Reflections on the Greenest of Days

Twenty years ago today, I was in line at a music store for the midnight release of Weezer’s 2001 release, the Green Album.

Advertisement for Weezer's Green Album

That I was there was, at the time, a miracle, because a few years earlier, it looked like Weezer was done for good. But Weezer was the hot thing in music that spring and summer of 2001, and Green catapulted the band to new heights and is responsible for the success they have today.

The thing is, while Green is special to me, as an album, I’d rank it in the lower tier of Weezer albums. In an effort to make the perfect pop album, Rivers Cuomo made his songs a little too perfect. Instrumentally and structurally, they’re all the same. The songs themselves have little room to breathe, with no development in the choruses throughout the songs and solos that just mimic the song’s chorus lines.

Thankfully, Rivers learned from Green and changed not only his habits in composing future songs (2014’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End very much sounds like if Green had been done right), but also the Green songs themselves. By the end of 2001, Weezer was changing up the keys, solos and structures of the Green songs in live shows. As an example, for me, the 2005 AOL Sessions version of Don’t Let Go is the definitive version of the song.

And while we’re talking about 2005 versions of Don’t Let Go, this version from a show in Japan has the band’s best energy ever:

Despite my issues with the production and songs, I’m very glad we have Green. There is a generation of Weezer fans who consider Green their favorite album and I admire that.

Mikey Welsh, during the recording of Green.

Green is also the only Weezer album featuring Mikey Welsh on bass. Mikey joined Weezer in the spring of 1998 and left due to personal issues in the summer of 2001. Mikey passed away ten years ago, but I’ll always remember the fresh vibe he brought to the band. And his Rolling Stone video interview with Pat.

Looking back at that wait in line for the midnight release of Green, I remember having fun with my friends who were there with me. But I also remember this incredible feeling of relief and victory. That my favorite band was putting out another album. That they survived a dark, weird time. And that they were back, rocking just as much as better. I knew great times would be ahead for Weezer. And I was right.

Tracking the Flood, Part 5

101She Has A Way With Words – v6 ABA
102The Best Thing In Life   13
103I’m Such A Little Bitch – v2
104Haunt You Every Day – 2004-04-23
105El Presidente – 2012-8-23 sketch 5
10605 Kick Back
107She Makes Me Laugh – v4 @134 OG verse
108393 I don’t Believe the Children Cam
10929 Beautiful Demons
110All I Wanna’ Do – 2004-4-23
111The Best Of Me – v2
112Work 10-26-2012 14h19m1s
114June Bride   10
1151. 7.  mixo aku 2012-03-13_09-
116Expatriates in Paris – 2012-9-12 piano
117Autopilot (sped up)
119I Don’t Need You
120Ain’t Got No Time for Messing Around
12104 Just A White Boy
12231 The Ivory Telephone
123Everybody Get Dangerous – monochord
124Open Your Arms 023
125Until You Love Me (Miss Sweeney)

Tracking the Flood, Part 4

76Greyhound – 2
77Hippies – v6
78Higgs Boson – v5
79Ask Anything 059
80Wagamama – v5
82The Rules Of Life – v25
83Charlie Brown
84Rosemary (With Farfisa)
8523 wan and wistful silvertone riff
8611 I Can’t Sing Mama Slow-Fast
87I’ll Be With Someone Else – v2 2
88145 INST
89Where to Start – 2004-07-05
90Getchoo – Don Slacks
91Let’s Go To The 33rd Dimension – v7
9216 open your eyes
93Aku – G minor over A 2012-6-6
9417 Spider Bitch
95Shut Your Mouth (revised 2007)
96Ideas 10-15-2013 16h33m26s
97Do You Want To Get High – v4
98Stand Up (Minor Outstanding) – 2004-06-04
99Hey Nonbeliever     3
100If You Only Knew 8 @128

Tracking the Flood, Part 3

51I Don’t Need You – 2004-02-20
52Ideas 10-3-2013 15h40m31s
5308 when somebody asks you what the n
54The Band We Loved The Most      6
5504 The Answer Man
56Bonfire 005
57Sing My Blues Away – v10
5847 punk chorus
59East Coast Or West Coast – v3
60Show Me Who You Are (Triplet Melody) – 2004-04-23
61Sunshine Alt Chorus Melody
6277 disco queen chorus
63I Need You   2 @129
6401 Hit The Jungle
65Stand By My Side – v3
66Work 1-19-2013 0h15m22s
67Pacific Sunset  – v12 cleaned solo @124 to 185 +1 to -3
68Up Yours
6909 I Got So Many Problems
72Don’t Mess With My Girl – v29
73sappy piano 8-27-2012 9h47m25s
74Quick Picture    9

Tracking the Flood, Part 2

The next 25 are in the books. Or on the Twitter.

