If everything were right in the world, 11-year-olds would be all over Poodle Hat, ”Weird Al” Yankovic’s new CD. His smart songs feed their appetite for gross-out humor without veering into the obscene or talking down to them. Once upon a time, ”Eat It,” along with MAD magazine and a solid collection of Garbage Pail Kids, was an essential part of healthy immaturity.
But Yankovic can’t connect with a market raised on South Park and Eminem. The new role models lure ever-younger fans with an equally smart but jaded, foulmouthed outlook, forcing kids to abandon goofy fun long before they should have to. It’s hard to imagine today’s tough tykes choosing Yankovic’s ”Couch Potato,” a rant about channel surfing set to the tune of ”Lose Yourself,” over the real Slim Shady.
Ironically, Yankovic is one of the few musicians who play with words and pop culture as deftly as Eminem. On ”Couch Potato,” he chronicles televised inanity, including ”the rise and decline of 12 actors named Corey” and ”James Lipton discussing the oeuvre of Mr. Rob Schneider.” When he complains, ”I only watched Will & Grace one time one day/Wish I hadn’t ‘cause TiVo now thinks I’m gay,” it sounds like it could be an Eminem lyric.
But not everything is so inventive. As always, Yankovic mixes parodies (he also tackles Nelly’s ”Hot in Herre” and Avril’s ”Complicated”) with corny up-tempo originals full of noisome effects and clownish voices that would make even the widest eyes roll. At least he reprises his signature polka medley, this time condensing Papa Roach’s ”Last Resort,” Disturbed’s ”Down With the Sickness,” and other recent hits into one accordion-fronted sing-along that exposes the songs for the pretentious rock babble they are.