Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Greatest Album That Ever Lived?

Weezer's Red Album was just barely released! I haven't listened to it yet, though, but I'm going to be listening to it all night, that's for sure, and I'm going to listen to it for the very first time right now and write my impressions on each of the tracks. They might be edited later on when I'm more familiar with the tracks, but I'll make a note of that, so that my first impressions are also preserved.

No, I'm not proclaiming that Weezer's Red Album is the greatest album ever. It's just a pun on one of the tracks on the album. It's a very good rockin' ride of an album, though, and it departs a little bit more from Weezer's traditional power pop sound, which is by no means a bad thing. I'll go through and listen to the album, and write my views on each song as I go through them. I got the iTunes Deluxe Version Pre-Order, so I have sixteen tracks. The standard Weezer Red Album that is available in stores has only the first ten tracks, the Weezer Red Album Deluxe Version available on iTunes has the first fourteen, the fifteenth track comes with an iTunes purchase of the entire album simultaneously, and the sixteenth track is an iTunes exclusive track that only is available if you pre-ordered the album. That said, some of the tracks I write about will not be available to you (although I'm sure if you look hard enough, you'll be able to find them on the Internet, and I'm not saying any more than that...) Anyway, here goes:

1. Troublemaker
Not quite a power-pop song, but definitely fairly mainstream. Nice bright guitars. Funny, cool chorus, even if it doesn't mean much. There isn't a whole lot about "troublemaking" in this song, but it's still really cool.

"I'm a troublemaker, never been a faker/doin' things my own way, never givin' up/I'm a troublemaker, not a double-taker/I don't have the patience to keep it on the up"

2. The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations On A Shaker Hymn)
This song is EPIC! I love it. It starts out with a crowd cheering and mellow piano, then goes into a rock-rap section, and after a verse of that, the mellow piano comes in with the rock-rap. Next is an acoustic section with Rivers Cuomo singing in falsetto, then an INCREDIBLE vocal chorus section with the entire band. Back to another acoustic section with higher falsetto, then a straight-up rock section. Brian Bell singing cool backup vocals. An almost swing-style section with offbeat, syncopated drums and guitar. Back to more straight-rock, then a plunky guitar part with Rivers speaking metaphorically about life as a stage. Another vocal chorus (not quite as amazing as the first one, but still darn good). A last rock section, and a great ending chord, sung by the band. Amazing harmonies, this song is excellent.

"After the havoc that I'm gonna wreak/no more words will critics have to speak/I've got the answers to the tangled knot/sleep tight in your cot"

3. Pork And Beans
Great power-poppy song, definitely a "single" sound. The music video is currently the most popular on YouTube, with over 5,000,000 views since May 23rd when it debuted. It's not my favorite song, because it's full of all the standard power chords, but it's got a good hook and nice lyrics. (Don't forget, you should watch the music video for Pork And Beans through this link to help me out in the contest for a guitar signed by Weezer!)

"I ain't gonna wear the clothes that you like/I'm fine and dandy with the me inside/one look in the mirror and I'm tickled pink/I don't give a hoot about what you think"

4. Heart Songs
Cool acoustic intro, with bass drum beats like a heart beating. Rivers is singing about all of his musical influences, from Gordon Lightfoot to Cat Stevens to the Beatles to Iron Maiden to Michael Jackson and Nirvana. It's a cool laid-back song with nice bell sounds. Heavy section when he mentions Nirvana's Nevermind. Synthed strings section that is a perfect foil for the heavy building guitar part. Excellent vocal counterpart breakdown with the band singing the chorus at half speed and Rivers overlaying it with repeated sections.

"These are my heart songs/they never feel wrong/and when I wake, for goodness' sake/these are the songs I keep singin'"

5. Everybody Get Dangerous
Sounds like a car speeding by and breaking glass, then some sweet chugging guitar comes in. Rivers is "singing" rap-rock about being bad as a kid. A song akin to "Troublemaker" but with more admissions to being a bad kid. Very good chugging guitars and fast vocals, reminds me of Anthony Kiedis' (Red Hot Chili Peppers) singing style. A long "bridge" section without the chugging guitars. Rivers holds out "place" for about a minute while the rest of the band comes in with other parts, then it's back to the march of the awesome guitar! The guitar ends suddenly and is replaced with a really sweet drum solo with falsetto yells on top of it, and this fades into the next song.

"And what will we say when our kids come to us/and ask with a smile on their face/hey, Dad my friends got some new ninja swords/is it cool if we slash up this place?"

