Weezer

Ruminations on a Weezer Show

In our coverage of Project Pabst last week, we included a brief review of Weezer’s set in our recap of the festival.  However, I wanted to take some time to discuss the ambivalence that I felt as the time for their headlining set approached.  Why did seeing a band that I once loved so much fill me with such dread?

Weezer has had a long and successful career, to the surprise of many–they’ve now released nine albums over the course of twenty years, which is rather astounding considering many believed the band would have folded after the commercial failure of their second album.  There is a whole new generation of fans that have pledged their undying support for the band and have helped maintain the band’s place as a festival headliner; many of these fans had not even even born yet during the time that the devoted message board community in the late-90’s were keeping the spirit of the band alive.  These younger fans probably have no idea why many of the band’s initial followers long ago ditched Weezer.

Much as it pains me to say, I am one of those who sits on the “wrong” side of the generational divide, metaphorically screaming at the young kids to get off my lawn.  In my eyes, Weezer released two perfect albums, followed it with a passable comeback attempt, followed by an underrated and overlooked record, and then several steaming piles of shit.  The Blue Album not only has all those hits that have filled radio playlists for years, but also several other gems of masterful pop-rock that make it a top-to-bottom classic, and Pinkerton was the beautiful mess that turned off the casual fan but whose ragged emotional core thrilled and captured the hearts of the devout ones.  The Green Album and Maladroit each have their merits, but overall they fail to reach the standard of what the band had previously established.

Usually, I am the kind of fan that not only forgives a band for its missteps, but stands up for records that have been treated unfavorably by those who have moved on to the next Hot New Band.  Hell, I am still buying Alice in Chains records after the death of Layne Staley.  It is rare for me to turn my back on a band, but Make Believe caused me to do just that.  I have made it a point to keep the album and transfer the files across several hard drives, only to never listen to it, so I can remember how much I detest the album.*  On its own merits, it is an extremely mediocre set of songs, but more than that it represented that the original Weezer that I had grown up with and loved was gone, never to return.  I remember giving their next effort a chance, and after listening to a stream of The Red Album I decided that I was done with the band forever.  There was no going back, a fact confirmed every time the band would release a new single that would force me to dive for the radio dial.

It was during the Make Believe era, however, that I finally got to see the band in person, and I still have giddy memories of the show.  It was about the best I could have hoped for, with the band hitting the expected highlights of The Blue Album, throwing in some Pinkerton favorites (a recent development, since the band had long had an uneasy relationship with the record), and keeping the new stuff to a minimum.  The band was lively and having fun, with even Rivers loosening up a bit–everybody had a shot at lead vocals for a song, and the guys all had fun switching instruments.

There was no way that Weezer in 2015 could have improved upon that experience, and I did not want to sully my recollections of that show.  Yet I still stuck through to the end, as the band played a strikingly similar set–I got my Blue Album-era stuff, as well as a couple of Pinkerton tracks (including a fantastic version of “The Good Life”), and once again had to endure the same amount of new shit, though in slightly different form.  I may be categorized as part of the “Millenial” generation based purely on my age, but I should not be lumped into the same group of people that cheer as hard for “Back to the Shack” as “My Name Is Jonas”.**

While my initial dread turned out to be misplaced, I still wonder why it is I hold Weezer in such high regard compared to many of their peers, refusing to allow them to change as they see fit.  Much of their new material has much of the same superficial quality of their earlier work, but to me there is something missing.  I want the band that sang about “little ol’ three-chord me” while constructing the musically complex “Falling For You”, or the group that composed the gorgeous instrumental climax to “Only In Dreams”.

I guess I am just selfish that way.

*That sounds like something that should be explained to a therapist

**There were also several fans that cheered along to the absolutely horrid “Beverly Hills”, and I am frightened by the fact that these people are probably allowed to operate motor vehicles

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Project Pabst 2015 Day 2 Recap

The first day of Project Pabst had a better lineup, but the second day offered just enough that made spending a second day in the heat a worthwhile proposition.  At least it never got as hot as it did the previous day, though there was little to no escape from the sun, aside from the odd bit of shade and the PBRcade.  Still, water refills were once again free, even if that did not make up for the fact the organizers made no adjustments overnight.

