The Red Album: Deluxe Redux
Okay, I know MoCCA is this weekend and I should probably be talking about Comics, but I have been rocking out to The Red Album non-stop for the last three days, and I am officially ready to share my thoughts about the album. This will probably be pretty "in-depth" so if you aren't in to Weezer check back after the weekend for regular comics-themed updates...
The Red Album is my first digital Weezer album. I don't know if it was just that Tower Records closed all of its stores (where I used to go to buy my CDs), or the fact that I got an iPod, or just that I seem to move all the time and carrying around a bunch of CDs is sort of inconvenient. But I decided early on I would just pre-order this album on iTunes (a deal that was sweetened by the inclusion of two extra B-sides, and early access to ticket ordering for the upcoming tour!)
The weird thing is that Weezer released FOUR of the tracks BEFORE the album came out (Pork and Beans, The Greatest Man That Ever Lived, Troublemaker and Dreamin'). Even though I had already pre-purchased the whole album, I gladly forked over my 99 cents for each of these tracks so I could start rocking out a few weeks early. These "preview songs" painted QUITE the picture of what lay ahead for the full album....
Mostly, the classic Weezer sound was THERE. The first time I heard the chorus of Pork and Beans kick in, the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up. I'm not quite sure how to describe Weezer's sound, when it's at its best. It's like the bottom of the world drops out and the whole universe explodes. Total rock music. I was hopeful!
Next, I heard The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn), which has got to be the craziest Weezer song EVER. In one interview, Scott (the bass player) said it is basically Weezer's "Bohemian Rhapsody." During its six minute playing time, the song goes through ELEVEN different variations on the melody; covering everything from rap to rock, to a battle march (?!), to full-on, four-part vocal harmony. This song was unlike anything the band had ever done before. "ADVENTUROUS" is the word. Plus, it ROCKED, so I was even more hopeful!
The third song to be released was the album opener, Troublemaker. GOOD LORD that song rocks! Rapid-fire, kick-ass lyrics scatted over an infectious toe-tapping guitar riff. (HOW'S THIS FOR ARTS AND CRAFTS???) Also, at this point I started to notice some patterns emerging... In lieu of shredding guitar solos, the songs seemed to each have a section where the whole song dissappears. It gets real quiet and then it slowly builds back up until the groove kicks back in with an explosion. Also, all three songs are basically about how awesome Rivers is, and if you happen to share that sentiment (WHICH I DO) then you would be getting seriously pumped for this album at this point!!!
The last song I heard before the album was released, was Dreamin'. It was a little more straightforward. Not a thrasher, but extremely solid. I feel like this was a song that could have been on "Make Believe" only it was WAY BETTER. There's this weird dream sequence section, the back-up vocals are so beautiful and complex, and Pat's drumming is seriously carved directly out of granite. The only thing that struck me as weird were the last 20 seconds of the song, which contain an out-of-left-field, super-aggro, double-time outro. "Ah well" I thought, "if that's the worst this album has to offer, it is still going to RULE!"
Unfortunately, that was not even CLOSE to the worst thing this album had to offer...
I had made plans to hang out with Rachel on Tuesday night (as she had just gotten back from attending BEA in L.A.) but at some point in the day, I realized that since the album was being released on Wednesday, that meant it would probably be available just after MIDNIGHT on TUESDAY. So Tuesday afternoon I authorized my new laptop to download and play music from my iTunes account (I even did a test download, which I was then able to load onto my real computer). Problem solved!
So at midnight, I logged into my iTunes account and tried to download the album... and it didn't work. I couldn't quite remember how iTunes handled pre-orders, so using Gmail, I looked up my pre-order email from that awful Shins album. Sure enough, iTunes sends you an email notifying you that the album is ready to download. The Shins email was sent at 12:21am. So I began obsessively hitting "reload" on my Gmail account. It was 12:15 or so...
