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Entries in Weezer (8)

Wednesday
Dec242014

2014 Year in Review: Taylor Swift, Ryan Adams, Future Islands, and What Wasn't the Album of the Year?

 

A lot happened in music in 2014.  Right?  What?  Huh?  You know something I learned in 2014 about music?  It's really hard to keep up with music these days.  I pride myself on following music and I didn't even know who Sia was until about three months ago.  Think you did better?  Just look at Stereogum's Top 50 Albums of 2014 or Pitchfork's Top 100 Songs... recognize them?  Recognize half of them?  Then you're doing pretty good in my book.

Even with my limited knowledge, I was able to catch some of the bigger happenings in music this year.

- Taylor Swift continued her steel fisted reign over the American music world, holding record sales hostage until she was damn good and ready to release her album in October.  She dented her legacy slightly when she thought she was worthy of representing New York City (Bodegas are NOT your friend, Taylor).

- War on Drugs had a kind of sort of fued with Sun Kil Moon singer Mark Kozelek, that was really mostly just Kozelek hurling insults while War on Drugs mostly ignored him.  How did it end?  With Kozelek releasing a song called "War on Drugs Suck My Cock" and War on Drugs having on of the best albums of the year, "Lost in a Dream." (Kozelek's own album, "Benji" wasn't bad either).

- Charli XCX and Kitten both finally released LPs this year that didn't quite live up to their previous singles and smaller ventures.

- Run the Jewels (Rap duo and partners in name puns: Killer Mike and El-P) put out two albums but it was the second, "Run the Jewels 2", a nitroglycerin doused, subversive, anthem that launched the group from America's radio into the country's social consciousness.

- U2 gave people a pretty good album for free, and everyone bitched about it.  (Rolling Stone's Album of the Year).

- Weezer made yet another comeback album, but this time it was something worth coming back for.

- Ryan Adams double dipped this year producing one of the best albums of the year in Jenny Lewis' "The Voyager" and releasing one of his own that was even better.

- Mac Demarco is a guy who exists that I guess you should start listening to.

- Against Me! released their first album since their lead singer's highly publicized sex change operation.  The aptly titled, "Gender Dysphoria Blues" landed in many Top 20 Albums lists.


- Future Islands head bobbed their way from Letterman into the mainstream and released what I am going to call the SECOND BEST Album of the Year.

Wednesday
Oct082014

Rating Grantland's Rating of Weezer

For the Grantland article rating all things Weezer click HERE.

For about a year or so now the sports and popculture website Grantland, of which I am a big fan, has run a column called "_________ Overrated, Underrated, or Rated Right", sound familiar?

Now, I'm not claiming somebody at Grantland saw my website and decided to steal my concept (because I don't think they did).  Is it possible they saw the site and thought they'd incorporate the idea in their own writing?  Yeah sure.  But even that I kind of doubt.  

While many may try to rate the pop culture catalogue of the world, only I can do it with the refined snark that the common people love.

But this time they went and tackled a favorite topic of mine:  Weezer.

Yes, with the release of Weezer's new album, resident Grantland music man, Steven Hyden, took it upon himself to rate the various albums and phases and past times of Weezer.  Being the student of the bespectacled rock band that I am, I could not sit idly by with out throwing my hat into the ring.

*note* I'm only going to give basic breakdowns explaining why I disagree or agree with Hyden's take on things here as I've already shared my feelings on Weezer several, SEVERAL times on Rated Wrong, including on a Gentlemen's DisAgreement podcast.  Just search Weezer in the search bar if you're curious.

First, the picture.  Classic pop-art colorscheme Grantland uses for a lot of their pieces.  It looks good.  What I really love about it is that House Greyjoy shirt Scott Shriner is rockin' at the top center of the collage.  Game of Thrones and Weezer, it does not get any better than this folks.

