Tag Archives: Blue Album

Rivers Cuomo.

Rivers Cuomo is a zombie. It’s the only explanation available for what has happened to the Weezer front-man over the past 10 years. Back in 1994, Weezer’s Blue Album resonated with teenage boys everywhere with its candid, nerdy lyrics about insecurity, Dungeons & Dragons, and homies dissin’ your girl.  After the Blue Album, it seemed that Weezer could do no wrong with hit songs like “Undone (The Sweater Song)” and “Buddy Holly.”

Unfortunately, their follow-up album Pinkerton got panned by critics because it was labelled as “juvenile” and“abrasive.” By year’s end it ranked #2 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s “Worst Albums of the Year” list. As we all know now (and many of us knew back then), Pinkerton is in fact a masterpiece and has gained a cult following since.  The adoration for this “M. Butterfly” inspired album of self-deprecation and failed relationships has grown so much that Rolling Stone placed it on both the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list and  the “Top 100 Albums of the 90s” list (revisionist history anyone?).

But after Pinkerton, something happened. Something I can’t explain.  Maybe it all started when the Scottie Pippen of the band, Matt Sharp, left to front The Rentals.  Maybe it was karma getting Rivers back for calling Pinkerton “…a hideous record. It was such a hugely painful mistake…” Whatever it was, the Rivers of the past 10 years is not the Rivers we got to know in the 90s.  While The Blue Album and Pinkerton were bleeding with emotion and honesty, every album released since has been completely devoid of personality, creativity, or heart.   Since the Green Album, I haven’t purchased another Weezer album, an alarming statement considering what a huge part Pinkerton and the Blue Album played in my adolescence.

Yes; Rivers Cuomo is a zombie. The Weezer sound that oozed with emotion and intellect in the 90s is now a lifeless, droning, prisoner of monotony, slowly eating away listeners’ brains, one note at a time. Ever since the disappointment set in with the Green Album (which I tried so damn hard to like), I realized Rivers had gone corporate, yet I never imagined he would go to this extreme.  Humans love money, but even a human wouldn’t stoop to the levels that Rivers has dropped to in the past few years (not even Jimmy Buffett). Can you imagine the Rivers of the 90s letting Lil Wayne rap over “El Scorcho”?  Or worse yet, invite Kenny G on stage to play along with “My Name is Jonas”? Only a brainless Rivers Cuomo would take part in such blasphemy.

At the 1:55 mark Kenny G joins the band…no lie! Watch until the end; the final second of the clip will provide you with douche chills to last the year:

I shouldn’t care this much. I’ve tried to keep Weezer off my radar for years now; I’ve tried to hold some semblance of hope that the Rivers I grew to know so intimately as a teenager still lived within the money-grubbing shell of a man we see today.  But this weekend, I couldn’t hide from the monster any longer.  Sitting at my friend’s house grilling brats, the zombie emerged from the radio via the 2010 summer dance hit “Magic.”  It didn’t rush toward my ears and go straight for my brain, rather it caught me unawares, sitting back sipping on a drink, believing the intro to “Magic” was leading into just another harmless OutKast rip-off.

Then, I heard the voice. It resembled Rivers Cuomo, but it was not the Rivers I knew.  All life had been sucked out of it, singing “I’ve got the magic in me” through an auto-tuner, resembling a robotic Lovin’ Spoonful (by the way, I DESPISE the Lovin’ Spoonful).  I turned to my friend Steve and called out over the infection that was slowly overtaking my auditory senses, “Is that Rivers Cuomo!?” He scrunched up his nose and nodded his head, signifying that he was feeling the same pain as me.  I turned to my right to find that my friend David had already succumbed to the zombie, nodding his head mindlessly to the overbearing chorus.

The only thing that could make this song worse is an autoharp (Lovin’ Spoonful reference for all you kids out there):

I stood to approach the radio; it had to be stopped! With each step I could feel the unyielding melody worming its way into my head, deadening my emotions, each auto-tuned lyric infecting my soul. And then, I stopped and stared blankly at the radio. It was too late. Zombie Rivers Cuomo had taken over.

Softly, I mumbled to myself, “I’ve got the magic in me,” and returned to my lawn chair.

“Lying on the floor! Lying on the floor! I’ve become undead.”


Filed under Bob Dylan Hates...

Top 20 Albums of 2009 (10-1)

10.Dinosaur Jr.


