Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Review of Weezer's "Raditude"

My obsession with Weezer began 10 years ago with the Blue Album and my Sony Walkman, continued with Make Believe and my first generation Ipod, and for the last year has been all about the Red Album and my station wagon’s sad excuse for a stereo.

And even though I’m still stuck listening to the ‘95 Ford Escort’s scratchy speakers, I now have Raditude, Weezer’s latest album, feeding my never ending addiction.

This 10-song disc is lighthearted and playful from start to finish. If you like "Buddy Holly," "Pork and Beans," "Hash-Pipe," or any of Weezer’s other pop-rock style songs, you will have no issues with this album.

The first song, “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To,” is reminiscent of the happy, carefree tone found in the Green Album. The song is an upbeat collection of clapping hands, simple chord progressions on guitar, and a steady delivery on the drums. There’s nothing that makes this song stick out, but it’s ridiculously catchy and it does a great job of setting the mood for the rest of the album.

The title of the song “I’m Your Daddy” may lead the listener to expect some chauvinistic rant about male dominance--but please, it’s Rivers Cuomo we’re talking about. He’s always been nothing more than a polite nerd who fantasizes about treating women with the utmost respect. And again he shows those feelings in this song about a young man desiring to properly court a young lady that he sees “grooving on the dance floor.”

“I’m Your Daddy” is reminiscent of Weezer’s classic garage band sound. The guitars are crunchy, the drums are heavy yet simple, and Rivers still delivers with the same pouty, untrained voice that has defined the band’s sound from the start.

Another song with a slightly misleading title is “The Girl Got Hot.” Yes, it is about a woman whose looks significantly improved after her body underwent a natural maturation process, but it’s not overtly sexual, it’s actually quite innocent. That’s how Weezer does things. They always remain tactful. They only pretend to be raunchy.

There is only one song that I can see people having a problem with. It’s called “Can’t Stop Partying.” This track was written by Jermaine Dupri. He’s a rapper. Weezer is Geek-Rock. The two don’t mix…or do they? This song makes a strong argument that they do. I didn’t want to like it. But I do. I didn’t want Weezer to sell-out. But they really don’t.

Listening to Rivers sing, “Monday to Sunday I hit all the clubs/ And everybody knows me when I pull up/ I got the real big posse with me, yeah I’m deep/ And if you lookin for me I’m VIP,” I don’t believe a word he's saying. He doesn’t believe it either. The sarcasm is evident, and it makes the song fun. The track is a bit of a stretch for the band, but they do a good job with it.

There is one more experimental song on the album. It’s called “Love Is The Answer.” The song begins with a twangy sitar and an Indian female’s voice harmonizing. It sounds like something that could be on the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack. It’s beautiful and unexpected. Then Cuomo comes in and everything meshes perfectly and then builds to a majestic verse sung by the female voice. I love this song. It sent tingles down my spine and was on repeat for about 20 minutes after the first time I listened to it.

The rest of the songs are traditional Weezer music: simple and sincere, Rivers singing from his heart, catchy melodies, and lyrics that are shallow on the surface but definitely have a deeper meaning.

The band's lineup of members remains the same for Weezer's seventh studio album. Brian Bell plays guitar and does backup vocals, Pat Wilson bangs on the drums, and Scott Shriner is still slappin' the bass.

This album doesn’t have River’s heart in it to the extent that Pinkerton did, and it doesn’t have the pure garage band sound that the Blue Album delivered, but something about it is unique. This album seems to be created for the fans, and people will enjoy what they hear.

Cranky Weezer fans may call Rivers a sell-out, but they can eat one. Rivers doesn’t sell out. He experiments (successfully) and remains true to himself and the band. And it’s safe to say that my aging Ford Escort will be blaring Raditude from her speakers for many months to come.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Favre In Purple

When I think of a 40 year-old, gray-headed hick from Mississippi, I picture a guy who might be good at nothing more than shootin’ some birds or hookin’ some catfish. However, my preconceived notions are being shattered this year by the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback, Brett Favre, as he is showing everyone that he still has more than a few good throws left in that legendary right arm.

