The next 25 are in the books. Or on the Twitter.
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:
- I have the rated songs in an Excel file. I use a random number generator to determine which song gets tweeted about.
- If a song is a sketch and I have the time, I’ll do a second entry sometime that day.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Above all, I’m trying to have fun with this. Which I am.
The songs so far:
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, RiversCuomo.com. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m like most Weezer fans in that the band’s first two albums are my favorite. While I love their remaining six albums, there’s just something about 1994’s The Blue Album and 1996’s Pinkerton that just gets me.
The Blue Album was the first album I heard where I felt like I had something in common with the performer. As for Pinkerton, as a (then) college student, I could relate to it on a whole different level.
Weezer has released a bunch of solid albums since then, but their latest album, Everything Will Be Alright In The End is their first since Pinkerton to feel like the songs all matter to the band. This is an album about something- the songs are about relationships and how everything we build eventually goes away. These are songs written and performed by men with families, writing from that point of view. There’s a concept behind the album and if you’re paying attention, you can see it. As a grown man with a family, I can relate to these themes and songs. As a Weezer fan, it’s always wonderfulto have an album full of great, rocking songs. But it’s even better to be able to relate to the songs.
The album’s first single Back to the Shack has been on available since July. While it’s a decent song, it is by far the album’s low point. It’s an important statement with a great riff, but the other songs are just better.
Take for instance, Lonely Girl, which sounds like it could have been on 2001’s The Green Album, but wasn’t held back by that album’s production choices. Or opener Ain’t Got Nobody, a classic Weezer-sounding rock gem with discernible structure. The album has two historically themed songs, The British Are Coming and Cleopatra, which are both great songs in their own right. The album seemingly ends on Foolish Father, which is the most emotionally deep song Weezer has done since Pinkerton. But after Foolish Father is a three-song mostly instrumental suite, The Futurescope Trilogy which closes out the album with guitar solo after guitar solo.
In a lot of ways, this is the album Weezer fans have been waiting for since 1996. But for those of us who have enjoyed the albums between then and now, it’s nice to have something that takes the good things from those albums and improves on them.
I could close this out with an Everything Will Be Alright In The End style pun. But this isn’t the end for Weezer. And everything will be more than alright.
It’s an exciting time in the world of music here at the Kingdom.
Weezer is months away from releasing their
tenth ninth album. And the greatest musical genius of our or any other time, “Weird Al” Yankovic has just released his latest album.
To promote the album, Yankovic is releasing a video a day over the next week. While I’m unfamiliar with most of the source material, the songs are pretty, pretty good- especially today’s offering, Word Crimes. Word Crimes, based on some song I’ve never heard before, should be required viewing for anyone over the age of seven using a keyboard.
I write and edit the work of others for a living, so the song hits close to home. I know I’ve been guilty of several transgressions here at the Kingdom, but if there’s a lesson from this song, it’s just try and get it right. However, between Word Crimes and the recently leaked CIA Style Book I’ve been on quite a grammar kick lately.
If a rock album is 20 years old, does that make it a Classic Rock album?
I hope not, because if they start calling Weezer’s Blue Album classic rock, then I’m going to officially be old.
Weezer’s Weezer (the 1994 one, not the 2001 or 2008 one) was released 20 years ago today. It was the first CD I ever bought, although I didn’t get it until a few months later.
There have been some good write ups on Blue published in the past few days, including Alternative Press’ 20 Facts You May Not Know About Weezer’s Blue Album (most of which I knew) and The Smoking Section’s “Undone”: The Story Behind Weezer’s Debut Album Cover (most of which was new to me).
I should note that Weezer’s fifth album, 2005’s Make Believe (an excellent album on its own) was also released today.
William Shatner, one of the greatest artists of our or any other age, has released a new album. The video for the titular track, Ponder the Mystery is quite…interesting:
It took a few minutes after watching this, but I think I know what the inspiration for this video was:
Seventeen years ago I was a sophomore in college. On this day back in 1996, I walked a few miles between classes to the one record store near Seton Hall University to pick up a CD that was coming out that day, Weezer’s Pinkerton.
Once I purchased the only copy of the CD in the store, I walked/ran back to my dorm room, but was only able to listen to the first three songs before my next class began. All I remember about the class was not being able to wait to hear the rest of the album. Pinkerton was so different from the Blue Album (which was by then, my favorite thing to listen to), but not in a bad way.
The sound of Pinkerton was more raw and the lyrics more emotional, which were a bad news/good news thing for the album’s fortunes. The rawness and emotion, combined with the public’s changing musical tastes meant the album didn’t do well commercially. In the year after Pinkerton’s release I was incredulous as songs like One Headlight and The Freshmen were played constantly on the radio, while Pinkerton‘s songs were ignored.
At the same time, fans loved this approach and the public rediscovered the album a few years later after word-of-mouth and file sharing attracted more listeners, leading to the band’s resurgence in 2000.
But by then, it was too late for Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, who abandoned the approach that made Pinkerton what it was and sought out a more generic way of crafting the perfect pop rock song (this approach, which led to the Green Album, also was responsible band’s fascinating, yet vague (and too minimal) output in 1998). The band has also embraced (or re-embraced) the album, even releasing Pinkerton Deluxe Edition three years ago. The highlight of this special edition was Tragic Girl, a song originally demoed at the last minute then promptly forgotten.
After my class, I rushed back to my room and listened to the whole of Pinkerton. I realized it was no Blue Album, but that was not a bad thing. It was an amazing, personal, rocking album. And it’s still amazing all these years later.
I found out something important last week. If concert tickets say ‘Rain or Shine,’ that means the concert will take place outside.
Also, that means there will be rain.
Last Friday, I saw my 12th Weezer concert outside the casino in Cincinnati (the outdoor concert was across the street from the county jail). The Civee graciously accompanied me despite the rain, which started as the opening band (Cincinnati’s Daap Girls) got their set underway. The Daap Girls weren’t the worst Weezer opening band I saw, nor were they the least memorable, so that’s a bonus. Although, the most entertaining part of the Daap Girls set was the dancing of the world’s biggest Daap Girls fan who was standing next to me. The rain let up for a bit before Weezer got started, but ramped back up to torrential levels about four songs in.
Even with the rain, I enjoyed the show. The set list was along the lines of the greatest hits set they’ve been playing lately (don’t they have a new album they should be working on?) with the addition of No One Else, which was great to hear. They sounded good, and changed up arrangements on some of the songs, including (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To. Plus, they played No One Else.
Something different about this show- the crowd felt older. A lot of the people around us were talking about their kids. There was a family right in front of us, with two kids who looked to be about eight or nine. Seeing that made me think that I may be able to bring Hope to the next show, although I may not be able to get as close as I did Friday night.
Even though we was soaked by the end of the show (more accurately, soaked after standing there for 10 minutes), it was a fun show. The outdoor area of a casino across the street from a county jail made the location interesting. And while I could have done without the rain, it was certainly a memorable show.