Hyden then opens up talking about Weezer's recent history and decline.  It's all pretty standard "they aren't what they used to be" Weezer fan lamentation stuff.  One thing that caught my attention:

All this subtext is pushed to the forefront of Weezer’s latest LP, Everything Will Be Alright in the End. The album plays like an extended apologia to wearied long-term followers, a conciliatory box of chocolates packaged as a “return to rock” nostalgia move. "Don’t want to pander to the masses anymore," Cuomo pledges on "I’ve Had It Up to Here"...

Just as I was reading this paragraph, I was listening to Everything Will Be Alright In the End (EWBAITE) and that exact line from "I've Had It Up to Here" played.  Freaky.

In this opening ramble most of what Hyden says isn't very controversial among Weezer fans, but he gives a one line review of EWBAITE that I wanted to address:

What’s different on Everything Will Be Alright in the End is that Cuomo has stopped trying to reinvent Weezer’s future and has moved on to reliving Weezer’s past.

He then goes on to assert that this is depressing.

I could not disagree more.  I do not think EWBAITE is the sound of Weezer retreading their past.  Rather, it is the sound of them linking with their past in order to evolve and move forward.  Songs like "The British Are Coming", "Foolish Father", and the "The Futurescop Trilogy" have notes in them (much like a good wine has "notes") that remind you of Weezer's early days, but you would never have found those songs on Blue or Pinkerton.

Way off base, Hyden.  Like - you got caught stealing by the pitcher - off.

Then he starts with the albums, live shows, b-side, and everything else.

*note*  The italicized quotes are Hyden, the bold text and explanation is my assessment of his assessment.

His thoughts on Weezer (1994):

It’s the best guitar-pop record of its era, hands down.

Rated Right.

His thoughts on Pinkerton:

It’s obviously great, but in my mind it will always be inferior to the Blue Album, which is not how history seems to remember it. Therefore, I must declare it to be ever-so-slightly overrated.

Rated Right.  In fact, I'm starting to wonder if Hyden is just copying my articles on Weezer because our opinions are very close so far.

His thoughts on Weezer (2001):

The Green Album makes you feel so fine you can’t control your brain, possibly because your brain is on sleep mode.

He means that in a good way.  Rated Right.

His thoughts on Maladroit:

...it is riff-centric near-metal that out-Kisses any Kiss record released after 1978. 

He says the album is underrated, which I agree with, but he gives the album a little too much credit as Weezer struggled to identify their sound with Maladroit.  Hyden called EWBAITE a failed attempt to do what Maladroit accomplished, when in truth, it is the other way around.  Rated Right - Then Wrong.

His thoughts on Make Believe:

The awfulness of Make Believe tends to be overrated by those who haven’t experienced the true dregs of Weezer’s discography.

He calls it underrated.  Hyden really goes to bat for Make Believe, and it does have a few good songs ("Haunt You Every Day", "This is Such a Pity") but he labels the sophmoric "Perfect Situation" as their last great single and sites "We Are All on Drugs" - maybe the worst song in the entirety of the Weezer catalogue - as a quality song.  Rated Wrong.


His thoughts on Weezer (2008):

Is the Red Album a joke or just incoherent? Either way, it made me feel like an asshole for liking Weezer.

Hyden hates this one.  I think the problem here, a problem that many people run into when judging Weezer's Red album, is that they ignore the bonus tracks.  The album proper is pretty ho-hum and "Heart Songs" is pretty crappy (though I don't think it is "The worst Weezer song of all time" as Hyden states), but the bonus tracks are fantastic.  "Pig", "Miss Sweeney" and "It's Easy" are some of the best songs Weezer put out in the last 15 years.  For Hyden to ignore this can only mean he either wants to hate Weezer or he has never heard the bonus tracks.  Either way, he has comitted a mortal sin.  Rated very, very Wrong.

His thoughts on Raditude:

So the Red Album didn’t make you feel like an asshole for liking Weezer, huh? Here, this ought to do it.

Ratidude is Weezer's worst album, but again with the crapping on Red.  Rated Right.

His thoughts on Hurley:

Hurley doesn’t look so bad in comparison to the Red Album and Raditude. With a different album cover, it might’ve even been considered a minor comeback.

