Monday, September 25

Guest Week: James Keough


If I can be so bold for a moment here…what does the term “Indie Rock” really mean? To be technical, one would have to say that it is a genre of music composed of bands that aren’t bound by a record label and produce and/or distribute their own albums. However, I find myself bandying this term about quite loosely. In fact, when I attribute it to a band or act or side project (there I go lapsing into these terms again), I am mainly concerned with their sound. I have no idea what label they are on. I know if I was a real “music fan” I would research endlessly and memorize this information ruthlessly. Yet I don’t, and my enjoyment level hovers in a comfortable homeostasis of ignorance/satisfaction. Should I feel guilty? I think not.

This brings up the question: What precise role does “research” have in the quality of music? When and why did researching music assume the significant role it possesses amongst the many heads of the beast known as “proper musical appreciation?” As for when, one could make the case that researching music has been around on some level or not since the beginning. However, in the past, when bands were “discovered,” that meant they had finally made it to “the show.” They had “blown up,” “struck it rich,” or become “the ballin’-ist sh*t ever.”

At the same time, the success of one band (or chain of bands) is mostly dependant on the ebb and flow of major label patronage and exposure. And thus enters the growing minority of “researched” music fans. It seems there is a group forming, gaining support and membership every passing Tuesday, which seeks to “discover” bands on a much more individual level. They seek out these unique, lower key acts and claim them as their own. In fact, it oftentimes seems that these support groups dissolve if too many people join in the fun. This is not always the case but it is but one phenomenon apparent amidst this well-read subculture of appreciation. So one could conclude that this trend (an ironic term, I know), can be classified as the reaction to the ever-apparent overbearing nature of record labels. In other words, the determining of what is “good” and “popular” by the mass media (major record labels in this instance) has led to a growing sense of dissatisfaction amongst the listeners/viewers/readers. This minority, and it is most definitely a minority, in constantly involved in the cyclical process of determining what is “good” for themselves. The manifestation of this in the music industry, again, is the “anti-discovery” apparent in the subcultures of music. The crux of the matter, however, lies in the fact that these bands are hunted down and sought out with the assumption of fans and bands alike that “blowing up” is not the priority. But what is?

What is the criterion of a “good” band or album? What are they appreciated for? What is the acquired taste necessary to turn bitter into sweet? Is it talent? Possibly, but you can’t look someone in the face and tell them that Slash or Axel Rose from “Guns and Roses” weren’t good at what they did. Standard snob response: “They sound like everyone else at that time.” Yes, they did. But they were also good at what they did. Granted, their priorities in making music are most certainly open for interpretation, but they were talented nonetheless. This leads us to our first tangible basis for separating the sheep from the goats: intention. A band with chivalrous musical intent is most certainly more appealing to fans who consider themselves the guardians of sensible musical appreciation. But someone with good intentions who rubs a fret-board with a washcloth can’t really be prized. In other words, intent alone does not suffice. Then again, the rebuttal “So-and-so sounds like bands x, y, and z” is not necessarily directed at questions of talent. Most likely this rebuttal is used to redirect attention from measuring pure talent to the usage of said talent.

In other words, it’s not what you have; it’s what you do with it. Is band X using their skills to imitate or initiate? The “flavor” of a band should be multilayered. There should be some sort of “musical aftertaste.” The phrase I often hear, when confronted with a new band or act just imported from the outer limits of convention, is “Listen to these guys. You may not like it at first, but give it a shot.” This effort to see what is not immediately apparent is not exclusive to “Indie Rock” or the “well-read subculture” of music. This same effort is apparent in everything from wine to Zen gardening. It is a simple human compulsion. The urge to appreciate is universal and manifests in innumerable forms. There is a well-read subculture for everything that demands appreciation.

In short, the ability of a band to separate themselves from their peers in someway through the layering of intention and talent is another aspect of the criteria. A band’s desire to progress the sound of the music they champion, combined with the skills necessary to accomplish this goal, results in an album with more than one dimension. It creates an album that demands to be listened to in more than one way. This replay value, this fuel for thought and relation, adds the last ingredient to create the elusive “good” album. Thusly, the ability to create numerous “good” albums is what separates a band and makes them “good.” This couples with the avid desire of the fan base to seek out and appreciate such an effort. This intersection, of the effort on the part of the band to forge a new sound and the desire of the listener to seek out such an effort, is what differentiates this well-read subculture from the rest of the industry.