Alvvays delivered the most season-specific music

Alvvays delivered the most season-appropriate music

If there is one thing you can count on when you travel in Oregon, it is that random traffic jams will occur without any reason.  A massive slowdown on I-5 added another hour to our travel time, forcing us to miss the majority of Alvvays’s set, an unfortunate result considering we were really excited to see how one of our favorite new artists from 2014 performed live.  However, we can authoritatively state that, from what little we heard, Alvvays’s bouncy, shimmery pop-rock was a perfect soundtrack to a sunny outdoor festival.  Though attendance was lagging at this point in the day, at least there were a devoted few that sang along to closer “Archie, Marry Me”.

Aimee Man and Ted Leo had easily the best stage banter of the festival

Aimee Man and Ted Leo had easily the best stage banter of the festival

Though I have been a fan of Ted Leo for years, I had yet to give his collaboration with Aimee Mann a shot.  However, The Both won me over with their ripping set, with Aimee and Ted displaying a tight chemistry that was only matched by El-P and Killer Mike.  The music was an intriguing mix of the two styles, though I tended to prefer the moments when Ted would kick it up a notch with flashy-but-efficient guitar solos.  The stage banter between the two was a definite highlight, including a memorable bit where Aimee poked fun at Ted’s love of all things Tolkien, with Ted responding by totally owning it and singing an impromptu version of “Frodo of the Nine Fingers”.  Also, for the record, Ted can change a broken guitar string faster than any performer that I have ever seen.

This was the act the crowd appreciated the most

This was the act the crowd appreciated the most

Passion Pit generated the best crowd response of the day, but my reaction to the group has always been the embodiment of the shrug emoji.

Buzzcocks still going steady

Buzzcocks still going steady

Since I spent several years listening to Singles Going Steady, a truly essential compilation for anyone who has ever dabbled in punk rock, the Buzzcocks were the “living legends” reunion I was looking forward to seeing the most at Project Pabst.  Judging by the packed backstage area, I was certainly not alone in this sentiment, as one could easily see other performers like Ted Leo singing along to the words of some of their classic hits like “Why Can’t I Touch It”, “What Do I Get?”,  and “Noise Annoys”.  The group tore through their discography at breakneck speed, with guitarist Steve Diggle constantly asking the sound mixer to crank up the volume.  Just hearing “Ever Fallen In Love” and “Orgasm Addict” live made Day 2 worthwhile in and of itself.

Weezer finished off Project Pabst with some flair.

Weezer finished off Project Pabst with some flair.

There are few bands with whom I have more of a love/hate relationship than Weezer, and considering my age it should be easy to spot exactly where that dividing line occurs in the band’s catalog.  I think the surest example of how people my age should not be lumped into the catch-all “millenial” generation is that we would never cheer as loudly for “Back to the Shack” as we would for “My Name Is Jonas” or “The Good Life”.  I ended up sticking around longer than I anticipated since the group did a good job of mixing in some of their genuinely great songs with their later hits that played well to certain segments of the crowd, and I can certainly admired the well-oiled machine that Weezer the performance act has become.

Project Pabst was a solid success this go-around, but hopefully they will learn from a few of their mistakes from this edition as they set up plans for next year.  Hopefully they can create a lineup as exciting and varied as the first two editions.

Random Notes

Number of free water refills: 2

Number of beards longer than mine: 1

Number of comments on my shirt (Dinosaur Jr. Green Mind cover): 2, including a “Best Shit EVER!”

Catching Up On The Week (Feb. 13 Edition)

Some #longreads as you enjoy the most wonderful weekend of the year (NBA All-Star Weekend)…

It’s the tenth anniversary of the release of Silent Alarm, and as they are wont to do, Stereogum published a retrospective on Bloc Party’s debut album.  We recently provided a defense of the group’s underrated follow-up A Weekend In The City, but we cannot deny the power and excellence of Silent Alarm.

Over at Grantland, Rembert Browne analyzes the message in the lyrics of Kendrick Lamar’s new songs, including the just-released “The Blacker The Berry,” examining the philosophical conundrums posed by Kendrick as well as their broader cultural context.

Pitchfork talks to Rivers Cuomo for their 5-10-15-20 feature, and while there are some mentions of the influences you would expect from the frontman of Weezer (KISS, Madame Butterfly), take particular note of the last selection, which should give hope to the band’s early fans.

