In 1983, the Circle Jerks released their third album, Golden Shower of Hits. The title track was a pastiche of AM gold by the likes of the Carpenters and the Starland Vocal Band, counterpointed by the punk-rock stylings of the Hermosa Beach-based band. It was an exquisite end to an exquisite album, an album many hardcore fans consider the last “real” Circle Jerks record before the departure of original rhythm section Roger Rogerson (bass) and Lucky Lehrer (drums). The band would go on to record many more albums, but musically and stylistically, Golden Shower of Hits marks a departure point for them as a band.
Enter the year 1984, and the release of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s In 3-D album. The track “Polkas on 45” is a medley of popular favorites including the Who, the Clash, and Devo, only this time done in the style of traditional polka music. Whether or not Yankovic was aware of the Circle Jerks’ jaunt into similar territory is unknown; however, Yankovic has followed this up by including a like medley on nearly every album he has recorded since, intent on applying this basic premise to the evolving tastes of mainstream pop.
Like much of Yankovic’s fare, these medleys are not meant to be taken overtly seriously, but as more of a light-hearted jab at the songs being parodied. But there is something of a biting edge here, and that becomes more apparent when someone like Aaron Roszczewski edits the original videos to fit the form of “The Angry White Boy Polka” from Yankovic’s 2003 Poodle Hat album, and posts it on YouTube. The glib seriousness with which such acts like Papa Roach or Disturbed approach their radio-friendly songs is made even more hilariously apparent when against a backdrop of music that has not been popular since the Lawrence Welk generation.
If the job of the satirist is to point out that the emperor has no clothes, then “Weird Al” Yankovic has got fashion tips for all of pop music.
// Notes from the Road
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