Hyden calls it underrated.  He's so close, yet so far.  Ignoring the repeated digs at Weezer (2008) he appears to call Hurley Weezer's best album since Maladroit or at least Make Believe.  In this sense he calls it underrated, because while bad it's not that bad.  I (mostly) agree, but here's the problem:  most Weezer fans who have listened to it have the exact same opinion.  Hurley is rated right by fans and Rated Wrong by Hyden.

His thoughts on Death to False Metal:

Death to False Metal isn’t as dire as might be expected. Then again, I had never heard “I’m a Robot” before last week, and I don’t intend to ever hear it again.

He calls it Rated Right in that it is largely ignored.  I have to say, I'm surprised he even included this album.  Rated Right.

How can Hyden say no to this face??

His thoughts on Songs From the Black Hole:

Like so many “lost” albums, Songs From the Black Hole is more intriguing as an idea than as a record. Pinkerton is unquestionably stronger.

Hyden calls it overrated but takes the time to point out that certain tracks from this aborted Weezer album are real classics of their catalogue ("Devotion", "I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams"). Hyden simply makes the honest assessment that while these songs center around the peak of Rivers Cuomo's mythos, they don't quite live up to the sum or their hypothetical parts.  Rated Right.

His thoughts on B-Sides, Unrealesed, and Outtake Tracks:

The narrative with each new Weezer album always includes the part about Cuomo writing approximately 492 new songs and winnowing the backlog down to 10 just-right tracks. His vault of material is immense. (The Alone compilations apparently only scratch the surface.) But if we’re talking non-album Weezer tracks, only three songs (and four ladies) matter: “Susanne,” “Jamie,” and “Mykel and Carli.” Any list of Weezer’s 10 best songs must include these tunes, or else that list is irrelevant. Honestly, I would trade all but two or three Weezer albums just for those songs.  Properly rated.

I included the whole segment he wrote.  Wonderfully said (except for "Jamie", not sure I'd put that in the top 10).  Rated Right.


His thoughts on Weezer's Live Show:

Weezer either plays songs I enjoy like it just woke up from a coma, or songs I hate with the ferocity of coked-out accountants cutting loose at the karaoke-themed office party.

Hyden has apparantly seen Weezer twice.  I've seen them eight times through the years.  I've witnessed the full evolution of live Weezer.  While they're music has been dimisinished returns for the better part of a decade, they're live show has gone along the exact opposite trajectory.  It is a lot of fun.  The one thing he gets wrong:  they DO still play the hits.  In fact they play more tracks from Pinkerton than they ever did 15 years ago.

His Thoughts on the Music Videos:

Buddy Holly: overrated

Sweater Song: underrated

Keep Fishin': properly rated

First "Buddy Holly".  I don't know if he has something against the song, but this is a great music video.  Period.  Rated Wrong.

Second, "Undone (The Sweater Song)".  I don't know who would call this underrated, but I'm certainly not going to argue with them.  Rated Right.  *FUN FACT* the two guys in the hallway at the beginning of this video are wearing gravity boots and are actually upside down.

Third, "Keep Fishin'".  Not sure why he chose to review this video, when others were far more popular ("Beverly Hills", "Hash Pipe").  I think he just thought he could get a good joke out of it.  He kind of does.  Rated Right.

His thoughts on Matt Sharp's legacy with the band

Sharp disputed songwriting credits on the first two albums, filing a lawsuit in 2002 that was settled out of court. But any suggestion that his creative contributions would’ve significantly changed Weezer’s direction seems bogus. Weezer will always be primarily a vehicle for Cuomo’s songs, for better or worse.

The real void Sharp left in Weezer concerns his unofficial status as co-frontman...

Rated Right - Then Wrong - sort of. He calls fans' persistent theories of Sharp's importance to the band and connection to Weezer's decline overrated.  I agree with this.  Then he says that he was the one guy in the live show that had any sort of spark.  Not completely untrue, but the video he uses as an example that features Cuomo standing like a statue and Sharp jumping around like a maniac is a poor one since Sharp was trying to compensate for the fact that Rivers had a broken leg at the time and was performing in a very painful brace.  How do I know all of these things about Weezer!?!?

