Saturday, April 23, 2016

Weezer - "Weezer (The Blue LP)" (LP Review)

Recently my posts have primarily been in reaction to artists' deaths, but today I'm going to move on to something more joyful: Weezer's eponymous 1994 debut.  On one hand, it's hard to believe that this LP came out 22 years ago since it still sounds fresh and engaging.  On the other hand, it's sometimes hard for me to believe that this LP was released three years after I was in college since it so completely captures the late 80s / early 90s zeitgeist.  The patter at the beginning and middle of "Undone - The Sweater Song" could have been recorded at any number of college parties that I attended.  I was 22 when I graduated college, and this LP is now 22 years old as well, so perhaps it is fitting that I review it now.

As I mentioned in my review of "Pinkerton", most serious Weezer fans think "The Blue LP" pales in comparison to "Pinkerton".  While I've come to appreciate "Pinkerton" more than I used to, "The Blue LP" is not just Weezer's best LP, but one of the best power pop LPs of all time.  They celebrate and synthesize so many influences that it is almost an encyclopedia of American pop music.  First, there is the unabashed, non-ironic celebration of 70s arena rock: Van Halen, Cheap Trick, Kiss, etc.  In particular, they work to perfection the Van Halen formula of heavy music tempered with sing-song choruses.  On songs like "Surf Wax America" and "Holiday", they prove that they've listened to more than their fair share of The Beach Boys as well.  And there's Black Sabbath-esque (perhaps via the Pixies) heavy crunch to songs like "Only in Dreams".  The songs are clever, funny, disturbing, and all the while retaining their alt-cred.  As I've mentioned in previous Weezer reviews, you have to credit producer Ric Ocasek for capturing a heavy-but-crisp sound that effortlessly straddles pop and alternative genres. 

The LP was well-received when it came out and it's stature has only grown over time.  Throw this LP on when you're in a mixed group but don't want forego your alternative status.  They'll love "Buddy Holly" and "The Sweater Song" (and their respective Spike Jonze videos), but you'll also enjoy "My Name is Jonas", "Say it Ain't So" (my personal favorite), and "Only in Dreams".

"Did you here about the party after the show?  Ah man, it's going to be the best.  I'm so stoked.  Take it easy bro!"

Standout songs: "My Name Is Jonas", "Buddy Holly", "Undone – The Sweater Song", "Surf Wax America", "Say It Ain't So", "In the Garage", "Only in Dreams", (the full LP).

Skip 'em songs: none.

Final score: 10/10.  I never get tired of this LP. 

Bonus link: A kindred soul who also understands that "The Blue LP" is better than "Pinkerton" (although I think he's off base on "Pink Triangle", which is dead clever). 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince - "Litte Red Corvette" (spotlight)

Prince died today.  First, he was only 11 years older than me.  Second,  Haggard, Frey, Bowie, Lyons -- 2016 is not shaping up to be a good year for musicians.

I wasn't the biggest Prince fan growing up -- I was more into metal and related genres in the 80s -- but even then I knew he was important, respected what he was doing, and had to admit that LPs like 1999 and Purple Rain were really good.   And I always appreciated that, certainly more than his peers, he maintained a heavy guitar sound in many of his songs.

I will choose to remember him with "Little Red Corvette", the second single off his break through LP "1999", for several reasons:
  • I remember when it came out (1982), 1999 seemed a million years away.  Oddly enough, the 17 years between 1982 & 1999 is now the same as between 2016 and 1999 (and sadly, sometimes 1999 seems like a million years ago).  
  • I vaguely recall this LP, and especially this song, as the sound track for a junior high party at Tim(my) Young's house  (probably in early 1983) where I had my first kiss while playing spin the bottle.  I don't even remember her name, and I'm not even sure she continued at my high school.  But she was a "popular girl" and well above my middle school station, and so I was quite satisfied with the luck of the bottle.
  • At some point a few years later, I discovered the difference between the radio edit (3:08) and the LP version (5:03).  And boy, what a difference those 2 minutes make...
  • Having established at a young age that he was singing about a car, it wasn't until much later in life where I actually paid attention to the lyrics and realized he's not really singing about her car.
Prince - "Little Red Corvette" (LP Version, Radio Edit)

N.B. It will surely be a struggle to keep the links current in this post since, despite all the accolades Prince deserves, he was kinda a tool about copyright, cover songs, etc.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Merle Haggard - "Mama Tried" (forgotten song)

Country music icon Merle Haggard died today.  He's probably best known for "Okie from Muskogee", but my favorite would probably be  "Mama Tried", the title track from his 1968 LP (honorable mention to 1983's "Pancho and Lefty").  I have to confess that I first heard it via the Grateful Dead.

It is universally acknowledged that all good country songs involve "prison", and this song is true to form.  The Library of Congress obviously agrees, and so "Mama Tried" was recently placed on the National Recording Registry for its "cultural, artistic and/or historical significance to American society and the nation's aural legacy."

Merle Haggard - "Mama Tried" (on the Johnny Cash Show?)

Grateful Dead - "Mama Tried"

Johnny Cash - "Mama Tried"