26Ain’t Got Nobody – v18
2896 Why Can’t You Live Under Me
30Mo Beats
3106 I Don’t Want No Woman-acoustic
3207 Phone Call Interruption
3308 I Don’t Want No Woman-Continued
34Ballad Of The Briny – Rough 4 Jan
3506 Undone
36New Girl – 2012-11-14 acoustic sketch 1
37The Dawn
38Down on My Knee
3911 Piece of the Pie 2
40crazy pulloff riff  Ideas 1-27-2013
41You’re the One – 2004-07-20
4201 Homer Pig News intro to Strange S
43I Can’t Stop I’m 0 For The Day – v1
44Too Good For Me  – Monterey Jack
45Work 10-26-2012 14h19m1s
46Second Best Hugger In The World    11
47Memphis – 2
48Take It Easy (With Rock Intro) – 2004-06-04
49Weekend Girl – v2
50No Way

Tracking the Flood

Shortly after my last post, I started a new project on Twitter – #RiversDemoFlood. Each day I’ll post at least one ‘review’ of a random song from one of Rivers’ bundles, to give some context to the song and explain why I rated it the way I did.

I started this project on the fly and have some rules:

  1. I have the rated songs in an Excel file. I use a random number generator to determine which song gets tweeted about.
  2. If a song is a sketch and I have the time, I’ll do a second entry sometime that day.
  3. I’m going to try and do all the files. So there will eventually be more than 40 takes on Rules of Life. I hope I have interesting things to say after 20 or so.
  4. If possible, I’ll include images or videos relating to the song. While there are some of these demos on YouTube, Rivers asked that we not do that when he started bundling them (although he didn’t make that request when he sold the first batch individually), so I’ll link to other, sometimes full-band takes of final songs.
  5. Sentimentality, nostalgia and potential have no place in the ratings. I’m evaluating each of these files as if they’re their own songs. How would they sound on a mixtape? Or on the radio? How these sound as songs is one thing. What types of songs they could be, that’s another story.
  6. Above all, I’m trying to have fun with this. Which I am.

The songs so far:

1I Want You 001
2The Rules Of Life – v28 – vTo Par
3Beverly Hills – 2004-07-20
4Rock And Roll Cockroach – Rough 3
5I Want To Know
616 Two to Tango
7Pretty Great Piano Melody 2-7-2013 8
8You Stupid Piece of Shit – 168
9Since You Came Around – v15
1088 piano and melody
1117 Beautiful Demons
12No One Else – Monterey Jack
13He’s My Sweetheart – Monterey Jack
1410 Crazy Rock n Rollers
1617 clean jam
17Keep Your Pants On      3
18Take Back The Love
19The Ivory Telephone – v10
20Going Bald – 2012-7-13 acoustic sketch 1
2132 Downtown
22Until You’Re Blue – v2
23Lullaby For Wayne
24American Girls – Spanky McNally
2585 I’m Sick, I’m Tired
List of songs I’ve Tweeted about so far.

Too Many Songs in My Playlist

Eighteen years ago, I met Weezer lead singer Rivers Cuomo during a post-show meet and greet. I was on a message board with Rivers and he invited some of us from the board to hang out with him and the band after shows on the 2002 Enlightenment Tour.

Near the end of the meet and greet, a small group of us talked with Rivers for a while. One thing I remember to this day was him saying that he wanted to share all the songs he ever wrote and recorded with all of us. Rivers had already shared a few demos with the board and other fans. And in the years after that, Rivers released three Alone CDs featuring his home demos. Rivers liked interacting with fans (on his terms) and writing/sharing music with them. And while I was a huge fan of all three Alone CDs, I didn’t expect much more.

Last year, Rivers launched (or re-launched) his personal website, Rivers took a coding class (because that’s what rock stars do) and started the site with a chatroom, adding other functions over the summer.