Dinosaur Jr pisses me off.  In 1989 Lou Barlow left the group due to inner-group tension, and as a result, we were robbed of 18 year of amazing music. Don’t get me wrong, the post-Barlow era of Dinosaur Jr still had some great albums but they fail in comparison to such classics as “Bug” and “You’re Living All Over Me”.  Fortunately, they finally got over their little quarrel and got back to rocking a few years back. If you thought the band’s kick-ass 2007 reunion album “Beyond” was a fluke, “Farm” serves as evidence that you are gravely mistaken.  Usually when bands reunite, they sound dated and contrived, but somehow, Dino’s reunion material sounds fervent and fresh.  Yes, J. Mascis is keeping the guitar solo alive, and it’s never sounded better.

9. Sunset Rubdown


“Dragonslayer” is a grower, not a show-er.  The first few listens may be difficult to wrap your head around, but once you’ve grounded yourself in Spencer Krug’s peculiar realm, you’ll find yourself swept away by his story of the struggle between friendship and love. Soon, Krug will have you wondering aloud “Why DID Anna change her name?” or “how did you get held up at yesterday’s parties?”  Krug buries his tale beneath a pile of vivid metaphors, yet, you still sense there is a narrative haunting around the tombstone. “Dragonslayer” is a lot like a T.S. Elliot poem: the more you listen to it, the more you want to hear it, to know it, to understand it.  “Dragonslayer” is the indie-rock opera the Decemberists were aiming for with “The Hazards of Love”, and Anna is our generation’s Pinball Wizard (I still don’t get why she had to change her name though).

8. Jay Reatard

“Watch Me Fall”

You haven’t heard songs this catchy since The Beatle’s “Hard Days Night”, although if Jay were a member of the Fab Five there would have been a lot of chicks with black eyes (No one charges Jay Reatard without receiving a souvenir).  Don’t be fooled by “Watch Me Fall’s” up-beat, cheery sound; this encourageable little pup’s got bite. Although “Watch Me Fall” is grounded in punk, it shows Jay maturing with his sound, relying more often upon his acoustic guitar and songwriting that is complex and finely tuned.  Complex punk? If you don’t think it’s possible, take it up with Jay.

7. Akron/Family

“Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free”

The cover says it all – there is no other album in 2009 that represents America’s trials and tribulations better than “Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free”.  It of course has the folk backbone throughout, but along the ride, the band takes you through various styles of American music, from big band, 60s psychedelia, 40s doo-wop, 90s hip-hop, to the punk-rock noise of the 70s and 80s.  Like a musical Betsy Ross, Akron/Family have taken all the genres of music that have grown out of the “land of the free” and created an intricate, multi-faceted, harmonious quilt of where we’ve been.  Throughout, these sounds are intertwined naturally and performed wonderfully by non-other than Akron/Family.

6. The Thermals

“Now We Can See”

I would have loved to have the members of The Thermals in my English class.  They understand all the basic Literary Elements: themes, metaphors, foreshadowing, symbolism, etc.  Their 2007 release “The Body, the Blood, and the Machine” relied heavily upon allusions to the bible, using the imagery of the ancient book to tell stories and make a statement about our origin.  “Now We Can See” continues with the origin theme, although in this case they use the motif of evolution.  Every song makes references to the scientific theory that we “grew from the dirt “, then “took off (our) skin” and “crawled to the sea” “to swim!”(these four lyrics were taken from three different songs- now that’s an extended metaphor!). Within these Darwinian tales, the band tells stories of facing your fears, the perils of alcoholism, and the eventual demise of modern society.  Yes, this album is an English/Science teacher’s dream come true. Oh, and did I mention that the songs also kick ass?

5. The Very Best

“Warm Heart of Africa”

I didn’t know how to evaluate The Very Best’s first album due simply to the fact that most of the songs featured music by other artists, whether it be M.I.A., Vampire Weekend, or the music from the “True Romance” soundtrack. Although the music was undeniably delightful, could the band have the same result with their own backing tracks? “Warm Heart of Africa” shames me for doubting. Mwamwaya’s voice is still as smile-inducing as ever, and Radioclit’s contributions are stronger than anything on their self-titled effort. The African vibe is felt throughout, but Radioclit is able to carry the songs discreetly through a series of genres, whether it be new wave or trance.  In a time where regionalism has become almost nonexistent due to technology, The Very Best exemplify what is possible when cultures meld their ideas into one masterwork.