6. Dreamin'
Another epic song, happy and upbeat. Cool ambient intro, standard pop-rock beginning, then fades into a cool mellow section with Brian singing lead and Rivers singing counterpart. A little section with some cool guitars in the middle that make you think it's going to go back into the heavy rock, but then it heads back into mellow counterparts again. Eventually, the pop rock comes back in underneath the counterpart and they make an excellent combination, until the straight-rock last four lines take over to finish up the song.

"I'm dreamin' in the morning, I'm dreamin' all through the night/and when I'm dreamin' I know that it's all right/I'm dreamin' in the evening, I'm dreamin' all through the day/and when I'm dreamin' I know that it's okay"

7. Thought I Knew
It's got a techno sound to the beginning, then comes in with an acoustic guitar and bass. This is a song that Brian wrote for his band, The Relationship, and he sings lead in the re-done Weezer version. This is originally a really dark-sounding minor key song, but Weezer has made it a light pop ballad. Brian has a very good voice. I like it, and it's a fresh change from Rivers (not that he's a bad singer, but it's way cool when bands have other people sing lead). Got a cool wandering guitar solo (first one on the album...) through the last chorus and breakdown.

"Sorry, if I caused you pain/sorry, I forgot your name/sorry, but you left me out in the rain"

8. Cold Dark World
Scott Shriner wrote the music and sang for this song, and it's got a really cool bass line (of course, seeing as how he is the bassist), keeps chugging and is just loud enough to be heard but not be overbearing. This is a really dark, almost creepy song, but it's so cool. It's another fresh change for Weezer, and this album is looking to be full of those. Cool synths and distorted vocals, plus really cool clicks on the percussion track, offbeat and perfectly fitting with the song.

"Angel girl in a cold dark world/I’m gonna be your man/angel girl in a cold dark world/I’ll make you understand"

9. Automatic
Drummer Patrick Wilson wrote this song, and frontman Rivers played drums, while Pat played guitar and sang. He's got a really great voice, deeper, throatier, and broader than Rivers'. Pat wrote it about loving his family. It's got really chugging guitars and a really sweet guitar solo (the second on the album, and it's really short, and this is the second-to-last song on the "official" album. Apparently guitar solos aren't what Weezer focused on this time around). Nice vocal harmonies. The guitar is really distorted and sounds way cool.

"When do I lay down/and get to see the world inside your eyes?/how can I reach out/and hold on to the joy you’ve got inside?"

10. The Angel And The One
Slow ballad-type song at the beginning. Rivers sings this song kind of emotionlessly, but all the emotion is still translated right through to you through the music, which is dark and sad as well as hopeful and promising as well. It gets happier about two minutes into the song, and Rivers adds some emotion to his voice. There's a part with standard poppy power chords, but they're fuzzed out and shoved to the back of the mix in favor of the ambient synthesizers and the vocals, and it creates a really cool effect. The vocals end at about five minutes but there's still two minutes of music left after that. It fades down quiet and then starts to build back up. Slightly dissonant and very mellow guitar chords and synths make a great finisher to the official album, but I'm glad I've got six songs to go.

"I’ve reached a higher place/that no one else can make a claim in/I’ll take you there my friend/I’m reaching out my hand, so take it/We are the angels and we are the ones that are praying"

11. Miss Sweeney
This song is hilariously unconventional. It starts out with a big sustained synth and a guy talking over an office intercom. Rivers comes in rapping as if he's continuing the message of the manager on the intercom, discussing business with Miss Sweeney, then comes in with a love-struck chorus. He then apologizes for the chorus and says he doesn't know what came over him, then goes back to talking business, and then comes into another chorus and admits that he's falling for... his secretary, and how much she means to him. It's a really sweet song though, and it's got some great parts. A choppy acoustic guitar plays during the verses and the breakdown, and there's a great bright, not-too-distorted electric guitar part in the choruses.