Rivers Cuomo home page

And then in October, he started putting together the building blocks of his final project- an online store to sell a bunch of old demos. After going back and forth on what to sell and how, Rivers settled on bundles, based on time periods in his life. Buy a bundle and you get access to a dropbox folder. And inside those bundles was a lot of music, but not everything. Music with co-writers or co-performers was out. Rivers set songs and ideas intended for future projects. And some songs/files he just couldn’t find.

First row of bundles from

Since launching the store right before Thanksgiving, Rivers added three additional bundles, two with co-writers and a greatest hits sampler. And he’s also added a number of files that he’s found. Currently, the bundles include more than 100 hours of files.

I’ll be the first to say that the files are a mixed bag. There are some files that are Rivers with a guitar and handheld recorder. Or Rivers humming/beatboxing ideas for tunes. Or 30-second long sketches for songs. Or songs where you can tell something is there, but the quality is questionable. Or songs with upwards of 40 versions. But there are a bunch of good, quality, full band (or one-man band) songs. And some of these songs are right up there with Weezer’s greatest songs.

There are enough songs to make alternate albums. Or earlier ideas for Weezer albums. Or Weezer albums that we never got. I’ve been listening to these song and I’m not even close to being all the way through.

Having these songs has gotten me back into music. A specific kind of music, granted, but still. And it’s given me ideas of things to write. It might be fun to write something about the evolution of Make Believe. And I would love to update one of my most favorite articles I’ve ever written. But I’m not doing either just yet because there are still more songs out there that might be added.

And there’s something else that’s happened with all of this. Rivers hangs out in the chatroom regularly and has asked for fan help for a few different things, like cataloging these files. Considering how daunting the concept of 100 hours of files is, some of us suggested putting together a Greatest Hits style bundle. Another site visitor (or neighbor) had been working on compiling the best songs from each bundle (at least when they were first released) and I had been working on that with him. But as we were talking about this with Rivers, he was receptive to the idea. I don’t remember exactly what spurred it, but he asked if I wanted to rate the songs on the spreadsheet. Of course I said yes.

You see that King Tom Column right there?

A week or two later, Rivers started selling the Greatest Hits bundle, a combination of the other neighbor’s compilation and the songs that I rated at five stars. Gotta admit that was pretty cool.

So I’ve been keeping busy listening to a lot of these songs. On top of everything else I’m up to these days. I had an idea for something Twitter-related I may try, which will get the writing juices flowing.

After all these years, it’s great to have new (old) songs to get into all over again. And that’s not counting the Weezer album out (maybe) later this month. Or the other one coming out later this year. Or any of the other projects Rivers has planned.

Queen’s Peril: Padme in Disguise

When I first heard that E.K. Johnston would be following up last year’s solid Star Wars novel Queen’s Shadow with a prequel, I was very skeptical. But after reading the book, I was happily proven wrong.

Queen’s Shadow (released July 2, 2020 by Disney Lucasfilm Press) expands on the story told in Shadow while at the same time tying Padme and Naboo into the larger Star Wars narrative even better than its predecessor.

Queen’s Shadow took place after The Phantom Menace, telling the story of Padme’s transition from Queen to Senator and how vital her handmaidens were in every aspect of her life. Queen’s Peril is the story of how Padme transitioned from citizen to Queen, the first days of her working with her handmaidens and how the early days of her reign led right into the events of The Phantom Menace.

Cover of Queens Peril Cover

At its heart, this is a book about Padme and how she forms a routine and relationships with her handmaidens. While they are a bit hard to tell apart at times, they do have their individual personalities, talents and back stories. Just like in Shadow, Peril gives us a Padme more relatable than her onscreen incarnation. Padme is the idealist who wants to do what she can to make things better. She takes a situation- her security- and inventively changes it through the handmaidens to better suit her. Certain scenes, such as the first time she gathers her new team, or when they decide to buck authority for a simple night out, are very well-written and help make the galaxy far, far away feel more down to earth.

However, the novel is not just about Padme. Nearly every character from the Phantom Menace makes an appearance at one point or another, with many given weighty moments. This book made me want to watch The Phantom Menace again. The moments relate not just to the first Star Wars episode, but provide insight into other events throughout the saga (however, one of Jar Jar’s interests comes off as totally out of left field).

The book is an entertaining, quick read. However, there are some times, particularly with the character asides, where the pacing feels off. There was a concept or two (notably the idea that very few people know of the Queen’s true identity- based on my understanding, the candidates for Queen take a pseudonym when they run for office and don’t give it up) that went over my head. And if you haven’t read other Star Wars books, some references might not make a ton of sense. But none of this detracts from the whole reading experience.