4. Baroness

“Blue Album”

At its core, “Blue Album” is a metal album- yet it is so much more. The band takes all of their eclectic influences and somehow combine them naturally into their powerful assault.  Nothing is forced. Every song evolves organically, taking the listener through an obstacle course of compelling riffs and devastating drums.  Metal is often associated with death, but the “Blue Album” is life its self, a blue flower blossoming in your ears, and then unexpectantly gashing your ear drums with their savage thorns.

3. Japandroids


About a month ago I had a student I trusted run out to my car to grab a folder I left on my front seat. Of course, I didn’t remember that under the folder laid the coffee table book “Punk: The Definitive Record of a Revolution”.  When he got back to my room his face was all aglow. “You like punk Mr. S?” he asked in amazement. It was like he had just learned that Santa Claus indeed did exist. Like an authoritative dick, I asked him to go to his desk and told him we could talk about it after class. This resulted in him standing in my room for 15 minutes during my lunch time, listing all the bands he was into, none of which I’d heard of.  He then pulled out his I-POD and commenced having me check out mediocre emo band after emo band, the 21st century’s version of punk.  I tried to think of a band to suggest to this kid, to save him, one that would guide him down the right path. Minor Threat? The Wipers? Rancid? No. I had to come up with something new; this kid didn’t want to listen to an old guy’s music by old punks.  Then it hit me: Japandroids.  Nothing screams youth more than two kids from Vancouver singing lines about wanting to leave there stomping grounds, living life without concern, and kissing french girls. I told him he had to get to lunch soon, but that I would play him “Young Hearts Spark Fire”, and as I watched this kid discover real, earnest, punk rock, the young heart in me may have even pumped out a couple heartbeats.

2. Bill Callahan

“Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle”

While “Woke On a Whaleheart” showed Bill trying find himself without his band Smog, “Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle” is an overwhelming statement that Bill can in fact do this on his own.  While his band explored stranger terrain, Bill focuses on the tangible here, relying mostly on only the live instrumentation of pianos, guitars, and violins.  The album may seem intimate at times, but there are moments where Bill reminds us that his music can be larger than expected.  For example, when the strings break out on “Eid Ma Clack Shaw”, you’d swear it was a sequel to “Eleanor Rigby”.  But my favorite character has to be the mysterious guitar that lurks in the shadows of the album.  Every song you’ll catch a glimpse of it, a basic electric guitar, no effects needed, meandering in the background.  The only thing to upstage the unassuming guitar is Bill himself with his croaking baritone voice that speaks straight to your soul (I swear even the deaf can hear Bill’s voice).  If Bill Callahan only released his lyrics in poetic form, his words alone would be music to your ears. Oh, but we are luckier than that my friends. Not only is Bill a master wordsmith, but his music speaks volumes as well. Just imagine if Dylan Thomas could sing and play guitar?

1. Animal Collective

“Merriweather Post Pavilion”

On New Years Eve, the group I was hanging out with got into a discussion of who was the biggest band of the decade. The first answer to come to most of our minds was Radiohead. But driving back to Texas, I thought about the question longer and decided we may have been wrong.  TV On the Radio? Arcade Fire? The Yeah Yeah Yeahs? No, none of them created music as influential as Radiohead, but there is one band that did, and maybe even more so: Animal Collective (stick with me here…)

If you look back on Animal Collective’s resume for the past ten years, they’ve released eight albums, four EPs, and a multitude of side projects (Panda Bear’s “Person Pitch” is unquestionably one of the top ten albums of the decade).  If you simply compare “Here Comes the Indian” to “Merriweather Post Pavilion”, you’ll see in an instant how much the band has grown. Every album presents a new way to aproach music. 

“Merriweater Post Pavilion” is quite possibly the band’s best album to date, the perfect culmination to a productive decade.  In this case, it’s not an insult to say that it is their most accessible album because to an outsider, “Merriweater Post Pavilion” would still seem pretty alien.  I hate to say the band has matured because it would be a damn shame, but they have definitely learned how to approach their music from a melodical stand-point (and you’ll never hear them scream once, which has slowly become a crutch for them over the years). 