His thoughts on Ric Ocasek's Contributions

But the evidence that Ocasek is a magic bullet isn’t very compelling, considering the albums he produced after the Blue Album — the Green Album and Everything Will Be Alright in the End — just get progressively worse.

Two things are becoming abundently clear.  Steven Hyden does not like Weezer's awesome new album and at some point, Ric Ocasek stole his girlfriend.  Rated Oh-So Very Wrong.

His thoughts on B.o.B.'s "Magic" and Rivers Rapping

First of all, the Treblemakers did it better. Second of all, Rivers Cuomo rapping on a ubiquitous pop hit was unfortunate but inevitable

It hurts so much, but it's true.  Rated Right.

His thoughts on Patrick Wilson's Frisbee Skills

He's impressed.  And rigthfully so.  Rated Right.

His Thoughts on the Weezer Cruise

I get that Weezer wants to work it out with its fan base, but sometimes divorce is nobler than seasickness..

You know, I get that the Weezer Cruise is lame, but Hyden is unnecessarily cruel here.  Shame on you sir.  I know my Weezer parents will be together FOREVER!!!!  Rated Wrong.

 

So, in conclusion, not a bad effort by Hyden.  There was a lot here I liked, a lot of good truthful rating going on.  Doesn't quite have the snark down yet.  He has more missteps than I would have liked but hey, I'm the master, next to me everyone is going to stumble now and again.  If I could give him one piece of advice it would be research, research, research.  The worst parts of this were when he rated something improperly based on faulty or incomplete information.  Also, give Everything Will Be Alright In the End another listen, Steven, it is pretty damn good.

Wednesday
Oct012014

Song by Song Breakdown of Weezer's new album: Everything Will Be Alright in the End

We're still a week away from the dropping of Weezer's new much buzzed about album, Everything Will Be Alright in the End but here at RatedWrong we're ready to talk about it now (Thanks Itunes).

Before we get into the meat of the track by track breakdown, lets ask the most important question:  how does the album work as a whole?

Really, very good.

It isn't Pinkerton reborn, but if you were hoping for that, I have a beach house I'd like to sell you in Iowa.

It is easily one of the strongest albums since the band's heyday of the 90s and a far cry better than either of their last two efforts (the uneven Hurley and the howling clunker Raditude).  Many early reviews have labeled it the best post-Green album in the band's catalogue.  it is certainly the most balanced and inspired album they've put out in over a decade.

Comparing it to Weezer's other works I'd say it goes something like this:  Pop sensibility of Green, the bombast of Maladroit, the lyrical content of Red.  The only real negative I can give it at this point is that the album lacks the manic urgency that made Weezer's early years so epic, but EWBAITE does manage to be the first album since Rivers Cuomo's rise to stardom that harnesses his angsty sincerity.

But enough about all that nonsense, to the tracks!

1. "Ain't Got Nobody"

Off to a fantastic chugging start, The rock is promised early in this album.  Fun sing-a-long type track.  One of the most regrettable things about Weezer's last few albums is the over polished production quality, there appears to be no such issues early on here.  The guitars could be a smidge louder, but the harmonies are great and, hey!  Real lyrics!

2. "Back to the Shack"

Not going to waste too much time on this one.  The first single on the album, and its been available for your eardrums for over two months.  It fits squarely into the "perfectly acceptable" realm of Weezer songs along with "Pork and Beans" and "Memories".

3. "Eulogy for a Rock Band"

Very solid rock Weezer stock.  It's like a song you might have found of Make Believe but with much better lyrics. The chorus is catchy (could they be a snarky reference to their own fans' complaints in recent years?). Either way, very good tune.

4. "Lonely Girl"

Sounds like it could've been a B-side to "Hash Pipe".  Very pop, but sharp.  Has a clear 1998-2001 Weezer sound.  Picks up the pace a little, this album is very rockin' so far.