In the end however, one can really only be so definitive about a subject like this. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), “good” is relative. Your taste is your own and to a major degree you have little control over it. Unless you find it terribly interesting and fulfilling to cultivating your taste, this entire dialogue really has no relevance. Also, with as much music as I listen to, I still have a large pile of guilty pleasures that hold their own in the arenas of satisfaction. At the end of the day, it’s really about whether you find more worth in the journey or the destination. There is plenty to be had in both corners, so enjoy. In this aspect you can have your cake and eat it too.

NOTE: Ok, ok, so it's not a review. But open your mind you damned hippies! The above introspection into the core of how and why people listen to what they listen to is brought to you by James Keough. JK is the creator of the (possibly defunct) "Everyman Journal" and is one half of the consistently excelent philadelphia AM radio program "GET AWESOME". Also, I feel it is my duty to point out that the title was my idea not his, and that he cencored himself without me even asking! How very capital!

This marks the end of an inconventional week. Regular old reviews will return later this week.

Sunday, September 17

Guest Week - Sean Cilano

Artist: CLAPAN-21st
Album: Century Lullaby

Comments: Clapan is the conglomeration atmospheric melodies, and unique sounds. Robotic sounding drum kits and percussive samples are arranged in intricate rhythms that relelntlessly work to hypnotize the listener. Think of the 'dial up' noise your computer used to make. Clapan is unpredictable and although songs are lengthy they rarely get tiresome, this unique sound stays fresh the whole was through the CD. Every time I listen I hear something new. The layers and layers of clean, tight production show a polished neo-electronic sound. Clapan is an audible kaleidoscope rich with unique twists and turns, dissonance and above all fresh beats. Think of Telefon Telaviv, or Aphex Twin. Clapan is unique, innovative, fresh, moody and flavorful.

That said, the best songs are:

Organ man
With your resolution

Note: Today's sexy review comes via Sean Cilano, better known as one half of the machine madness that is Abrev. You may recall their upstart EP being reviewed yours truly last year, and now Sean is returning the favor. Find out about abrev. at their Myspace.

Saturday, September 16

Guest Week - Steve Kotch

Artist: Rise Against
Album: The Sufferer & the Witness

Comments: I was unsure of how this album would be at first. Rise Against had not put out an album that disappointed me yet, but the same thing went for less than Jake until May of this year. I was optimistic though and listened to any song I could from the record before it came out. At first my initial fear was that the album would lack the heaviness impact that was so evident on The Unraveling and my personal favorite Revolutions per Minute. At the same time I really wanted there to be the melodic qualities like on Siren Song of the Counter Culture.

When the album was released I made sure to get a copy within my hands very soon, and I was beyond pleased. The first track, "Chamber the Cartridge" begins with a faint roll on the snare drum, which then gets heavier and then guitar comes in with a catchy guitar rift. The song is fast, aggressive, and the lyrics are like any other rise against song, amazing. It resembles "heaven Knows" in my opinion. The song ends and fades into the intro to "Injection" which is a bit slower than the previous track, but just as aggressive and sounds like something I could have heard on Revolutions per Minute.

Next is the first single off the album "Ready to Fall". It's a great choice as the single, it could definitely appeal to fans of any kind of rock, but at the same time contains all the classic rise against elements, for example the screams in the pre chorus which I definitely could have done with more of this CD. The next track, "Bricks", could have fit on the unraveling easy, its fast, heavy, and contains anthem worthy lyrics. Afterwards, "Under the Knife" It keeps up with the trend of great songs that you’d want to hear from rise against, showing that even though they are slowly becoming semi main-stream; their signature sound isn’t being compromised. The next track is " Prayer of the Refugee" it is one of the slower songs in the beginning, and Mcilrath shows both sides of his vocal talent, with soothing lyrics in the verses, and the beloved raspy screaming that he’s so well-known for. I also enjoy that the lyrics are political, but not about Iraq like every other song out recently.

The next song is quite possibly the best song on the CD. "Drones" has everything you could ask for from McIlrath and company in a song. It's Aggressive, its melodic, it will be stuck in your head forever or so it seems. Afterwards is a rather experimental track for rise against. "The Approaching Curve" strays very far from their style, even compared to their acoustic songs. It has spoken word verses, a catchy chorus, and resembles something of the likes of At the Drive-in.