Even the lyrics speak of growing up and facing adulthood.  Yet I insist, they have NOT grown up.  If anything, the album brings me back to my childhood, sounding like the soundtrack to “Fern Gullie”. The sounds are enchanting, exciting, and will have you conjuring up images of elves and gnomes prancing around a magical mushroom in no time.  It’s too bad Jim Henson is dead because I can only imagine what he could have done with the mystical world on “Merriweater Post Pavilion”. I guess as a consolation you can always rent “Fraggle Rock”, turn the sound off, and blast “Merriweater Post Pavilion” out of your stereo.  Who needs drugs when you’ve got “Merriweater Post Pavilion” and Muppets?

(Note to reader: Sad to say goodbye to our best of 2009 lists? Never fear! Over the tenure of 2010, Paul will be moving methodically through decade, listing what he deems the top albums for each year. Look for it in the coming weeks!)


Filed under Top Albums Lists

Best/Worst Album Covers of 2009

Unfortunately, there will not be any “Road Trip” blogs for two weeks due to all of my trip photos being on my home computer.  Never fear! The best of lists are here! Over the next couple weeks we will be unveiling our top albums, songs, and below, our best and worst album covers.  Enjoy your holiday season, and of course, enjoy our look back on 2009.

The Worst…

10. Kenny Chesney
“Greatest Hits II”

It looks like Kenny's roadies left all his gear on the beach. I guess he'll have to load it all himself! Fortunately, he doesn't have any sleeves to roll up.

9. Green Day
“21st Century Breakdown”

I think this album is supposed to look urban, dirty, and rebellious. Instead, it looks like a polished paint by numbers.

8. Susan Boyle
“I Dreamed a Dream”

When you are famous for being ugly with a beautiful voice, you probably shouldn't plaster your ugly mug on the CD cover, even if your hands are covering half of the mess. Like Obama would say, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig." (Too harsh?)

7. Monsters of Folk
Oh! I get it! It’s folk stars in cartoon form! There’s Conor Oberst, Jim James, M. Ward and there’s….um…there’s….the dude from “Doonesbury”?
6. Adam Lambert
“For Your Entertainment”


5. Twisted Sister
“Big Hits and Nasty Cuts: The Best of Twisted Sister”

I don't know what's worse: five 50-year-olds in ripped jeans and make-up or the monster's claws ripping through their image.

4. Chris Brown

Obviously, Chris Brown is not the best at making good decisions, but who knows what he was thinking with this cover. Maybe he's auditioning for the part of Judge Doom in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit 2". "Hey evil cartoon creatures! If you don't help me with my plan I'll spray you with The Dip!"

3. Ben’s Brother
“Battling Giants”

It looks like somebody went a little overboard with their collage. "But there were so many cool pics to cut out of my 'National Geographic!"

2. Bill Engvall
“Aged and Confused”

God is great. Beer is good. The world is crazy! EL OH EL!

1. Brooke Hogan
“The Redemption”

I know money may be tight for the Hulkster these days but this is God awful...I'm guessing Hulk must have owed a favor to a blind South Beach air-brush artist.

The Best…

10. The Black Lips
“200 Million Thousand”

At first glance this cover may seem lame with its scrawled letters and monotonous black and white lines, but if you stare at it a little longer, a gruesome face will emerge from the mess of lines. Beware!

9. Grizzly Bear

I don't get Grizzly Bear, and it frustrates me to no end. Their 2009 release "Vectamist" has been critically acclaimed, yet I listen to it and find myself yawning. What am I missing here? Well, at least I can appreciate the album's expressionist cover, a vibrant blend of triangular shapes and chipping paint.

8. Baroness
“Blue Album”

It sure is nice having a graphic artist in your band.

7. Weezer

Sure, this Weezer album sucks dog balls, but you can't deny the shear awesomeness featured in this image of a canine catapulting across a living room. If I could describe this picture in one word, it would "RADITUDE"! (Eck, I just gave myself douche chills)

6. Antlers

This cover may seem boring and simple, but that is what makes it so brilliant. Everything seems to fit perfectly: the contrast of the colors and the cyclical feel of the two hands reaching out. When you notice that the left upper-hand is wearing a hospital wristband, the album's title "Hospice" takes on a much larger meaning.

5. Flaming Lips

This isn't the cartoony water color Flaming Lips cover you've grown accustomed too, which is fitting when considering the stark change in style the album contains. Dark and appalling, both the grimey music and the cover's image of a woman attempting to emerge from a hairy cocoon will leave you confused yet searching for more.