Queen’s Peril is out this week. If you want to explore the state of the Star Wars galaxy right before the movie saga begins, these pages are definitely worth turning.

The Moira World Order

Don’t you just love it when your interests cross over? Or when different things you follow become analogies for each other?

That’s what happened to me today. I was thinking about the current state of the X-Men comic books and it reminded me immediately of one of the most famous professional wrestling storylines.

House of X Cover with NWO logo

Up until a few decades ago, professional wrestling was regional. The country was divided into territories run by promoters who stuck to their established boundaries. Anytime a sanctioned champion would meet another territory’s champion, the match would end in a draw. That all ended in the 80s when the WWF went national, eating up most of the \ territories. The WWF’s only competition was World Championship Wrestling, an Atlanta-based outfit that lacked the WWF’s production values or mainstream recognition.

Growing up, I was a WWF fan. I mostly ignored WCW, even after they signed Hulk Hogan, the biggest name in wrestling (by now Hogan’s act had gone stale and allegations of steroid abuse tarnished his character). But they did capture my attention briefly when two WWF wrestlers, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, signed with WCW. Hall and Nash appeared on WCW TV acting as if they were still employed by the WWF, there to take over their former company’s rival. The storyline was a throwback to the old territory days. You really believed they were there on behalf of the WWF and a lot of their (scripted) promos mentioned things usually left unsaid in the wrestling world. What Hall and Nash were doing was a seismic change in wrestling. And the story just kept getting better.

After a month of trash talking WCW, Hall and Nash challenged three of the company’s top stars to fight them and a mystery partner. The buildup was huge. Going into the match, no one knew who the third man would be. Most people suspected any of WCW’s stars who had previously worked in the WWF. Others suspected that WCW had signed another WWF defector. (Here’s another thing about mystery partners: 99 percent of the time, they’re extremely underwhelming- either a wrestler in a mask or an old wrestler coming out of retirement).

All was revealed near the end of the main event of Bash at the Beach ’96. Hall and Nash wrestled without their partner, holding their own. Then Hulk Hogan, the biggest name in wrestling, the most good of the good guys ever, started his way to the ring. He got in the ring and immediately attacked the WCW crew, aligning himself with Hall and Nash. After the match, Hogan proclaimed the group the New World Order. Their goal was simple: to take over WCW.

Just like that, the biggest storyline in wrestling got bigger. They sold millions of dollars worth of merchandise, and helped put WCW over WWF for the first time in many fans eyes. The turn of Hogan was huge. The idea of Hall and Nash invading WCW was huge. American wrestling fans hadn’t seen anything like it ever.

So what’s all this got to do with the X-Men?

House of X Title

For the past ten years or so, the X-Men, once Marvel Comics’ star franchise, has been stuck in a cycle of circumspection and languor. While there have been some very creative people working hard crafting entertaining stories, overall, the X-family has been on Marvel’s back burner, jobbing out to other groups, namely the Avengers and the Inhumans, for the benefit of those superhero teams.

Earlier this year, Marvel announced an ambitious plan for the future of the X-Men. Writer Jonathan Hickman would take the reins of the team, cancelling a number of X-books to refocus the line. The first part of Hickman’s multi-year plan involved a 12-week period involving two alternating titles, House of X and Powers of X, which would give the X-Men a new direction while making users take a different look at the team’s past.

We’re in the sixth week of this first period and Hickman’s books are a shakeup comparable to Hall and Nash first showing up on WCW television. They tread new ground for the team- adding a new twist to the team’s past while at the same time adding a mystery to their present and allowing readers to see possible futures. There are plot devices whose full impact have not yet been revealed and many questions. Thankfully, there are some visual aids in the books spelling out some of the details of Hickman’s new world.

Before the launch of the books, Marvel promoted the hell out of the Hickman’s run, going so far as to make the seemingly hyperbolic claim in the ad below- that the depicted scene was the most important in the history of the X-Men.

House of X/Powers of X promo

But the thing is, after week three, many fans were on board with Marvel’s claims. And it all goes back to the other part of the NWO formula- the mystery partner.

In the X-Men’s case, it was Moira MacTaggert. Moira was a human character introduced in the 1970s. While she played a role in a few major storylines, she was never an integral part of the X-Men. She was just there. Kind of like Hulk Hogan in WCW before the NWO.