"worth Dying For" is next, the intro has a steady kick drum beating with guitars which leads into the fast passed verses, and heavy choruses, and in particular a great bridge showcasing McIlraths vocals a little more. "Behind Closed Doors" follows and somewhat resembles "Like the Angel" a bit. Keeping up the trend somewhat started on the previous CD Siren Song, a slow acoustic song is contained on the CD. However, “Roadside" doesn't resemble "Swing Life Away" all that much at all. This is probably the best display of McIlrath's vocal versatility. And female backing vocals and a really good effect to the song. The following song, "The Good Left Undone" is my favorite, and quite possibly the strongest track on the album. Its heavy, and very poetic, "In fields where nothing grew but weeds,I found a flower at my feet,Bending there in my direction,I wrapped a hand around its stem,I pulled until the roots gave in,Finding now what I’ve been missing.." the fast passed verses lead to a time change into the slower heavier Choruses, and there is an instrumental at the end of the song as well. The final track is titled "Survive". This track somewhat resembles the previous one with fast verses and slow heavy choruses, and also is the reason for the Parental advisory sticker on the record.

The CD ends and leaves you wanting more after such a great closing track, much like after "Rumors of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated" of the previous record. After listening to this record the whole way through, it didn’t leave my CD player for close to a month, and still doesn’t seem overplayed, and at this point in time is my personal best record in 2006 thus far.

Rating: 7.5

Key Tracks: "Drones", "The Good Left Undone", "Worth Dying For", "Chamber the Cartridge"

Worth the Money: Yes, more than worth it by far.


Note: Much love to Steve Kotchm who gave me the most afully spelled guest review yet. Regardless, Steve is still a great drummer, and is currenlty druming for Upstate NY's finest punk band "Kicker" and playing for NY's worst joke band "Getting High and Fighting a Bear".

Wednesday, September 13

Guest Week: Ed Baron

Futuresex/Lovesounds- Justin Timberlake

What do you think of when someone mentions Justin Timberlake? Many would immediately associate him with N*sync, singing popular songs like “Bye, Bye, Bye” and “Tearin’ up my Heart”. Others would think of him as the scrawny ghetto white boy around Cameron Diaz’s arm. And still others think of him as the solo artist who broke away from his boy band image with his 2002 solo project Justified. In fact Justin did “justify” himself with his first album. He became a superstar who mixed pop and r & b to create songs that had people dancing and singing in the privacy of their own homes or cars. People feared liking Justin Timberlake. Fear no more. Mr. Timberlake is back and bringing sexy with him.
With his new album Futuresex/Lovesounds, Timberlake matures and mixes his sultry voice with rough, high energy club beats to create a great album. Justin called upon some of the greatest producers in music to help him with this album. Timbaland, Rick Rubin and, from the Black Eyed Peas, all contributed to the album. “SexyBack” , the first single off the album, features Timbaland and really sets the tone for the whole album. The heavy drum beats, typical Timbaland style, and catchy lyrics “SexyBack” exposes Justin’s dirty style in which he proclaims “I’ll let you whip me if I misbehave.” This song is far from his teeny bopper lyrics of the late 90’s. Timberlake also has a winner with the song “My Love” which features the new “king” of rap T.I. This song is the “Cry me a river” of his latest album and doesn’t disappoint at all. T.I. dominates the song with his rap, while Justin’s lyrics and the synthesized club banger beat helps to make this song work.

A majority of the songs on the album are really up tempo. However, Justin does offer some slow, emotional, ballad type songs on his latest album as well. “Until the End of Time” is a real slow typical “quiet storm” type of song, while “All Over Again” has Justin tickling the ivory in what I would classify as a baby making song. The song that I find most unique is a song that for once Justin doesn’t sing about a lady in. In “Losing my way”, Justin helps to paint a picture of a person who is struggling with addiction problems as well as family issues and other problems. The smooth sound of the drums and emotional lyrics helps to make for a great song. The song that really caught my attention is the high energy produced song “Damn Girl.” This song offers everything a Justin Timberlake song usually offers. In typical Justin style, he smoothly sings his catchy lyrics behind a crazy busy beat with a catchy chorus. Oh and in typical Justin style he has rap on the track.