4. Dinosaur Jr.

I'm not sure if these walking plants are inspired by LOTR's Ents, or if they are supposed to be giant pot plants, but there is something damn cool about this image of vegetation dudes carrying cute women away from the city smog. It doesn't really fit the album's grinding riffs and howling guitar solos, but when a cover is this kick-ass, does it matter?

3. Biffy Clyro
“Only Revolutions”

This is a truly captivating photograph that only raises questions. Are these two being held captive? Why is there a fire? What do the sheets waving in the wind represent? Are they being held back? Or do they somehow represent sexual tension? Or am I just going crazy? It's too bad the band's music isn't nearly as interesting as this photo that will lead you to either enlightenment or insanity.

2. Animal Collective
“Merriweather Post Pavilion”

Stare at the picture for a moment. Is it moving like water? What makes it even cooler is how fitting it is alongside "Merriweather Post Pavilion's" watery, spaced out sounds.

1. Yo La Tengo
“Popular Songs”

A rusty, unravelling cassette tape - not only does it make you nostalgic for the age of the mix-tape, but it also makes you a little sad. Kids being born today will never own a physical piece of digital media. All their music, movies, and video games will be kept on a hard drive, not taking up space and gathering dust in the basement. At the same time, they will never know the joy of making that perfect blend of songs to be listened to ad nauseam in your car as your cruise the loop. As much as us "Hippies and a Ouija Board" want to keep this era alive, sometimes "Ghosts Don't Always Want to Come Back".


Filed under Best/Worst Album Covers

Baroness “Blue Album”

“Blue Album”
Relapse Records

Rating: 9

Respect. A word often thrown around, especially by Ali G.  This summer’s action flick “G.I. Joe” didn’t respect the sanctity of the classic G.I. Joe comic, making Ripcord a wise-cracking black guy and of course, the inexcusable creation of a love story between Baroness and Duke.  Fortunately, on “The Blue Album”, the Savanna, Georgia  metal outfit Baroness has shown complete respect for the history of not only metal, but also giving nods to post-punk, prog, hardcore, and even math rock. (On a side note, wouldn’t Destro be a much better name for a metal band? Just saying…)

For starters, this flawlessly organized album is book-ended by “Bullhead’s Psalm” and “Bullhead’s Lament”, both mysterious, spacey instrumentals that sound similar to Metalica’s “Nothing Else Matters”.  In the opener, this homage to metal Gods from times of yore soon builds into a double guitar lead lick that pierces through the classic sound, proclaiming that Baroness has arrived: you better recognize. This intricate guitar playing fills the album from start to finish, sounding like Dream Theater, minus the self-indulgence.  The goal of this band is not to impress; they want to catch you off guard, kicking you in the balls just when you think they are taking a rest.

When “Bullhead’s Psalm” comes to an eerie end,  a ripping guitar riff blasts through the speakers, and John Baizley’s grizzled voice screams out, sounding like Ian MacKaye with a cold, circa Fugazi days (on “A Horse Called Golgotha” you my have flashbacks to the early 90s, listening to “In On the Kill Taker”).    Despite its hardcore leanings, it still stays rooted in the type of classic metal that would make Tony Iommi blush.  Song after song will have your head bobbing uncontrollably. With music this damn good, who gives a shit about lyrics?

The grippingly thrash continues for most of the album, but the band is somehow able to steady the raging storm of metal chaos, finding calmer waters in borderline ballads like “Steel that Sleeps in the Eye” and “Black Powder Orchard”.  On the latter, the band’s southern roots can be heard, with it sounding like something you might hear on an Allman Brother’s album. “O’er Hell and Hide” starts with an enchanting serenade that will lead you into a sleepy listlessness due to its calming acoustic guitar artistry. 40 seconds into the song, when you’re on the verge of sweet dreams, the nightmare arrives with the band breaking into a grinding post-punk sludge tour. Amidst the chaos, a muffled voice can be heard talking in monotone, sounding almost like a metal Slint. Yes. I said it. A metal version of Slint. I think I just squirted a little pre-cum. 

 I may be making this album sound like a compilation of covers, but that assessment would be completely off-base.  Despite the album’s wide spectrum of influences, there is never a doubt of who you are listening to: Baroness mother fucker. This is one of the most focused albums I’ve heard all year, which is pretty impressive considering the wide array of influences the band draws upon.  The only thing that might be better than Baroness’s “Blue Album” may be a stroll through the record collection that inspired this all-encompassing metal sound.


Filed under Album Review, Best New Albums