5. "I've Had it Up to Here"

Something about this song is quintessential 90s college radio.  Like Sister Hazel, Gin Blossoms 90s.  This is a song that if Rivers had written it five years ago it would have been terrible.  It would have been "Love is the Answer" (blech).  But here, it is refined.  It has layers and excellent use of harmonies and keyboards.  Here it works.  Here is it fun.  Rivers going a little Freddy Mercury for a second in there.

6.  "The British are Coming"

What a crazy song.  Stereogum has already labeled this as the best song on the album.  I'm not that in love with it, but it certainly is the best Revolutionary War themed song since "Swamp Fox...".  It is interesting that after allowing his fellow band-mates to particpate heavily in the songwriting process for the last few albums, Cuomo is the only bandmember to be featured in the writing credits for any song on EWBAITE.  Once again, fantastic harmonies and intelligent lyrics.

7.  "Da Vinci"

Album slows down a lot here.  Not a ballad in sight yet, but this song definitely qualifies for what Weezer would call a love song, "Even Da Vinci couldn't paint you, Stephen Hawking couldn't explain you, Rosetta Stone could not translate you".  Cute, not sure I love the "whistles" though.  And hey!  Is that the album name sneaking its way into the lyrics?  Why yes, it is!

8.  "Go Away"

Best Coast lead singer Bethany Cosentino shares the vocals with Cuomo on this track.  It sounds like a Best Coast song with chunkier guitars.  Not gonna lie, this one is a little boring.  Much like every Best Coast song since their debut album the song feels plodding.  One redeemer is that it has shades of "The Black Hole" in its songwriting (obvious reference to the other Weezer song with a female lead vocal, "I Just Threw Out the Love of my Dreams").  I think it is a good sign that this song feels like a drop off from the rest of the album, had this song been on Hurley or Make Believe it would have been every Weezer fans' favorite song.

9.  "Cleopatra"

The second single on the album.  Still haven't found the rocking pace the album started with, but this is a good song regardless.  Cuomo is loving the references/comparisons to historical figures on this album, Paul Revere, Da Vinci, now Cleopatra.  The bridge lets the rock back in, a very strong break-up song.  Thinking about it now, Weezer do not have many "break-up" songs.  They do, however, have a healthy selection of "I just got dumped" songs.

9. "Foolish Father"

Oh, there you are, rock n' roll.  At this point it is pretty safe to say Weezer made no effort to replicate their early albums with EWBAITE, instead they learned from them and created something new.  This album has the strongest lyrics of any Weezer album since Pinkerton and tries to be different in ways that actually work for Weezer (no rapping, please).  This track in particular has all the hallmarks of a Weezer song.  The harmonies, the guitars, the pacing.  But it isn't tired, it has heart.  As a chorus of "Everything will be alright, in the end" (actual lyrics) fills the speakers, its almost as though the band is speaking directly to fans wounded psyches.

10.  "The Futurescope Trilogy 1: The Wasteland"

Home stretch.  The album closes out with a 3-part song.  The first "The Wasteland" is an epic instrumental showing that Weezer can be really musically interesting when inspiration strikes.  Excellent sound.  It really sounds like the songs on this album are a lot of fun to play.

11. "The Futurescope Trilogy 2: Anonymous"

Somewhere down the line, this song had a name change from "My Mystery" to "Anonymous".  Being honest I think I like "My Mystery" better but the change is minor.  The strong guitars continue, this trilogy is more one long guitar solo peppered lyrics.

12.  The Futurescope Trilogy 3: Return to Ithaca"

Back to pure instrumental.  These last three songs represent something that Weezer should have done years ago.  In the natural progression of things, this album feels like the successor to 2002's Maladroit.  The perfection of what they first explored with that album.  It is cleaner, heavier, more complete.  They came close with The Red Album in 2008 but as we close out on the album with yet another epic guitar harmony it is clear, Weezer has finally found their way back home.

 

So there it is!  Listen to the album yourself on Itunes radio and be sure to download it when it comes out on October 7th.