Altogether this album has a lot to offer in what is a pretty short album. Only 12 songs total in the album and yet none of them will have you reaching for the skip button. Justin has yet again delivered with his sophomore album and has shown he is done with the boy band stereotypes. The teen we once loved to hate is now the man we hate to love.
It’s ok to like Justin Timberlake. I know it sounds crazy. But let’s face it, it’s hard not to these days. He’s everywhere. Futursex/Lovesounds might help everyone realize that it’s ok to admit being a fan of Justin Timberlake.

Must hear: “Damn Girl”, “My Love”, “Losing My Way”
Note: Big ups to Ed Baron for his contribution to guest week. Whan I said that Ed had his hands in a lot of things, I wasn't kidding. In the last two years alone, Ed has been a radio personality, grocery store manager, amature chef, freelance journalist, college basketball player, gambler, and salesman. He has been connected to comedian Jimmy Shubert, taken pictures with Carmello Anthony, and he was once a close friend of Ashley Simpson. Ed dosn't give this album a rating, but who the fuck am I to tell him what to do? For all I know, Ed's going to be my future boss. He's like Young Joc, if you see him in Philly, NYC, or Rhode Island, it's going down.

Tuesday, September 12

Stadium Sized Album Can't Rock Like a Hurricane

Artist: The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Album: Stadium Arcadium

Comments: One of my theories about music: Stadiums are where rock bands go to die. Now, don’t misunderstand my intention here, I don’t mean to say that once a band starts playing stadium sized concerts that they aren’t good anymore, or that they’ve lost their integrity, or anything like that (although, these two things can sometimes be true). What I mean is that for rock and roll bands, there is no retirement home or pension plan, but there are stadiums and reunion tours and farewell tours and the state of New Jersey. Bands get good, then they get old, then they tour stadiums (and occasionally make albums that have no chance of relevance to play on said tours); that is just the way rock music works. There is no shame in it, and any musician would be insanely lucky to get to that point in their career.

One of my other theories about music: double albums are generally boring, overwrought, bloated failures. Once again, do not misinterpret. There are some very important, very excellent double albums out there (The White Album is the best example and first to mind). However, for every White Album, there are 200 more “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” albums out there with a few standouts and a lot more that should have been left on the cutting room floor. The vast majority of double albums are nothing more than indecisive artists spending too much time in the studio.

Now, why even bring up these two theories? Because the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ new album “Stadium Arcadium” stands in the direct path of both these theories and (in my mind) proves both my points. The follow-up to 2002’s “By The Way” shows the Peppers aging with grace, but suffering from indulgence.

The long walk begins with the hit single “Dani California” in which Anthony Kiedis sings “California, rest in peace.” One can only hope that this statement signifies the end of all California themed songs and albums as the Pepper’s obsession with their home state was getting a little out hand. The single is a good rocker for the summer, regardless of how much it sounds like “Last Dance with Mary Jane” by Tom Petty. It starts off the album with an energy that the Peppers can’t seem to find again in the next 26 tracks.

It’s common knowledge that the Peppers are an intensely talented band, and there are plenty of songs that allow each member to shine individually. Examples of John Frucsiante’s guitar virtuosos and Flea’s bass chops are on literally every song. Sadly, great musicans can still make bad songs. A lot of stuff on this album sounds like the same song over and over again, and it doesn’t matter how good of a musician you are; if you play the same songs over and over again, people will still get bored. There is just to much music here without enough variation. And when the songs do vary, the tend to suck. Example: the forced funk of “Hump De Bump” sounds stale and false.

The real shame here is that in between all the songs that sound exactly like “Californication” (which is about ¾ of the album) there are some real good songs. “Torture Me” is a punk number that almost matches the energy of “Dani California”. “Warlocks” is as close to the wild old early 90s that the Peppers come on this album. The song “Wet Sand” would have made an excellent “Under the Bridge” type ballad, but instead the Peppers decided to take it over the top with continuing build until it all explodes in one rock-and-roll-sonic-boom breakdown. It’s indulgent, but still charming.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for the rest of the album. What I hear on this record is the sound of a band ageing gracefully. The Red Hot Chili Peppers sound like they are ready for the stadium treatment that is entitled to all veteran rock acts. However, rather than usher in this era with a simple yet powerful statement, we are given a rotting corpse of an album; too long to be enjoyed by anyone but the biggest fan or the most patient saint. There are some really good songs on this album that the young Peppers would have never been able to make, but most of it is the kind of music that the young Peppers would never have wanted to make.