After almost an hour of this, I was getting seriously frustrated. Weird things kept changing in the iTunes weezer page, so I knew they were working on it. But I still couldn't download the album. I thought that perhaps it was all being handled on West coast time (Apple is in CA, as is Weezer) but what about that friggin Shins email?! And also, if it is past midnight on ONE SQUARE FOOT of America then I say you HAVE to release your content! sigh
There didn't seem to be a solution, and I was super tired, and it was past 1am, so I caved, and went to sleep. BUT! I set my alarm for 3am, figuring they'd HAVE to have this sorted out by then! And sure enough, when I woke up at 3, the email was waiting for me (sent at 2:21 !!?! COME ON iTUNES) So then I stayed up until about 4:30 listening to the album (and the six extra B-sides) for the first time...
I had already heard the first three tracks, and tracks 4 and 5 only BUILT on the excitement that had been generated.
Heart Songs is this extremely personal song which basically lists every major musical influence Rivers has ever had. It's got this incredible crescendo at the end, describing the formation of Weezer, and how he now makes his own music, giving the inspiration and enjoyment he had received back to others.
Everybody Get Dangerous is an all out WAR. It is ferocious, unforgiving, bad-ass ROCK. It's like what Weezer was TRYING to do on "Maladroit," only it's SO MUCH BETTER, because the song is still actually ABOUT something. I can't wait for this one to hit the airwaves. People are going to flip out.
After two new tracks, Dreamin' came on, and I listened to it with a mixed sense of familiarity and excitement. Six tracks in, and the album was going GREAT! It was definitely better than The Green Album and Maladroit. And so far, it was blowing Make Believe out of the water. Could this be it? My THIRD favorite Weezer album?? A return to the good old days???
And then track 7 started playing.
It starts with a crappy fake-drum loop. Then there is a weird fake-drum fill. Then two crappy hand claps. AND THEN BRIAN STARTS SINGING.
Who? Yeah. Brian. The 2nd guitar player of Weezer. Not only is he singing, but he also wrote the song, Thought I Knew. And it is awful. Just AWFUL.
I'm not going to fully go into it, because I don't want to be mean, but I'll just say this: The song has NO PLACE on a Weezer album. It DOES NOT BELONG. And unfortunately, neither do the following TWO songs: Cold Dark World, which was written and performed by Scott, the bass player of Weezer, and Automatic, which was written and performed by Pat, the drummer of Weezer.
When track 10 started playing, I was literally surprised to hear Rivers singing again. I tried to snap out of it and enjoy the song, as it was the last on the album. And really, The Angel and the One IS a very enjoyable song. It starts off so quietly and tenderly and builds and builds and BUILDS until it just blasts off into the stratosphere. It's a perfect last song for an album. The Red Album, I guess...
In a bit of a haze, I listened to the extra six B-sides that were included with the "deluxe" version of the album. At this point it was about 4am. I went back and listened to the good songs I had only heard once, as if to re-confirm that they actually existed, and then I got back into bed, and tried to go to sleep.
But I COULDN'T. I just laid there, thinking. What the hell just happened? The album was SO GOOD! But those three tracks. AGH, those THREE TRACKS. What are they doing on this album???
I feel like a real jerk, hating those three tracks so much. I don't want to be mean to Brian or Pat (or Scott) because THEY are Weezer too, you know? I mean, I'm still not completely sold on Scott, even though he's done a great job on the last three albums and really seems to have found his place in the band. It's just that my weezer-bass-heart will always belong to Matt. There's not much I can do about that. But Brian? PAT??? I think Pat is one of the greatest drummers in the world! And good god, he CUTS LOOSE on this album! There are fills so vicious, it feels like getting BEAT UP just hearing them!
And Pat IS a good song writer. I have more than one Special Goodness album and I listen to them frequently. But it's not Weezer. "Automatic" is a Special Goodness song sitting right in the middle of a Weezer album. And it has no place there.
In fact, another reason Automatic and Thought I Knew suck so hard is that Pat isn't playing drums! He's on guitar while RIVERS plays drums for both those tracks. And while I'm pretty impressed Rivers can hold his own on the drums, he's no Pat Wilson. So not only are the songs missing Rivers on vocals, and guitars, they have sub-par drumming!
So I sat there in the dark, at 5am, thinking, "Why did they DO this?" The only possible answer I came up with, is that this is the band's 6th album, and the other members of the band must have wanted to be more involved. Or you know, Weezer only has 2 more albums on their contract, so maybe the other guys are trying to gear up for solo careers... And I'm okay with that... but not to this EXTENT. For instance, it doesn't bother me when Brian or Scott take over a whole verse in The Greatest Man That Ever Lived. It sounds great, and when Rivers comes back in, it's a really interesting dynamic.