When it comes to stats, Favre is arguably the best quarterback in the league. But when it comes to impact had on a team, Favre is in a league of his own. Favre’s presence in Minnesota is clearly the reason for the team’s success this year.

Of course the Vikings are stacked in almost every other position this year, but they were loaded with the same arsenal of all-star caliber players last year and only managed a respectable 10-6 record and a first-round playoff loss.

This season Favre and the Vikings are 9-1 and showing no signs of slowing down. Not bad for a guy who's only 10 years away from getting his AARP full membership card.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The November I Hope Not To Remember

I’m a little over half way through my first No-Shave November, and things couldn’t be going much worse.

I spend every waking hour itching my bristly face, I can’t put an ounce of dressing on my salad unless I’m willing to wear sticky, orange dots of Dorothy Lynch on my chin for the next few hours, and eye contact is no longer possible during conversations as the other person can’t help but avert their focus to the thin, greasy hairs that make up what is technically my mustache.

I HATE MY BEARD. It’s patchy, it’s thin, it’s discolored. It makes my face smell like a pair of stale, wool socks.

And what’s worse is that it’s not even a real beard. The majority of the hairs sprout up either at or below my jaw line. That means most of it is on my neck. That makes it a neck beard…a neard. Nobody wants a neard.

No-Shave November has been such a letdown.

I used to idolize my friends who could participate in this annual celebration of testosterone and poor hygiene. I would dream of a thicket of dark, curly fur, enveloping an entire half of my face. It would be able to hold my pens and pencils. I would eat nachos, and people would see the glorious remnants of cheese and Tostitos on my face. I would see my family at Thanksgiving and they would say, “There’s something different about you this year, Jesse, but I just can’t quite figure it out.” And I would respond, “It’s my beard. I am a man. Now excuse me while I go drink stout beers.”

But alas, my boyhood dreams have failed me, and the effects of hitting puberty late are still haunting me to this day.

I suppose I’m being partially environmentally friendly by not using the small amounts of water that accompany a typical shaving session. And I am okay with saving the extra five bucks that I may have spent on some razors or a can of shaving cream. But these small victories get trounced by all the negative experiences that have accompanied me in my rookie season of No-Shave November.

However, I’ve decided that I’m going to stick it out. I fear that the shame of quitting now, half way through the battle, would be much worse than the lack of facial comfort that I will continue to experience for the next several days.

No-Shave November has not lived up to the hype. This month has sucked. And I’m going to be more cautious in the coming years before I ever decide to partake in this annual celebration of the unkempt.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Review of "Where The Wild Things Are Motion Picture Soundtrack"

A great movie needs a great soundtrack. The action in the film needs to be driven and supported by music that perfectly matches the mood. Director Spike Jonze is aware of this, and was able to score big by hiring Karen O & The Kids to create a truly fitting soundtrack for Jonze's latest film Where The Wild Things Are.

Karen O, lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, uses her indie-rock roots to create a 14-song soundtrack that is equally as inspiring and adventurous as the movie.

The album, which features the songs chronologically as they appeared in the film, opens with a beautiful, lullaby-style tune entitled "Igloo." This song does its job by creating the imaginative, child-like atmosphere that fills the entire soundtrack.

The following song, "All Is Love," is the heart of the album. This track begins with the slow lullaby leftovers of the previous number, but quickly picks up with a driving bass, clapping hands and Max Records (child star of the movie) yelling, "One, Two, Ready, Go!" The rest of the song is filled with an up-tempo piano part, a children's choir and steady guitar strumming that make it necessary for the listener to either bob their head or stomp their feet in time with the music.

The remaining songs in the album deliver the same sound that takes the listener out of their own world and into Max's. The songs only vary in terms of their mood (happy, sad, scary, etc.) and tempo. The same basic instruments, percussion and vocals are used throughout the soundtrack.

Jonze could have easily paid someone to find 14 songs that fit the film and called it a soundtrack (like many filmmakers do), but instead he chose to hire an accomplished artist to create an original score for his movie. And if you see the film and listen to the soundtrack, you'll realize that he made the right choice.