Rating: 4 out of 10. If this were one album, then I think it would have gotten somewhere around a 6.5 or 7, so I rounded up a little bit.

Key Tracks: "Dani California" "Tortrue Me" "Wet Sand" "21st Century"

Worth The Money: Only for diehards

Note: No guest today, but later this week We'll be getting reviews from a singer songwritter revied on this very website, a drummer from the only lo-fi noise punk band worth hearing, and a man whose got his fingers in so many pies that...well...I don't know how to finish that comparison, but he's connected. Stay tuned...

Sunday, September 10

Guest Week: John Adams

Artist: Against Me!
Album: Americans Abroad!!! Against Me!!! Live in London!!!

Comments: I am usually opposed to live CDs. I feel like they are just re-releases, shitty re-releases. Essentially you pay $15-$20 for the same songs you bought before except this time the songs are a lot sloppier. Although I’m opposed to live cds I still buy them out of support if one of my favorite bands happens to puts one out.

This past august Against Me! put out their first live cd and their last cd on Fat Wreck before moving on to Sire Records. The cd starts with the recording of “A Brief yet Triumphant Intermission” and immediately breaks into their most recent single “From Her Lips to God’s Ears”. I was surprised to find that they had slowed the song down unlike most artists, who tend to speed everything up when they play live. Even more surprising however is how tight the band sounds you almost get the impression that the live cd was done in Blink-182 fashion (recorded in a studio with a crowd mixed in afterward).

The next two songs on the cd are short but hard hitting. “Rice and Bread” serves as a great set up for fan favorite “Reinventing Axl Rose”. After that quick blast, comes the one new song that the band did for the cd, “Americans Abroad”. If you liked Against Me!’s last studio cd, Searching for a Former Clarity, then you’ll like “Americans Abroad”. The new song, about the insecurities of being an American in another country, starts witch just guitar and drums quickly picks up in Against Me fashion to pound the song home.

Then the band play “Those Anarcho Punks are Mysterious” followed by “Miami” the opening track for Searching. Then the band plays their most commercially successful song, “Don’t Loose Touch”, followed by the most unique song Against Me! has written, “Unprotected Sex with Multiple Partners”. Most people would never guess that Against Me! would ever write a song like Unprotected Sex, when the song starts it sounds like a Franz Ferdinand rip off band, but by the end of the track it is still clear Against Me! hasn’t abandoned their folk-punk roots.

The next five songs are all high-energy crowd favorites mostly from “As the Eternal Cowboy”. In the middle of that block they play “Turn Those Clapping Hands into Angry Balled Fists”, one of the high points on the cd. Clapping Hands starts as one of the slower song on the cd and is a song that is about everything from what most houses are made of to insulting the drummer, Warren Oakes’ drum beats. As the lyrics finish it almost seems like the band that had been unbelievably tight until now breaks down. The bassist isn’t actually playing anything, the guitars are out of time and out of key with everything, the only part of the song that hasn’t gone to hell is the drums, and just when you’re wondering just how much more you can take the band snaps back together to finish the song like nothing happened.

The band finishes the regular set with their most beloved song “Pints of Guinness Make you Strong” and even though the band has been at it over forty minutes they still sound as fresh as they did at the beginning of the cd. The boys of Against Me! come back for their encore with more energy than ever, starting the extra songs with “Cliché Guevara” and ending the whole show with “We Laugh at Danger (and Break all the Rules)”. When the band starts We Laugh at Danger the crowd who had been more then audible the entire cd explodes, especially at the end of the song where the crowd sings and claps on their own, putting a smile on your face and making you feel like you were at the show.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Key Tracks: “Rice and Bread”, “Reinventing Axl Rose”, “Turn Those Clapping Hands into Angry
Balled Fists”, and :We Laugh at Danger (and Break all the Rules)”

Worth the Money: Only if your already a fan, if not buy Reinventing Axl Rose first