It's just that Rivers IS Weezer. In my opinion, his voice HAS to be in every song. In the old B-side "I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams" Rivers sings back-up vocals for Rachel Haden and it sounds FANTASTIC. I wish they had done something like that with these three tracks. Like still have them be WEEZER songs, with Rivers on guitar, Pat on drums (multitrack! I don't care!), written by Rivers but performed by the other guys.
ANYWAY, I finally fell asleep, and then spent the next day listening to the album over and over and over again (along with the B-sides). But try as I might, it just wasn't sitting right with me. It was like this great START of an album, but after track 6 it takes a weird left turn and never recovers. It's as though that weird aggro 20-second riff at the end of Dreamin' is Rivers saying, "Good luck with these next three songs!" It's SUCH an abrupt shift, it's as though you're not even listening to the same band any more. It made me wonder what Beatles fans felt like when Ringo jumped on the mic for the first time.
By the end of the day, I was getting pretty depressed about the album. I couldn't listen to it all the way through and actually enjoy it. Then, just before going to bed, I got a text message from my best-weezer-friend-in-New York, Liz Baillie saying "Are we still on for tomorrow?" At first, I didn't know what she was referring to, but then I remembered that WEEKS ago I had emailed her, saying we should hang out the day after the new Weezer album comes out to rock out and draw. I texted her "YES" and the next day she came over while Aaron was here and we all drew together.
Before getting to work, Liz and I had a very deep conversation about Weezer, and about the new album (covering much of the above) and Liz made the point that the three non-Rivers tracks should have been B-SIDES. Like, if you are so into Weezer that you buy the "deluxe" version, then they'll throw in these odd tracks, where the band's rolls are all mixed up! I thought that was a good idea...
THEN while we were listening to the album and drawing, it suddenly dawned on us! Two of the B-sides that came with the album are REALLY GOOD, straight-forward Weezer songs (Pig and Miss Sweeney), with Rivers tearing it up on guitar and lead vocals and Pat smashing the hell out of those drums.
SO WHY NOT SWITCH OUT SOME OF THE GOOD SONGS FOR THE BAD ONES???
I mean seriously, WHY NOT? In a recent interview with BuzzNet.com Scott himself said:
We finished the album, and we listened back, and there's a lot of slow songs on this album, and it was a little bit heavy and a little bit of a drag to listen to. That was with those songs on the deluxe version, and we figured out that we needed a couple of uptempo songs and we might want to lose a couple songs. Originally it was like an hour and five minute album without 'Pork and Beans' and 'Troublemaker,' and it was a totally different record. 'Pig' was a real tough song for us to get, and 'Ms. Sweeney' is a song that we're super-proud of. It's one of my favorite Weezer songs ever, I'd have to say, but there were too many lower-tempo songs for the 10-song album."
So these two songs (Pig and Miss Sweeney) are TOTALLY FINISHED, PERFECTLY GOOD Weezer songs that were created SPECIFICALLY FOR THIS ALBUM! The only reason they aren't on there is that the band voted and decided the album was too SLOW??? Well guess what? I'll take a slow, AWESOME Weezer album over a fast CRAPPY Weezer album ANY day!
So, using the power of iTunes, I have relabeled my Red Album tracks into the following order:
- The Greatest Man That Ever Lived
- Pork and Beans
- Heart Songs
- Everybody Get Dangerous
- MISS SWEENEY
- The Angel and the One
At first this made me feel a little sick to my stomach (going against the band, and what they decided) but I have been listening to this variation of the tracklisting all day, and it is just SO MUCH better. I can listen to it all the way through without wincing or getting angry. It feels like a really solid album now (seriously, probably my 3rd favorite ever). And it still clocks in at a solid 39.8 minutes.
And you know what? I still listen to those other non-Rivers songs, when I am listening to the other new B-sides. They just work so much better as B-sides.
Even though this isn't "real," it offends me so much less that those tracks are not on the album... Maybe THIS album should have been called "Make Believe."