. I’ve seen UHF (“Weird Al’s” completely underrated 1989 feature film) nearly 50 times. I remember the “Al-TV” episodes that MTV used to air when they actually cared about music. “Weird Al” has even signed my bald head. His music has, without exaggeration, been the soundtrack of my life. Whether I’ve been playing video games in high school, commuting to college, driving to work, or just sitting around after a bad day, “Weird Al” has been there.
 
Hysterically, every time “Weird Al” releases an album, people make a comment about how he’s making a comeback. The funny thing is, he never really goes anywhere. When you base your music on pop culture and what’s popular at the time, it takes time to compile an album full of songs. He’s never making a comeback; in fact, he’s been far more successful than many of the artists he’s parodied (Gerardo, Coolio, Nellie, and James Blunt all come to mind); he’s always around, watching and waiting for the, “next big thing,” to lampoon.
 
So, why should you spend the money on Al’s career-spanning box set? Well, for the same reason I just mentioned; “Weird Al” is the soundtrack of a lifetime, no matter how long that life may be. His music covers every genre and every decade, from the 80s to the 10s…over 30 years! You might not love everything on every album, but there’s bound to be something you like. You might also gain a greater appreciation for some of Al’s original stuff, which is extraordinarily underrated. Songs such as Dare to Be Stupid (from the album of the same name), Waffle King (from Alapalooza), When I Was Your Age (from Off the Deep End), and Skipper Dan (from Alpocalypse) are solid on their own merit and aren’t parodies like most people are used to hearing from Al. In addition to getting all of his albums, the box set comes in a nifty faux accordion packaging (hence the Squeeze Box moniker) and includes a collector’s book and an extra album of rarities. Toss in a t-shirt and some other tchotchkes, and you have a real treat for “Weird Al” fans and a cool piece of music history.
 
However, I think for a real understanding of what Squeeze Box really means, I should give you a rundown of the albums that are included, along with a brief review, highlights, and score for each album. You’ll be amazed at what Al has accomplished over his nearly 40-year career.
 
This list doesn’t include compilations or appearances on other albums.
 

“Weird Al” Yankovic (1983)

 
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Al’s first album, and it probably hasn’t aged well to most people, but its main tracks (Ricky, I Love Rocky Road, and Another One Rides the Bus) are still pretty funny. This album contains Al’s first “produced” song, My Bologna, which Al recorded in a bathroom at his college. This is a great bit of nostalgia, but it probably won’t convince you to become a “Weird Al” fanatic.
 

Score (from 1 to 10): 6

 

My Three Favorite Songs: Ricky, I Love Rocky Road, and Stop Draggin’ My Car Around

 

“Weird Al” Yanovic in 3-D (1984)

 
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This was one of the high points of Al’s career, as Eat It put him on the map (and won him a Grammy). The album is pretty spectacular from top to bottom, boasting great parodies (Eat It and King of Suede) and some pretty funny original stuff (Nature Trail to Hell, In 3-D is a treat). This album is my second favorite and still a regular listen.
 

Score (from 1 to 10): 10

 
My Three Favorite Songs: The Brady Bunch, King of Suede, Theme from Rocky XIII (Rye or the Kaiser)
 

Dare to Be Stupid (1985)

 
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A really good follow up to In 3-D, this album is solid from top to bottom. This is the first time a non-parody, Dare to Be Stupid, was a real high point of the album. The Devo-inspired song was pretty much an anthem for “Weird Al” fans (until White & Nerdy came along) and was a spectacular song. There are a couple weak spots (the George of the Jungle cover is one of Al’s weaker offerings), but overall, this album is a really good, if not spectacular, listen.
 

Score (from 1 to 10): 8

 

My Three Favorite Songs: Dare to Be Stupid, Girls Just Wanna’ Have Lunch, I Want a New Duck

 

Polka Party! (1986)

 
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While Al has mentioned in interviews that this album was somewhat rushed out to capitalize on his momentum, I actually like this one quite a bit. While the leading track, Living with a Hernia, isn’t one that non-fans would recognize, it’s still pretty funny (and the video is really good), there really isn’t a weak song on the roster. Also, Dog Eat Dog, a style parody of The Talking Heads, and Christmas at Ground Zero, are two of his best non-parodies. I thoroughly enjoy this album, even though it’s not one that non-fans would really remember.
 

