Weird Al: Skipper Dan and Beans

I’ve previously shared my opinion that “Weird Al” Yankovic is one of the greatest musical genuises of our time.  Al is known mostly for his song parodies, but he also has a large number of original songs, most of which are style parodies/homages.  Some of these, like Twister, Frank’s 2,000″ TV and Dare to Be Stupid (not to mention One More Minute, which isn’t an homage to any one artist) stand right up there with some of Al’s best parodies.

Well, Al has released his newest song, Skipper Dan, and if you ask me, it’s a style parody of a song that was huge last summer (and of which you could say I was a fan).  I think he’s got this one down- even to leaving out the guitar solo.

Skipper Dan

He didn’t even throw in a drum solo!

The Wuggie: A Marketing Tie-In Gone Crazy

I’m as big a Weezer fan as there is out there, but I’m not so sure I can get behind their latest idea (if true).

Behold, Rivers Cuomo rocking the “Wuggie”:

Last week, Weezer played KROQ’s annual Weenie Roast, taking the stage atop a couch bedecked in custom Snuggies.  But Rolling Stone says that was just the beginning of a much more sinister plan:

Like the rest of America, he’s obsessed with the Snuggie. So much that his band is — no joke — planning their own line of sleeved blankets called Wuggies. Cuomo told Rolling Stone, “A Wuggie is basically exactly like a Snuggie, except it says Weezer on it. The people at Snuggie are doing it with us and promoting it with us. It’s a totally legit Snuggie.”

Part of me feels the band would be better off giving their attention to the mysterious Album Seven.  On the other hand, no one makes more fun of Rivers Cuomo than Rivers Cuomo, so as long as he’s having fun with it, why not?

Don't Forget What Day Today Is…

…that’s right, it’s International Weezer Day!

Last year was a good year for fans of the Weez- with a new album, tour, and a boatload of solo stuff from Rivers.  Who knows what’s on tap this year? Could be more albums, another tour or two (hopefully without a co-headliner) and more solo stuff from RC.  But then again, it could be the beginning of another multi-year wait before any other Weezer action.  

But I have a feeling it’s the former rather than the latter (or is it latter rather than the former? I never get that one right).  Anyway, from all of us here at the Kingdom to all of you out there, may the Weez be with you.

Rivers Cuomo: Alone Again

If there was ever an album that I’m predisposed to like, it would be Alone II: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo.

The second in a series (of hopefully many) of albums of [Weezer lead singer’s] Rivers Cuomo’s home solo demos gives listeners a chance to hear some of the songs that weren’t big radio hits (or necessarily tunes that made a Weezer album), but are instead some of Rivers’ favorite compositions.

This album is the Empire Strikes Back to Alone I’s A New Hope.  While Alone I was good and gave the fans a taste of songs they’d been waiting to hear, Alone II is deeper and more emotionally satisfying.  Alone II actually flows as a comprehensive album.  The only drawback to the album-not everything is epic or even great (similar to Alone I).  There are two song snippets that don’t stand up on their own.  And the three tracks representing Songs From The Black Hole are more exposition for the overall SFTBH story than songs that stand up on their own (with the possible exception of Come to My Pod).

Other than those five tracks, the rest of the album consists of songs that could have made any Weezer album, and a few that could be big radio hits.  They’re enjoyable songs with no embarassing boy band-style attempts at music like Alone I’s This Is the Way.  Some of the songs, like The Purification of Water, My Brain is Working Overtime and The Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World have already been circulated in a live or inferior quality version amongst fans.  In those cases, it’s great to have those songs in an official version.

As a fan bordering on the obsessive, for me, the gem of the album is actually its liner notes.  I described last year’s liner notes as “detailed,” but Alone II’s liners put those to shame.  The booklet is a 28-page chronological journey through Rivers’ songwriting life.  He’s brutally honest with the places he was in during his lows, as well as how analytical he could be with his obsessive of writing the perfect song.  However, it sounds like he has regained his confidence and is in a better place.  Either way, I’m looking forward to any other writing projects he may have in his future.

As well as the musical ones.

Number Nine

Since 2000, I’ve been to nine Weezer concerts.  Yesterday evening, The Civee (who is not a Weezer fan) and I attended my latest, which took place in the Palace at Auburn Hills located pretty damn far away from Detroit.

Even though I’m not one of the cool kids anymore (and it’s debatable as to if I ever was), we had floor tickets and enjoyed the show from the crowd.  To say it was an interesting Weezer show would not be giving the concert justice.  

The music was great.  And the band did more songs than I’d ever see them do before.  But the band seemed more alive this time.  Up to and including my fifth Weezer show in December 2001, lead singer/guitarist Rivers Cuomo would stand in one place while capably performing the guitar and vocals.  Since then, his presence has grown by leaps and bounds, as I mentioned during my last show:

Lead singer/guitarist Rivers Cuomo was like a human dynamo. He was way more chatty than ever before…didn’t mind letting others take the spotlight, letting every member of the band front at least one song. During El Scorcho, Rivers gave up lead guitar duties and actually walked/danced/staggered around the stage while singing.

The amount of action going on on the stage made 2005 Rivers look like he did during my very first show.  Not only did Rivers sing and play guitar, he ran around the stage, danced, chatted up his band-mates, clapped, and delivered some blistering solos while jumping on a trampoline. There was a lot of life to the show, and that was a good thing.