But Hickman changed all that. House of X issue 2 explained that Moira (or Moira X) was a mutant after all, with the gifts of her mutation being undetectable and reincarnation with full memory of her past lives. Once she realized she was a mutant, Moira used her lives to attempt to cure mutations, fight alongside Xavier, fight alongside Magneto, fight alongside Apocalypse, assassinate humans responsible for the extermination of mutants and other pursuits. Even though readers don’t know the specifics of Moira’s first nine lives, we learn each time, no matter what Moira did, human-created machines were responsible for wiping out mutantkind. It was Moira’s mission to stop this.

Moira making a killing

So finally, in life ten (or life X), Moira decides to do what she did in the panels making up the most important scene in the history of the X-Men. She opens her mind fully to Charles Xavier, showing him each and every one of those previous lives. The small triumphs and the larger tragedies. And then the readers realize what this series is about- the history of the X-Men we know has been part of Moira and Charles’ plan so that mutants can thrive.

Hickman’s issues (so far) have drawn near-universal acclaim. The X-Men feel like the hot thing in comics once again. Fans are looking forward to these books every week, along with whatever comes next.

But the future is wide open. While Hogan, Hall and Nash had the wrestling world in the palms of their hands in the summer of 1996, their success was not long-running. They were popular for a few years, but their egos (and the NWO’s own popularity) led to the watering-down of the NWO and the complete collapse of World Championship Wrestling within five years.

The many lives of Moira X

It’s highly unlikely that Hickman’s storylines will doom the X-Men in a similar fashion. But for all the wonders of timeline manipulation and intrigue surrounding Moira X, the series has veered slightly from the X-Men’s central concept: protecting a world that fears and hates them. Hickman is a capable enough storyteller to be building back to that. With any luck that will happen and this new X-Men phase will be longer lasting than the New World Order.

Remembering A Half-Weezer Show

1997 was not exactly a fun time to be a Weezer fan.

The band’s second album was a critical and commercial bomb. Despite the creativity and rock found on Pinkerton, people instead were listening to the Wallflowers and the Verve Pipe. The founding members of the Weezer fan club died in a car accident and the band was taking some time off due to creative tension, with rumors that one member was about to leave for good.

But near the end of the year, some rumors started popping up on fan-run news sites. Lead singer Rivers Cuomo, who was in Boston attending Harvard, had formed a side band backed by local musicians and had been playing shows at local venues. The songs played at these shows were both songs never intended for Weezer and possible future Weezer songs. The final one of these shows took place 20 years ago today. Joining Rivers and local musicians was drummer Pat Wilson, out from LA in an effort to find some common ground with Rivers. Bassist Matt Sharp was also supposed to appear, but was not able to make the trip.

The eight-song set was a tight show, featuring three new songs (Rosemary, Baby, The Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World) and five Weezer entries (Getchoo, No One Else, Say it Ain’t So, Undone and Only in Dreams). Rivers and Pat would find their common ground, and would end up (as Rivers said at the start of the show) going out to LA to make a new record. But a whole set of challenges would meet them when they reached the West Coast, including the loss of Matt, recruiting a new bassist and Rivers being unsatisfied with any creative direction developed despite his prodigious musical output (A few years back, I wrote a rather lengthy article on that, check it out here). By the time Weezer released their third album, it was a new century and the band was going in a totally different direction.

As I mentioned earlier, news of this and the previous Boston shows hit Weezer fan sites pretty much right away. Back in January of ’98, I had just started the second semester of my third year of college. I e-mailed one of the attendees, who said he would do a 2-for-1 swap for a recording of the show (in other words, if I sent him two blank tapes, he would send me one tape back with a recording of the show). I sent off the tapes and days later, I received one back. The guy (I don’t remember his name) had written up an essay about the tape- he attended three of Rivers’ shows and recorded all three. The essay was heartfelt about his time as a fan of the band.

I listened to the tape and fell in love with the songs- both the ones intended for future Weezer use as well as the “goofball, country” songs Rivers penned. The sound quality was a little rough and in the years since a few of the songs have had official releases (in either full-band or demo form), but two of the more intriguing ones, Baby and Rosemary, only exist in the recording from this show.

Still, these songs and this show will hold a special place for me, because in a time when everyone was singing along to Tubthumping or MmmBop, I had hope that Weezer would be back. It would just take a while.