Score (from 1 to 10): 8

 

My Three Favorite Songs: Living with a Hernia, Dog Eat Dog, Here’s Johnny

 

Even Worse (1988)

 
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This is where I came in on the career of “Weird Al.” That being said, the album is still pretty great, with Fat being another Al high point. The video is still pretty much the pinnacle of the parody genre. Other great songs on this album include parodies I Think I’m a Clone Now, (This Song’s Just) Six Words Long (a great parody of George Harrison’s Got My Mind Set On You) and Lasagna and originals Melanie and Good Old Days. There are a couple clunkers mixed in (Alimony, a parody of Mony, Mony and Twister are pretty weak), but I’m willing to forgive the bad for mostly sentimental reasons.
 

Score (from 1 to 10): 8

 

My Three Favorite Songs: I Think I’m a Clone Now, (This Song’s Just) Six Words Long, Lasagna

 

UHF – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff (1989)

 
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The title of this album should’ve been reversed, as the soundtrack portion of this album isn’t exactly stunning. The song UHF isn’t terrible, but the video is a must-watch if you’re a fan of “Weird Al,” as he parodies about a dozen popular acts. The only high point of the soundtrack of UHF is the absolutely fantastic Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies parody. The rest of the album is a mixed bag, highlighted by a few great parodies and a couple really good originals (including the rambling, but fun, The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota). A lack of high points and some throw-away content brings down the score on this album.
 

Score (from 1 to 10): 6

 

My Three Favorite Songs: Isle Thing, Spam, The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota

 

Off the Deep End (1992)

 
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The three years between this album and the previous one were sort of scary for me because I thought “Weird Al” was done. However, I’ve heard in interviews that Al was just waiting for the “next big thing” and that turned out to be Nirvana. Smells Like Nirvana was a pretty damned good song and it was worth the wait. Again, if you haven’t seen the video, it’s amazing how good (and oddly accurate) it is. Al even hired the same janitor to reprise his role (and don a tutu). For the most part, this album is aces, with only a couple tracks of which I’m not a fan. However, the highs are far better than the lows, and this album ranks as one of my favorites.

Score (from 1 to 10): 9

 

My Three Favorite Songs: Smells Like Nirvana, Taco Grande, When I Was Your Age

 

Alapalooza (1993)

 
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This is the last time Al would do albums in back-to-back years, and while this isn’t an album a lot of non-fans or casual fans would remember, this is one of my real favorites. This would get a 10 from me if not for two stinker tracks (Harvey the Wonder Hamster and She Never Told Me She Was a Mime). Otherwise, this album has some great parodies and originals, and a clever polka version of Bohemian Rhapsody. How can you go wrong with that?
 

Score (from 1 to 10): 9

 

My Three Favorite Songs: Frank’s 2000” TV, Jurassic Park, Livin’ in the Fridge

 

Bad Hair Day (1996)

 
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This was a return to the spotlight for “Weird Al,” as Amish Paradise became a popular song and video, even for folks that weren’t fans of Al. This album is super strong from top to bottom, with only a few not great (but not overly terrible) songs. This album has two second tier Al songs that are absolutely amazing: Cavity Search (a parody of U2’s Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me) and the original The Night Santa Went Crazy. Add this to the incredible title track and this album is in my top three.
 

Score (from 1 to 10): 10

 

My Three Favorite Songs: Cavity Search, Gump, Amish Paradise

 

Running with Scissors (1999)

 
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This was an odd album for Al, with his main track being a parody of an older song (American Pie) with a modern twist (the new Star Wars trilogy). The Saga Begins was a strong start to a mostly good album. As always, there are a few weak spots (the theme to “Weird Al’s short-lived television show and an original song about a cross-dressing trucker) that aren’t my favorites, but the rest of the album, containing a Barenaked Ladies parody (Jerry Springer) and a fantastic parody of Puff Daddy (It’s All About the Pentiums, which was accompanied by one of Al’s best videos) bring up the score. This is a great jumping in point because there really aren’t any horrible weaknesses.
 