Note: Big thanks to John for kicking off Listen Up!'s first ever guest week. John is the lead singer, bass player, and primary song writter of one of western NY's most up and coming punk bands, Back For Seconds. Their first album "Get Awesome" is avaialbe through the band's myspace. Here's the adress:

Thursday, September 7

Mr. Dogg Classic - The Blue Album

Artist: Weezer
Album: The Blue Album

Comments: As I type this, “My Name is Jonas” is playing on my speakers. This song is everything an album opener should be; it gets the listener excited and drawn into the album. For my money, the first track on Weezer’s first album is still their best song to date. More and more it’s looking like its going to be their best song ever; there most recent release “Make Believe” is one of the worst albums I’ve ever bought, not to mention the whole “hiatus” situation that Weezer is currently in. I always hate to hear that a band is going into hiatus, it seems to me once a band does that, they never come back; even if the band doesn’t break up in the time off, any new stuff just doesn’t sound the same. After hiatus, all a band is doing is trying to prolong the magic, and that never really works (except as a title to a Cake album).

“No one else” is playing now. The Blue Album came out in 1994 and if it were a person it would be just about 12 years old now. It would starting to notice girls, probably doing its best to fit in at the expense of the nerdy kids in class, and just starting to get angst-y. This strikes me as somewhat ironic seeing as how these feelings of adolescent insecurity and the balance between innocence and maturity are what keep drawing me to The Blue Album. No matter how old I am, or how many times I listen to these songs, the feelings are still there, and the songs still speak to me. For example, “The World has Turned and Left me Here”, which is a song about feeling alone after a breakup, still holds true to me now at like it did at age 13. I’m not sure that there is any age in life where getting dumped no longer hurts, and because of this, I don’t think there’s ever going to be an age when this song is going to sound stale.

Weezer’s first big hit “Buddy Holly” is one of my least favorite songs on the entire album. That’s not saying much though, this is one of the greatest albums of all time to me, and I really don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. I’ve never really been a big fan of singles in general; I’m more of a deep cuts kind of guy. But I’m only lying to myself if I say I don’t like this song. It’s a fun, well crafted, charming pop song that keeps me tapping my toes no matter how many times I hear it. I always seem to forget about the goofy keyboard in the middle of the song, throwing back to all the cheesy stadium rock anthems and goofball metal of the late 70s and 80s. People wonder how Weezer fell so far from grace on their last two albums, but the clues are all over on this album. Maybe we should have seen it coming and not set Weezer’s bar so high. Still, it’s goofy, simple, and perfect for the song.

The first four tracks on the album blow past in less than 15 minutes time like a roller coaster. Everyone is having so much fun on the first four tracks that it’s over before you even realize it, and then out of nowhere, it’s “Undone (The Sweater Song)” to slow things down. For the life of me, I don’t really know what this song is about. I’ve listened to this song a whole bunch of times, and I’m pretty sure its just about a guy losing his sweater. Of course, it could all be a metaphor for people in general, how one small thing can serve as a catalyst for a total breakdown. This idea is further driven home in my mind by the breakdown of melody at the end of the song, with all the jangling and noise that emerges from what was once a pretty song. But the party dialogue in the song still cracks me up every time.

“Surf Wax America” is a great one, and one they seem to like to close shows with. I get the impression that the boys in Weezer don’t actually surf, rather they observe it from a distance. It’s a documented fact that the guys in Weezer are terminal nerds, and as a result this song plays as such; it’s an outsider looking in, a loser looking at the cool kids with longing, admiration, and even a little adolescent jealousy. The proof is in the lyrics; calling kids “hunnies” and saying “I don’t like you face” is snotty early 90s teen, and is reminiscent of awkward kids trying to use cool slang and sound cool; the words are there, but it never really sounds right. Either way, it’s a perfect sentiment for the mass population of the uncool; it’s an anthem for the freaks and geeks of the world who haven’t come to terms with themselves yet.

“Say it ain’t so” is the “serious” song on the album (as if heartache and longing aren’t serious things). I’m not really sure what to say about this one other than it’s about alcoholism and how it can destroy a family. The really strange thing about this song in particular is that it seems a little less personal than the rest of the album. Now, “In the Garage”, there’s a personal song! This is another clue to Weezer’s future; they’re telling us flat out how they love metal. Kiss posters for crissake! But everyone can relate to this song because everyone can relate to a personal place where “we feel safe” and where “no one hears us sing our songs”. Even the most sure and confident people need a place to be alone with themselves and this song is about exactly that.