SPIN provides the conventional wisdom and adds a few hundred more words in explaining Beck’s surprising win at the Grammys.

The AV Club takes a look at the story behind the lyrics for the unlikely number one hit “Sex and Candy” by Marcy Playground and also recommends a classic Elliott Smith song if you’re not looking forward to Valentine’s Day tomorrow.

And finally, if you have the stomach for it, there’s this piece from Talking Points Memo that is a strong contender for dumbest fucking thing written on the internet, where the author argues against the merits of live music.  There’s a good chance we may offer a rebuttal in the future.

Over the Weekend (June 23 Edition)

Some videos to help you get over that heartbreaking…tie against Portugal.

Interpol just released the video for “Anywhere” from their upcoming album El Pintor, and it’s a live version shot in an “amateur” style from one of their recent shows.  Musically, it sounds like one of their usual busier, uptempo numbers, but it should be enough to get the crowd pumped at future shows.

Courtesy of the Everybody Loves Our Town Tumblr, we have footage from a recent Pearl Jam show that has gone somewhat viral over the weekend.  As per their usual, Pearl Jam tagged the end of “Daughter” with their cover of “It’s OK” by Portland punks Dead Moon, but this time Eddie sang a bit of the Oscar-winning song “Let It Go” from Frozen.  Since I do not have any children, this is the first time I’ve actually heard the song, so I finally have an idea what everyone is referencing; Eddie seems to miss a couple of notes, but hey, it’s a live improv and he’s fitting it to the chord progression of a different song, so I won’t bust him too much.

We mentioned previously that Soundgarden did a special show where they played Superunknown in its entirety, and here’s the audio of that full show, with additional interviews from the band.

And finally, SPIN has a couple of videos worth checking out: one is footage of Real Estate performing a stripped-down set which includes a cover of Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So”, and the other is a joke interview of TV on the Radio with SNL’s Vanessa Bayer.  If you go to the YouTube page of the latter, there should be links to other “Sound Advice” interviews.

Over the Weekend (May 12th Edition)

Considering the amount of material we have for our Monday roundup, this should be a very good week.  Let’s get to it!

Of course, as we’ve covered before, the biggest news coming up is the release tomorrow of the new album from The Black Keys.  They’ve been doing their part by performing on SNL this past Saturday, performing “Fever” and “Bullet in the Brain”, and by performing on Letterman tonight.  They did two songs for the show, and also treated the crowd outside the Late Show rooftop to a full set featuring songs from previous albums.  You can tune in to this link to catch one of the re-airings, though this is probably only temporary.

Speaking of the late night shows, Late Night with Seth Meyers featured another band on which we did a feature recently, as Parquet Courts visited last week.  Here’s their performance of the new song “Black and White”, from the upcoming Sunbathing Animal.

Soundgarden is prepping for their big tour with Nine Inch Nails, and their warmup will include a special gig at New York’s Webster Hall where they will perform the entirety of Superunknown, and the tickets will cost only $19.94 (the year the seminal album came out, of course).  That’s a pretty damn cool venue, and to see a band of that stature in a relatively small place like that will definitely be a great experience for the lucky few who are able to go.

We had a link for a short article on Big Star on Friday, and today the Facebook page for the band posted a link to a rare track from co-founder Chris Bell’s early band Icewater.

Fender had a couple of cool posts worth checking out.  The first is a talk with Nile Rodgers about his legendary “Hitmaker” Stratocaster, a strange combo guitar that he picked up at a pawn shop decades ago but whose distinctive sound is what you hear on all those great records featuring Nile.  The second is an article about a recent show by We Are Scientists where they were joined by former Weezer bassist Matt Sharp.  It fit right in with last week’s 20th anniversary of The Blue Album, and together they performed several Weezer songs together, as well as “Friends of P.” from Matt’s other band, The Rentals.  I wish I could have been at that show, and I’d have to say I’d prefer the “Weezer Are Scientists” version of the band over their current incarnation.

In recognition of Mother’s Day yesterday, here is Eminem’s latest video, the Spike Lee-directed “Headlights”, which covers his attempts at reconciliation with his mother.

