One of the most striking endings to a film is that of 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, where, after seeing Indiana Jones’ heroic rescue of the Ark of the Covenant, the government boxes the artifact up and stores it in an immense warehouse with an untold number of other mythic artifacts.
Weezer fans imagine the band’s “vault” of unreleased material to be similar to the warehouse. Over the past 18 years, the band and its members have recorded an untold number of songs, most of which have gone unreleased on the band’s eight official albums (or the two solo efforts from frontman Rivers Cuomo).
To go back to the Raiders analogy, for Weezer fans, today is the day Indiana Jones stormed the warehouse and made it out alive with two boxes of precious artifacts.
A day short of a year after the release of 2009’s Raditude (and less than two months after the release of Hurley), Weezer has released two more albums. These aren’t albums of new songs; rather they are comprised of material that has been boxed up in the warehouse for years.
Death to False Metal contains ten tracks from different recording sessions dating back to the lost summer of 1998. Pinkerton Deluxe is a reissue of the band’s seminal 1996 album, along with all of it’s b-sides, a number of live tracks, studio outtakes and some songs that have never before been heard. Both feature some recent updates from the band, but are, for the most part, as they were originally recorded.
For a Weezer fan, it’s all too easy to fixate on what isn’t part of these albums rather than what is. For example, of the numerous songs the band has recorded and not released (yet talked up throughout the years), it’s easy to complain about what didn’t make the ten-song cut. And for Pinkerton Deluxe, the band recorded a number of songs for the album (part of the attempt at realizing Songs From the Black Hole) that have not been included. Yet those takes were either lost to time or lost in a shipment that never reached its final destination.
Still, for what they are, these two albums are enjoyable listens – whether you’re a Weezer fan or not.
Pinkerton Deluxe, which fans have clamored for since 2004’s reissue of The Blue Album receives the same deluxe treatment. The original album has undergone a remastering (or some other type of sonic updating). Following the ten Pinkerton tracks, are the album’s b-sides which are nice to have in one place and radio remixes of The Good Life and Pink Triangle. Then there are a slew of live tracks- some from an acoustic show in Philadelphia from the summer of ’97 (the same show that was responsible for this slice of awesomeness) and some from an English festival from the previous summer. The acoustic tunes are nice (and from a different source than the version of the show that’s out there). On the other hand, the festival songs just seem superflous. There are also some early versions of Tired of Sex, Getchoo and Butterfly, which have more raw energy than their album counterparts.
But the true standouts of Pinkerton Deluxe are the three songs most fans are buying this collection for: Getting Up and Leaving, a full band Longtime Sunshine demo with a coda and Tragic Girl. Getting Up and Leaving was an unreleased b-side for Pink Triangle that fans have awaited for 13 or so years. The full band Longtime Sunshine is a nice (if not rough) attempt at a song many fans feel reached perfection on Rivers’ first Alone disc. Here, the band adds drums and bass and (when Weezer’s second album was still part of the Songs from the Black Hole concept) a vocal coda at the end recalling some earlier Pinkerton tracks. The coda is far from perfect (some voices sounding off-key, others too loud), but it’s still great to hear how Weezer’s second album was originally supposed to end. The album closes with the lost (and subsequently found) Tragic Girl, a song attempted during the final Pinkerton sessions. The song contains the same energy as the rest of the Pinkerton tracks, an untraditional structure and a great performance by the band. There are some lyrical and tonal references to the rest of Pinkerton, and as great as it is to have the other tracks we’ve waited for on this collection, Tragic Girl is an amazing listen.
The other treat for Weezer fans today is Death to False Metal, a collection of ten previously unreleased songs that were recorded for one album or another. Rivers is calling it the band’s ninth album, and considering Weezer hasn’t had a thematically linked album since Pinkerton, it’s hard to argue with him. The songs span the band’s redording efforts from 1998 through 2009. However (and a small complaint about the collection), half the album focuses on the sessions for Weezer’s fifth album, which eventually became 2005’s Make Believe.
That’s not to say the songs aren’t good. For the most part, they’re nice additions to Weezer’s catalog. Standouts from the Make Believe sessions include Blowin’ My Stack (even if the riff does sound a little like Heard It Through The Grapevine) and I’m a Robot, which is more down-home than rock. More recent songs include Turn It Up (the results of Rivers’ Let’s Write a Sawng process), The Odd Couple and Autopilot, which has one of the best bridges of any Weezer song (possibly due to my nostalgia for BASIC).
Possibly my favorite song on ‘Metal is 1998’s Trampoline, a simple pop rocker that would have fit in great late 90’s pre-nu-metal alternative rock radio (which is kind of ironic, since Rivers spent the years after Pinkerton trying to develop a chart-topper and here is a song he had all along which would have fit right in). Trampoline and Everyone are the first original Weezer songs we’ve heard from the mystery year of 1998, where they demoed and recorded a bunch of songs and then promptly threw them in a box in the vast government warehouse. But unlike Trampoline, Everyone is harsher and more riff-oriented, an homage to Nirvana that doesn’t get interesting to the solo.
The only song on Death to False Metal that’s a letdown to me is the closer, a cover of Unbreak My Heart. It could be my aversion to 90 percent of things R&B, but this song does nothing for me and the fact that Weezer is performing it doesn’t change that.
Death to False Metal is supposed to be released with a plethora of bonus tracks, but to date, we’ve only been told of three – a version of Mykel and Carli attempted during the Blue Album Sessions in 1993, and Yellow Camaro and Outta Here, both from the early Album Five sessions. I’m hoping for more bonus tracks, and hoping they come from some other time than the period between Maladroit and Make Believe.
As I mentioned earlier, the one drawback to Death to False Metal is they’re trying to squeeze a large number of songs into ten slots. There’s way more under lock-and-key that the band claims isn’t the best quality, but I’m sure the fans would rather be the judges of that.
By the way, Weezer isn’t done. Rivers has already announced plans to record Album Ten. And releasing material from the band’s vault will continue as well- the band has announced a third edition of Rivers’ Alone series should be in stores before the end of the year, this one focusing on the Pinkerton years.