“Weird Al” Yankovic will never jump the shark—Weird Al is the shark. The giddy epitome of uncool, he swims merrily in the shallow currents of the currently hip, and when he sinks his teeth into one of your songs, you’re just so much chum on the charts, pal. (Listen to any Coolio lately?) And so, like the clichés of Capistrano, Al returns year after year with his goofy takes on whatever it is that’s driving the kids wild. You may reliably expect Al to make an appearance on the 2047 MTV Music Video Awards, offering one of his polka medleys of the Top 10 sounds recorded by the children of Justin and Xtina or Pink and 50 Cent. By that time, Al will be greeted as the next Tony Bennett—or whatever it is that Ozzy has become. So maybe Eminem was smart to refuse Al rights to parody the video of “Lose Yourself.” But at least we have Al’s audio take on the Mathers classic: “Couch Potato”—another of the jokester’s list songs, basically a rhyming reading of TV Guide. Elsewhere, the new Poodle Hat cut-and-pastes from the Clear Channel rotation list—Avril (“A Complicated Song”), Nelly (“Trash Day”), various rap-metal stars (“Angry White Boy Polka”)—but it also turns Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” into “Ode to a Superhero,” a fairly witty deconstruction of the Spider-Man saga. The laugh-out-loud genius track is Al’s dismissal of Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way”: “EBay” neatly captures that curious bidding madness—who hasn’t clicked to regret?—and is three-and-a-half minutes of zeitgeist with multitracked harmony. Of the originals, the cleverest is “Bob,” a mélange of palindromes in Dylan patois. As usual, Al’s stellar backup band nails the covers. Unusually, Poodle Hat also includes celebrity guests: Dweezil apes father Frank on guitar for the Zappalike “Genius in France,” and Ben Folds plays on the brightly dark “Why Does This Always Happen to Me?” Hints of future Al endeavors? Sinatra’s Duets taken to an even more illogical extreme? We can only hope. —Dave Nuttycombe