“Holiday” is the runt of the litter. It’s nothing more than a nice pop song with some passable harmony in the bridge. Ahh, but “Only in Dreams”, there is a powerful song. One of the great things about this album is that it starts with a blast and ends with a blast. “Only in Dreams” is an epic, sprawling pop rock song that stands out because it makes the listener wait. The pervious nine songs are all quick pops of excellent song writing, great instrumentation, and humble eloquence. “Only in Dreams” challenges the listener to wait and accept the song on Weezer’s terms. And the payoff (in the form of a powerful decrescendo in the closing minutes of the song) is nothing short of moving beauty.

And as the final bass notes come to rest, The Blue Album comes to a close, but I am not done with it. No one can ever really be done with an album like this. Weezer’s first (and best, Pinkerton be damned) record finds the universal. As long as we as listeners can remember our youth and all the mixed emotions of joy, freedom, hope, rejection, lonesomeness, and awkwardness this album will be a masterpiece. These are things which all people can relate to; this is an album for anyone. For everyone.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Worth The Money: If I was only allowed to have 5 albums for the rest of my life, this would be one of them. GET THIS ALBUM NOW!

Key Tracks: Not one bad song, listen to it on a car ride all the way through.

Note: Thanks everyone for the nice welcome back. More reviews this weekend, and some GUEST REVIEWERS next week! Stay tuned!

Monday, September 4

The Roots get Pissed

Artist: The Roots
Album: Game Theory

Comments: The Roots have always been a dark horse in hip hop. They are the anti-snap music; hip hop for the thinking man, not for the clubs. Always willing to tackle complex subjects and send a message, The Roots get a little darker and a little angrier on Game Theory, their darkest album to date, and best effort in years. With songs like “Don’t Feel Right” and “False Media” and subjects ranging from war on drugs to betrayal to death, one gets the idea that this is no party album. And while the album is very serious, it is never depressing or damning. It is a cautionary tale, a warning, and a call to change.

On the Roots’ last effort, 2004’s The Tipping Point, ?uestlove’s drumming was barely noticeable; there was never a moment on that record that caused me to sit up and appreciate how good he really is. Thankfully, Game Theory erases any concerns about ?uesto’s skills. In almost every song, the drums are pushed to the front of the mix showcasing ?uesto’s signature style of even handed, jazzed influenced kit banging. From the opening cadence in “Don’t Feel Right” to the laid back soul groove of “Long Time”, ?uestlove is all over this album, killing these songs; he quietly reminds you without being a showoff that he is the best drummer in hip hop (a genre built on rhythm and beat). ?uestlove also produced the album, and keeps it moving along quickly and with focus; there are no mid song breakdowns giving way to 5 minute jazz jams on this album, it is all business for the Roots crew on Game Theory

“Clock with No Hands” emerges as the standout track of the second half of the album, and its all because of Black Thought. Thought is a paradox; he rhymes best when he is in full on battle mode, but his laid back, peanut butter smooth delivery conveys very little emotion. This is why he is often criticized for being a poor front man and catches some noise about not being a good MC. This is nonsense; Black Thought is one of the best lyricists in hip hop even if his delivery lacks punch at times. On “Clock with No Hands”, Thought is in his battle mode speaking on unfaithful friends with a sincerity not often heard in his voice. When he declares “I might forgive/ But I do not forget”, one gets the sense that Black Thought really does have teeth after all; you can hear the anger and regret in his words, and it really makes the song work.

So with the twin dragon of ?uestlove and Black Thought firing on all cylinders, the album is a resounding success. This album calls back to the days of Things Fall Apart when the Roots were at their best. Gone are the mid song jazz freestyles, time wasting skits, and half songs, replaced with a new focus and a sense of determination. Rather than the sporadic flashes of brilliance mixed in with the mediocre, the Roots produce consistent above average, thinking man’s hip hop. The Roots are ready for war against mainstream hip hop, or the government, or the police, or the war on drugs, or anything, and this is their battle cry.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Key Tracks: "Game Theory" "Don't Feel Right" "Baby" "Clock with no Hands"

Worth The Money: Yes. Fans of Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Common, and the Roots other albums will eat this one up.

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