YaK:: WebLog #535 Topic : 2006-10-12 00.31.43 matt : album review : Weird Al Yankovic, "Straight Outta Lynwood" [Changes]   [Calendar]   [Search]   [Index]   [PhotoTags]   
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album review: Weird Al Yankovic, "Straight Outta Lynwood"

Finally an artist and record company understands that providing more value in the physical product is the way to get people to buy it. The album's pretty good, too!

I've been a Weird Al fan for a long time. I can't remember which album I had first, or how I got it. I think it was the in 3-D tape that my dad had a used version of in his record store. It was funny and weird, I was immediately a fan. (At Karaoke the other night, a friend and I sang "Beat It" together.) Even then, while I found the parodies amusing, I always thought Al was at his best with original compositions and "style parodies". The new album, Straight Outta Lynwood, gives a good helping of both and then some. The then some is the 6 animated videos and production mini-documentary included on the DVD side of this DualDisc release.

For those that don't know, DualDisc is a combination CD and DVD, with the CD on one side and the DVD on the other. The DVD side generally contains the album in stereo and 5.1 surround (sometimes 48khz) and some EPK-like material and other extras. Note that this isn't DVD Audio, which allows for 24-bit High Definition audio in various stereo and surround configurations. Most DVD Audio releases also included standard definition Stereo and Surround mixes with extras as well as the High Definition mixes. DualDiscs don't do that, which I think is really a shame and it keeps me from buying more of them. I don't know why a 16-bit 44khz Dolby Digital 5.1 and a 24-bit 48khz DTS 5.1 album can't fit on a single-layer DVD along with some short video extras. If there isn't a surround mix, like on this Franz Ferdinand DualDisc , they could at least include a 24-bit 48khz stereo mix. I don't know why they include a PCM Stereo version of the album on the DVD side of all these DualDiscs; if people wanted to listen to that, that's what the CD side is for! On a side note, Goldfrapp did it right with their last album . It included a *real* DVD Audio disc with 24-bit mixes and nice video supplements, some of which are anamorphic widescreen. Anyways, DualDiscs are a step in the right direction -- they just need to go a little further IMO.

Now onto the content of this DualDisc, starting with the music. All the songs are either downright funny or at the very least amusing, so just assume that while I focus on the music. The opening track, White & Nerdy, is brilliant. It's funny and has a nifty vocal effect that is enhanced by the 5.1 mix on the DVD side. I've never heard the original, but I can imagine it is diverges culturally from the content of Al's parody. The next track called 'Pancreas', which I really like, is a style parody of Brian Wilson , who I have been a big fan of since I was very little. This is where Al's real musical genius is shown just from a reverse engineering standpoint. If you know Brian Wilson's music (even just from the opening song for HBO TV show Big Love or the movie Saved! ), then you can appreciate this awesome recreation of his compositional style. Another original, "I'll Sue Ya" is a great rockin' and funny song. The bass line could've used a little fuzz and extra boominess durign the verse, but it grew on me after a few listens. "Virus Alert", yet another original, has some interesting vocal work at the beginning. "Do I Creep You Out?" (a parody) is probably the weakest song on the album, in my opinion. It also made me aware of an overall problem on the album -- on several tracks, the vocals are a tad too high in the mix. I can understand the need for the words to be comprehensible as that's where the entertainment is mostly extracted from, but it doesn't seem necessary for it to be as loud in the mix to that end in some cases. Anyways, every album has it's runt and this song is it for me. "Don't Download This Song" is a great post-modern hymn/anthem, for those of us who appreciate such humor. The 5.1 mix of it is pretty cool, too.

Onto the DVD side, which has the album in 2.0 stereo and 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, 6 (yes, *SIX*) animated music videos by tip-top famous animators, and a nice mini-documentary about the recording process. Of the music videos, my favorite is the one done by Robot Chicken for the song "Weasel Stomping Day". After you see the video, the song takes on a new level of amusement. The others, by awesome animators like Bill Plympton and John K. are also good, but didn't grab me as much for some reason even though I'm a big fan of most of them. The mini-documentary on the recording and production of the album was the real highlight for me. I'm always fascinated to see other musicians in the studio, and I learned a couple of things from the mini-documentary. For those who aren't nerds like me, it's also pretty interesting and also pretty short. I, for one, hope that an extended version gets released on Al's web site or somewhere.

In summary, this DualDisc is a fantastic value. All the songs are amusing and the new original songs are musically decent, but the real star is the bonus video content on the DVD side. Highly recommended for buying and supporting an artist and label who understand that adding value is the key to responding to piracy issues and other market forces.


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