"Girl, you make the rain clouds disappear/the sun always shines when you’re near/I’m waiting until you love me"

12. Pig
This is a song that Rivers wrote about the life of a pig. He grows up with his family, finds a wife, has children, and is slaughtered. Fans loved Rivers' demo so much that it is in the album by popular demand (I suspect that Rivers liked this song, also, because it's amazing). This song starts with great foreign-sounding drums, like a shaker and an snare drum with the snare turned half-off, plus lots of hand claps and percussive strums with the acoustic guitar. Rivers and Brian narrate the life of the pig, Rivers semi-rapping the lyrics and Brian singing the falsetto harmonies that used to be Matt Sharp's job. Nice piano chords come in and synth strings and make it incredible. I think I detect a bit of clarinet as well, and I know Rivers can play the clarinet, so it may be possible (EDIT: I do believe it's actually a harmonica). Super-distorted guitar and bass at the bottom of the mix make it powerful as well as quaint and hilarious. If you didn't know the title, you'd think it was just a song about human life, until the very end where Rivers discusses getting slaughtered and giving thanks to Farmer Pete for giving him food and taking care of him. It drops down back to laid-back acoustic guitar and slow drums, and then is over all too soon.

"I’d like to thank Farmer Pete/for bringing me scraps of food that I could eat/he always had a smile on his face/he didn’t want to think of this day"

13. The Spider
Another song about animals having to die, but not entirely. There is a spider in the story, but the main gist of this song is the idea that we don't have much time before our lives are gone and we need to make the most of them and not be afraid of what might happen. Rivers' vocals sound like he sang on a stage and put the microphone at the back of the audience. There are nice ambient synths in the background. There's a lot of acoustic guitar on this album, more than all the rest of the Weezer albums combined. I might have to get some tabs for these songs, because I like to play along with Weezer, but if the Weezer music is acoustic and I'm playing along on an acoustic, it'll sound so much better.

"There’s a spider in the drain and he’s feeling pain/and he doesn’t want to die any more than you or I/he’s struggling to live but he doesn’t have much time/any more than you or I, you or I"

14. King
Scott sings lead on this song, because Rivers didn't like it but Scott fought for it to be put in the Deluxe Version. Scott sounds like he could be a country singer or something. He's got a deep, scratchy voice that sounds great. Amazing reverberating synths come in after the acoustic guitar has been playing alone for a while. There's also a lot of synth work in this album, and other Weezer albums have hardly had any. It's nice to hear them branching out from the standard rock band instruments, but it seems almost that they're using them as too much of a gimmick instead of enhancing their music. The synths sound great, but they're unnecessary in some sections of the album. Later on in this song, a really distorted bass comes in, which is an interesting combination, because the acoustic guitar is still playing mellow Spanish-style chords. Good, original drum beat with more than a two-count repeat rate. This song is like a mix of classical Spanish music, New Wave synthesized stuff, and hard rock. It's way cool.

"You see I own this town. You best not come around/if you wanna get by, then cool it down/if you wanna start something, know one thing: I’m king"

15. It's Easy
Country-pop acoustic guitar work at the beginning of this song. It sounds like Brian singing (it definitely isn't Rivers). Really cool acoustic bass guitar sounds in this song. It would be way cool if Scott played an upright string bass, but an acoustic bass guitar is pretty cool also. Excellent acoustic guitar solo. I really need the guitar tabs to some of these songs, because I'm really digging the acoustic guitar stuff. This was a sweet country-style song (even though I don't specifically like country) with awesome riffs in it. Great break from power-pop and power chords for Weezer.

"Gimme time, give it up/draw the line, raise the cup (EDIT: I'm pretty sure "raise the gun" is the actual lyric, and it fits more with the song's idea as well [EDIT EDIT: I guess it actually is "raise the cup," even though "raise the gun" fits so much better])/it's easy to be mean
(EDIT: "not to be mean")"

16. I Can Love
Sounds like a poor-quality garage band recorded with an eight-track. Rivers has a great falsetto, but this is some kind of weird jam of a song that could be cool if it were properly mixed. I can't hear enough of the parts (I guess I'm just not used to pre-production demos). This is the iTunes exclusive pre-order track, and it's pretty cool, but I don't like the poor audio quality. I guess it's not poor quality, so much as it is a few microphones set up around the band jamming, with no post-recording production or anything like that. Sweet twangy guitar riffs, though. You can hear Rivers giving instructions as they play the bridge. "Six times", et cetera.

"I didn't hope for much, I was used to how things were/even though I was not sure, you'd say/I was throwin' it all away and I never learned to heal"

In conclusion, I really like the Red Album. It's a great turn away from power pop for Weezer, and it's an amazing musical journey. Sure, there's nothing wrong with power pop, but there's only so much you can do with twelve power chords, right? Exactly. The acoustic guitar, the synths, the alternate singers and the unconventional song forms all combine to make a completely original album full of great songs that you'll want to listen to again and again until you have squeezed every last drop of amazingness from them (which will take an incredibly long time). 9 out of 10.

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