Score (from 1 to 10): 8

 

My Three Favorite Songs: Jerry Springer, It’s All About the Pentiums, Grapefruit Diet

 

Poodle Hat (2003)

 
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At first, I wasn’t in love with this album. There are a couple tracks that I don’t love as much as the rest of the “Weird Al” fanbase (Genius in France and Wanna B Ur Lovr are not among my favorites), but this album still has some great stuff on it, and I’ve grown to like it a little bit more. Trash Day (an awesome parody of Nelly’s Hot in Herre) and A Complicated Song (a parody of Complicated by Avril Lavigne and one of my favorite Al songs ever) balance out the problem spots. The real problems for me are the main track, Couch Potato (a parody of Lose Yourself by Eminem), which just doesn’t seem to be as good as it could, and the polka medley (which focuses on “angry white boy” music). Neither of these efforts are as strong as other albums. I don’t hate this album, but it isn’t one of my favorites.
 

Score (from 1 to 10): 6

My Three Favorite Songs: Trash Day, A Complicated Song, Ode to a Superhero

 

Straight Outta Lynwood (2006)

 
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This was another “comeback” album for Al because it contained what was arguably one of his greatest hits, the nerd anthem White & Nerdy. As a true “Weird Al” fan, this album isn’t one of my favorites, despite having some really great songs on it, including Confessions Part III (a parody of Usher’s Confessions Part II) and Trapped in the Drive-Thru (a parody of Trapped in the Closet by R. Kelly). The polka medley on this album is pretty great, as well. However, Weasel Stomping day, one of my two or three least favorite Al songs, and a couple other clunkers make this album a little less than stellar.
 

Score (from 1 to 10): 6

My Three Favorite Songs: Confessions Part III, Trapped in the Drive Thru, White & Nerdy

Alpocalypse (2011)

 
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Oddly, this is my favorite “Weird Al” album from top to bottom. There isn’t a single song on this album that I skip. Many fans wouldn’t agree; this album got a mixed reception from users on Metacritic…mostly folks who haven’t been with Al from the get go. For me, it’s not so much that any one song is super strong (Perform This Way is a really good, but not fantastic first track), but the fact that nothing on the album is bad. I’d be hard pressed to name my least favorite song. I’ll admit that the songs Al chose to parody aren’t exactly classics, but that’s music in general these days. The parodies are good, the originals are solid, and the polka medley is one of his best. I really like this album, and recommend it for the younger nerds looking to relate to “Weird Al.”
 

Score (from 1 to 10): 10

 

My Three Favorite Songs: Skipper Dan, Party in the CIA, TMZ

 

Mandatory Fun (2014)

 
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“Weird Al’s” final album (well, he’s said it’s his final full album) isn’t his best, but it isn’t terrible. There are some high points (Handy, a parody of Iggy Azalea’s Fancy) and some not-so-high points (Sports Song is funny precisely one time and then is totally skippable), and perhaps my least favorite long-form Al Song, Jackson Park Express, but all in all, this album isn’t horrible. Again, music these days isn’t laden with songs that are going to be classics, so it’s hard for me to fault Al here. As a technical writer, I do have to give major kudos to Word Crimes (a parody of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines), which could be one of my favorite “Weird Al” songs ever. The originals on this album show some crazy range, with style parodies ranging from southern-fried rock to Crosby, Stills, and Nash. It’s a shame this is Al’s last album because it’s not my favorite, but it’s still a good effort with some fun stuff on it.
 

Score (from 1 to 10): 6

 

My Three Favorite Songs: Word Crimes, Handy, First World Problems

 
Well, that about covers Al’s discography from beginning to (hopefully not the) end. The Squeeze Box set is available for pre-order until the end of February and really is an awesome compilation of music from an artist who has outlasted many of the acts he’s parodied. He’s a true musical powerhouse, despite the fact that many would dismiss him as just being, “white and nerdy.” Take it from a fan of over 30 years, “Weird Al” is amazing performer, a good person, and an extremely clever pop culture icon that has created a catalog of music that’s worth listening to. Do yourself a favor and take a listen…you might just find out that you’re a little white and nerdy, too.
 
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    One Comment

  1. SharlzGFebruary 23rd, 2017 at 2:15 am

    I’ll be honest.. I really want this… but I really can’t justify it, even as amazing as it is.

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