Day Thirty-Two: "Slime Creatures From Outer Space" from Dare To Be Stupid
I would like to take a moment to thank “Weird Al” Yankovic for being interesting enough to sustain a project this insanely obsessive and comprehensive. At this point I’ve written thirty two columns running about forty thousand words in total and I would have absolute nothing left to say with most artists at this stage. Yet Al’s oeuvre, especially in the 1980s, when he was doing some of his best and most important work, is a gift that keeps on giving, and while I may be feeling a little fatigued, that has more to do with the demands of writing and running this website than it does about Al’s albums.
I’m also grateful that Al is a deliberate and meticulous artist who continuously revisits the same themes and motifs. So when he released a song called “Slime Creatures From Outer Space” it could be understood within the context of Al’s longstanding obsession with trash culture, particularly gory and silly and blood-engorged genre movies from the 50s and 60s, as well as his love for the simpatico sensibilities of the B-52s.
Al paid homage to Fred Schneider and the gang most reverently and directly on “Mr. Popeil” from In 3-D but the band’s proudly trashy spirit also informs that album’s “Nature Trail To Hell” and In 3-D’s “Slime Creatures From Outer Space.” The songs are so simpatico in spirit that “Slime Creatures From Outer Space” feels like a spiritual sequel to “Nature Trail To Hell”, or at least a follow-up.
Al’s mind was on the pop charts, but as betrayed by the fact that two singles from Dare To Be Stupid doubled as singles from soundtrack albums—“This Is The Life” from Johnny Dangerously and the title track, from The Transformers: The Movie—Al’s mind was also very much on movies.
He had perfected the art of making funny little movies for MTV in the form of music videos and was dabbling in longer-form narrative filmmaking in the form of the mockumentary The Complete Al, which was released the same year as Dare To Be Stupid. UHF—a movie about TV, appropriately enough—lurked somewhere on the horizon but the movie-mad Al was making little movies in purely audio forms in the form of “Nature Trail To Hell” and “Slime Creatures From Outer Space.”
Over an insistent drum beat and sci-fi spooky (is there any either kind?) theremin from Al, the song's narrator shares how “things just haven’t been the same since the flying saucers came!” Needless to say, things have taken a decided turn for the worse. A series of atom bombs failed to ward them off (generally a bad sign) and instead of being the “We come in peace” kind of friendly, E.T-lovable aliens they were instead, according to a chagrined Al, “ugly they were mean, biggest heads I’d ever seen, they made everybody scream and shout/First they leveled Tokyo, then New York was next to go.”
Our singer is understandably peeved. “Boy I really wish they’d cut it out!” he insists, in a slightly understated if understandable fit of pique. Al has always been good at drawing vivid pictures with words and the crazily over-the-top science fiction invasion epic he whips up here demands to be projected on a fifty foot drive-in screen in the 1950s, preferably in 3-D if not full-on Cinerama.
But it’s also a song that finds a campy, delirious joy in the prospect of apocalyptic destruction, a surprisingly persistent theme in Al’s oeuvre. Al and his collaborators compose an all too vivid world full of giant-headed monsters with “death-ray eyes” they use to “blow you up real good.”
If “Slime Creatures From Outer Space” is cinematic, it also calls to mind another similarly delirious exercise in day-glow pop-art parody: Tim Burton’s Topps-derived science fiction goof Mars Attacks! I was lukewarm on the film when I first saw it. I think I expected it to be funnier but I’ve come to appreciate it more with each passing year and “Slime Creatures From Outer Space” captures what’s so funny and weird and brazenly, boldly, satirically American about the big-budget science fiction comedy.
Humanity seems doomed, to be perfectly honest, what with these evil monsters reproducing in the sewers and whatnot, but the singer still manages to keep a sense of priorities. He’s miffed at the evil space aliens because, in his words, “They’re not very nice to the human race” and “sure could use some manicures” but also because their penchant for blasting everything they encounter could seriously mess up his apartment and he “just shampooed the rug.”
It can be tough navigating your way through some manner of space alien apocalypse but our boy is doing his best, even as he never stop impugning the character of these malevolent space monsters. “They’ll rip your head off just for fun/They’ll paralyze your mind/they’re wearing out their welcome/I don’t I like their kind” he croons with sly comic understatement.
“They’re an intergalactic disgrace!” Al concludes before more explicitly channeling Fred Schneider’s sing-song talk-yell to inquire, “Where did they come from?”, “What do they want from us?” and “Why don’t they leave me alone?”
The theremin goes a long way towards establishing a campy 1950s science fiction atmosphere but the production is full of loving little touches, like distorted back-up vocals that sound like space aliens, or at least someone with a really strong space alien accent.
“Slime Creatures From Outer Space” is yet another upbeat sounding song about something terrible happening. It’s fascinating for how snugly it fits into Al’s work and sensibility but it’s a lot of fun in its own right, in addition to foreshadowing Al’s eventual evolution from making little movies for MTV and his albums to making the kind of movies audiences have to pay money to see.
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