And finally, we’ve got yet another useless list from Rolling Stone, if you’re into that kind of thing.  I had been thinking that it had been too long since we’d had one of those, but they did us a solid last week by publishing their version of the “100 Best Albums of the Nineties”.  If you want to know whether or not you should give it a look, I’ll note that in their eyes that Bridges to Babylon (#76) is the superior album to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (unlisted).  I think that’s all I have to say.

Catching Up On The Week (May 9 Edition)

A lot of quick-hitters, a cool graph, and a lot of talk about an anniversary this week for your #longreads weekend.

We’ve mentioned before that this year marks the 20th anniversary for several big albums, like SuperunknownThe Downward Spiral, Dookie, and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.  This week, Weezer, aka “The Blue Album” gets its moment in the sun.  Grantland has a roundtable feature if you’re interested in a lot of half-baked memories and not-particularly-insightful analysis, and Stereogum has a more nuanced look back at the seminal album, as they’ve done several times already this year.  Of course, this leads to thinking about “how the hell did Weezer become so shitty?”, though as Film Crit Hulk observes, it’s not that surprising an answer (yes, it’s the firing of Matt Sharp).

We did a feature on them already this week mentioning their new album, so it’s no surprise that The Black Keys announced a huge new tour today.  Using the video posted above however, may have been a surprise.  We’ll be posting a review in the near future, but if you’re feeling a little antsy, Grantland has an early review.  In general, I agree with several of the points about the recent direction of the band, but I am still flummoxed by the mention of “Little Black Submarines” in the section about minimalist guitars–this is after all a song with a good “Stairway to Heaven” 30-second solo rip-off that serves as the climax of the song.

AVClub has several pieces worth checking out this weekend.  There is an extended look at the making of the Alice in Chains EP Jar of Flies, which features several of the band’s best songs (including my personal favorite, “Nutshell”).  They also have a quick plea to get people to listen to Big Star’s “O My Soul”–Erik Adams points out the nifty use of palm-muted non-chords, but to me the most brilliant part of the song was simply the way the drums were recorded; I don’t think I have ever heard a snare pop better than on that track, and on Radio City in general.  Also, be sure to read about how one band was able to trick Spotify and then check out this absolutely brilliant headline.

We previously did a bit on music infographics, and another one popped up this week that you might have seen tweeted out or on your friend’s Facebook page.  This one takes a look at the diversity of the vocabulary of a number of rappers and presents it in chart form, with Shakespeare and Moby Dick as points of reference.  It wasn’t surprising to see the various members of the Wu-Tang Clan (and the group itself) ranking so highly, or 50 Cent ranked so low, but I thought for example that Kanye would appear higher on the list.  The Fader interviewed the creator of the chart and gets some insight into its creation.

We haven’t had much of a chance to talk about Father John Misty, but his debut Fear Fun was one of our favorites from 2012, and we’re eager to hear the follow-up when it’s released.  Pitchfork did a quick interview with him to give us an idea of what he’s up to these days.

Finally, we linked to the very first Drum Fill Friday from NPR, but we neglected to do any followups.  Well, it’s a continuing series and lately they’ve stepped up the challenge a bit by bringing in the choices of some guest drummers.  We’ll give the spotlight to Michael Lerner, the drummer from The Antlers, and link to his selections (for the record, I got 4/5).  It’s definitely worth keeping up with every week.

Catching Up On The Week (Apr. 11 Edition)

I would hope that we provided you with enough #longreads for the weekend with our recent series of Neutral Milk Hotel essays, but just in case, we have a few more links to check out.

The big story this weekend is the first weekend of Coachella.  Because you’re all smart enough to avoid the huge crowds and the awful heat, you’ll do what I do and watch the festivities courtesy of their own YouTube channel.  That said, I wouldn’t mind if I was one of those people that were deemed important enough that companies would pay just so I could attend a music festival.

As for earlier this week, the biggest news was probably Stephen Colbert being tapped to replace David Letterman as host of the Late Show.  SPIN sets you straight if you think this has little do with music.