Opening acts Tokyo Police Club and Angels and Airwaves were more than capable of starting the evening.  I hadn’t heard any of the output of either band, but I enjoyed the sets (even if TPC sounded repetitive and A&A (or AVA as their shirts read) was a bit too dramatic).  But when Weezer came to the stage in white matching overalls (which they later shed in favor of matching red tracksuits), it was time to rock.

The setlist spanned their career, and each member got to take a few turns singing lead on a song.  I do have two complaints about the setlist: It was virtually identical to the previous few shows and with the exception of a group-efforted My Name is Jonas and Brian-fronted Susanne, the older songs were strictly singles.  I would have liked to have heard something along the lines of Don’t Let Go, No One Else or Getchoo.  But I guess when you try and cram six-plus albums worth of songs into one show, not everyone is going to get what they want.

My only other slight complaint is the trading-off of lead vocalists.  It’s fine for Pat to sing his song “Automatic” or to turn in a cover of “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” But it’s still weird hearing Brian singing El Scorcho.

Six of the show’s songs were off the newest album, which were all strong performances.  They actually pulled off a live version of The Greatest Man That Ever Lived, and I have to say I was pleased to hear them play Dreamin’ (with recorded bird noises) in a live setting.

Other highlights of the show included about 30 fans (including Scott’s dad) joining them onstage in Hootenanny form for Island in the Sun and Beverly Hills.  This was enjoyable, but about 25 of those fans had guitars–it would have been more interesting had there been a second tuba or some other instruments rather than 25 guitars.

The band closed the night with a Rivers-fronted cover of Sliver and Buddy Holly.  The band sounded tight throughout the show, but really shined (probably because Rivers wasn’t distracted by the trampoline) with these two songs.  

I’m glad Weezer is still tight musically, and isn’t afraid of trying new things.  I’m also happy The Civee appeared to have a good time.  The band has grown a lot in the few years I’ve been seeing them live, and I’m looking forward to the next tour–I just hope it’s closer than Detroit.*

*I’m sure the city isn’t crazy about me, but I can’t stand Detroit.  Driving to/through the city is a nightmare.  If you’re not getting lost, you’re stuck in traffic or almost hit by some gigantic SUV going 95.

A Red Album Review From A Weezer Fanboy

The problem with new Weezer albums is that they are almost always compared by reviewers to the group’s previous efforts.

Reviewers often make up for their lack of creativity or unwillingness to move on with life by mentioning the band’s other efforts, previous bassists or frequent hiatuses. Unfortunately, this takes focus away on what the reviewer is supposed to be doing (reviewing a new album) and places it on the fact that the reviewer is living in the past.

So here it is, a commentary on Weezer’s recently released album, Weezer (2008, a.k.a The Red Album) that keeps mention of certain issues to a minimum.  And by the way, we’re not talking about the roody-poo ten-track CD that was issued. As far as I’m concerned, The Red Album is the 14-track “bonus/deluxe” edition.

After a listen to The Red Album, three words come to mind: bold, fun, rock.

For a band that has, in the past, perfected the 2.5 minute power pop song, this album is adventerous. This album features longer songs, increased use of synthesizers and other instruments, and different songwriters/lead singers throughout its 14 tracks. However, the most bold of all moves, especially for a band whose lead guitarist can shred, is the total lack of guitar solos.  But the beauty of that move is they’re not missed. These songs throw a lot out there. Case in point, The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn), showcasing about ten different musical styles, all united around a common theme in five minutes. Or Dreamin’, another five-minute gem which takes a light pastoral break in the middle of the rock.

On the surface, the two aforementioned songs aren’t emotionally deep.  The lyrics of TGMTEL are essentially five minutes of rock star posturing from Rivers, set against different genres of music. Not every track needs to whine with emotion. Weezer has succeeded in making quality rock that’s fun to listen to and sing along with.

This is not a lightweight album. If it’s emotion you’re looking for, consider The Spider or Pig, where Rivers contemplates his morality and place in the universe. There’s also Pat Wilson-penned Automatic, which he calls “family rock.” Or, probably the deepest song on The Red Album, The Angel and the One, a soaring number that just builds and builds before a long wind-down, much like the most underrated song on The Beatles’ self-titled album, Long, Long, Long.

The Red Album contains a lot of reflection, something you’d expect from Rivers, who a) wrote Pinkerton and b) meditates for fun. But not all of this introspection is in angst.  Most of it drives the music and ties into the fun aspect mentioned earlier. Consider the album opener Troublemaker, where Rivers sings of his childhood wishes to be a rock star (complete with reference to that awkward phase in ’99), or Pork and Beans, where he discovers he’s just fine with himself.  The introspection is all over the album, just not how you’d expect it.

In recent interviews, Rivers has expressed an interest in expanding himself musically and lyrically. No longer content with “generic” sounding songs, he’s mixing up arrangements, and even starting to write music from the perspective of other people. One of the unexpected gems of the album, Miss Sweeney is a good example of this. The song, about a boss who has some strong feelings for his assistant, features Rivers doing some quasi-rapping in the verses, followed up by big strong hooky rock for the choruses.  Listening to the verses, you wouldn’t think the song would amount to much, but as a whole, Weezer really knocks this one out of the park.

With all of this considered, you really can’t compare Red to any of the other Weezer albums. Band collaboration has increased exponentially. There are different songwriters and even singers.  The band is in a different place when it comes to promoting the album and allowing their fans to hear what’s been produced along the way. As I’ve mentioned previously, it’s an exciting time to be a Weezer fan. And this is the perfect album for that time.