Oh, you might have thought that last night’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was the big story.  It was pretty huge, if only for the inclusion of Nirvana.  I’d direct you over to the Everybody Loves Our Town Tumblr for all your necessary links, though I’ll specifically link to this interview with grunge experts analyzing the “irony” of Nirvana’s induction, as an anti-establishment force that is now formally a part of the establishment, and this piece that discusses the brilliance of an all-female lineup heading the reunited Nirvana.  It’s probably not a good idea to take a look at this setlist at the secret aftershow party that included J Mascis showing up to do classics like “Drain You”, because you’ll be pissed at the fact you weren’t there and are only hearing about this now.  But I will link to this video of Kim Gordon performing “Aneurysm”.

And in a nice coincidence with all the Nirvana news this week, we’re about to see one of their major inspirations release their first new album in over two decades soon.  Guitarist Joey Santiago of the Pixies did an in-depth interview with MusicRadar talking about his guitar-playing style and gear, and drops some insight into the recording process behind Indie Cindy and the current dynamics of the band..

Last week we were less than pleased with an AV Club article, but they’ve redeemed themselves with a close look at the brilliant Weezer track “Only In Dreams”.  I’m only disappointed because I had hoped to do a Feats of Strength on one of my favorite Weezer songs, but they did a pretty bang-up job themselves.  I’d only add that part of the brilliance of the guitar solo is that the show-stopping run up the neck is reminiscent of the big solo in “Marquee Moon” and does a great job of creating tension by dancing around the traditional sweet spots on the scale, and that the whole sequence is a perfect parallel to the lyrics and title of the song.  But good work.

And finally, I’m going to be sure to spend a little time this weekend reading this Pitchfork interview with a biographer of Big Star’s Alex Chilton, because Big Star was amazing and that’s all you should need to know before doing the same.

Over the Weekend (Apr. 7 Edition)

This is a Monday that should be especially easy to handle, because there are a ton of new videos to watch and aid in your quest to find the best ways to procrastinate.

It wasn’t a bad weekend to stay at home, because Nine Inch Nails made a rare television appearance in performing for the legendary Austin City Limits.  SPIN has the video of the almost hour-long performance, but I’m not sure how long it will be up, so better watch this one as soon as you can.

Continuing a week full of Nirvana tributes, here’s a roundup of a few from various artists from this past weekend, including covers from St. Vincent and Muse.  Lost in the (understandable) fuss over Nirvana, is the fact that this weekend marked another terrible anniversary, that of the death of Layne Staley.  The Everybody Loves Our Town Tumblr has a link to his last performance with Alice in Chains.  And here is another strange way in which the stories have been combined, thanks to the use of Photoshop.

Lots of news for fans of Jack White (which includes us, of course), as he announced the upcoming release of his solo follow-up to Blunderbuss, with Lazaretto scheduled to hit stores on June 10.  In addition, he’s announced a string of tour dates and released the “liquidy” video of the instrumental track “High Ball Stepper” (embedded above), a great please of ragged blues-rock.

Speaking of Jack White, Weezer stopped by the headquarters of Jack’s Third Man Records to record an acoustic version of fan-favorite “Susanne”.  Hey, remember when Weezer not only wasn’t awful, but actually pretty great?  That song is from that era, and along with “Jamie” is the reason why I bought the expensive Deluxe Edition reissue of the Blue Album.

J Mascis always seems to be having something going on, from his work in his main band Dinosaur Jr. to his solo work to even his acting (he’s been a guest on Portlandia and will be in the upcoming film The Doublehere’s a clip of Richard Ayoade talking about casting J).  J also has a side project with Sweet Apple, and you can find the debut video “Wish You Could Stay” (with guest vocals from the great Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age, and more)), as well as a stream of the entire album, The Golden Age of Glitter, on Stereogum.  The single is a pleasant, shimmery piece of guitar pop, so please click if that description intrigues you.

Coldplay has released a music video for their latest single, “Magic”, and it’s rather good.  It’s made in the style of a silent film (with Coldplay being the backing music, of course), and involves a storyline with Zhang Ziyi and, well, magicians.  It’s nice to have some visual flair to a song that’s going to be pretty omnipresent on radio for a few months.

And because we publish this pretty late in the day, this allows us to catch some news just as its breaking–like the fact that The Roots are releasing a new album next month.  …And Then They Shoot Your Cousin will be out May 13, and Pitchfork has the first single “The People Cheer”.