Tag Archives: alternative

Weezer: “The Red Album”

Six studio albums into their career, one of our all-time favorite bands, geek rock pioneers Weezer, have released what is probably their finest CD yet.

A nerd rock masterpiece, the so-called “Red Album” — a companion of sorts to their self-titled Blue and Green albums — finds our boys boldly branching out in whole new directions. And the effect is just plain dizzying…I shit you not, amigos, this Rick Rubin-produced album is kind of the band’s version of “Pet Sounds”.

And if you haven’t checked out The Beach Boys’ iconic “Pet Sounds”, well, get thee to iTunes, my friend. It will literally change the way you think about L.A. pop-rock, hell, even music in general. You’ll love it! And judging from the songs on “The Red Album”, Weezer clearly did too!

Having mastered the catchy pop-rock hook in previous outings, lead singer Rivers Coumo and company have taken everything they’ve learned over the years and crafted something really special here. “The Red Album” has a sonic maturity and a winking, self-deprecating charm that will leave you laughing and weeping at the same time.

Seriously, some of the songs here are f-ing beautiful! And the lyrics…wow! Track four’s “Heart Songs” about the bands and musicians — Cat Stevens, Quiet Riot, Devo and Debbie Gibson to name a few — who inspired Weezer on their way to greatness is hilarious. Especially cool is the way the song totally changes midway through with the injection of a pounding, grunge-laden guitar riff.

Instantly darkening the tone and deepening the emotion of the song, the intensely-personal lyrics here portray the profound impact of Nirvana’s groundbreaking “Nevermind” on Cuomo and his bandmates. Poignant, heartfelt, and catchy as all hell, the song wraps up by detailing the band’s own rise to fame. If there is any justice in the world, “Heart Songs” will be Weezer’s next “Buddy Holly” break-out hit. It’s incredible.

Even more sophisticated is the band’s “wall of sound” anthem, “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)”. Incorporating military-style chants, police sirens, manic, hip hop urgency, the epic rock drama of a vintage Queen ballad, and Aaron Copland’s soaring “Appalachian Spring”, the song is destined to be a classic.

And just when you think it can’t get any cooler, this almost six-minute opus incorporates some of the slyest, self-reverential humor ever recorded. I mean, really, who else could chant: “I am the greatest man that ever lived…” with such deadpan sincerity? Awesome!

And the rest of the album is equally bad-ass, with “Pork and Beans” and the more traditionally-Weezer-ish “Troublemaker”, destined to get plenty of airtime this summer. And the final song on the album, “The Angel and the One” is so simple and lovely that you’ll want to listen to it every night. I think that Richard Cromelin, in his review for the L.A. Times nailed the impact of the song when he described “The Angel and the One” as “end[ing] this march through the material plane on a note of spiritual transcendence”.

You got that right, Richard! Oh, and even better than the album is the price! I bought the standard 10-track version CD at Circuit City on Tuesday for $5.99! Insane, huh? But I should note that I have since found at least two other versions of “The Red Album” for sale online.

Amazon has a 14-track “Deluxe” edition available for $11.99, and iTunes has a 15-track “Deluxe” edition for $12.99. Hmmm…guess I’ll have to buy the other tracks online. But hey, even at 99-cents a pop, the entire album will still end up costing me around $10.99, so I’m still way ahead!

Rock on, Weezer!

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Nine Inch Nails: “The Slip”

Let me start by saying that I am, at best, a casual fan of Nine Inch Nails. I mean, sure, I bought “The Downward Spiral” just like every other grubby, unwashed, flannel-shirt-wearing film student in 1994. But since then, I just haven’t really bought much of Trent Reznor’s music.

It’s not that I don’t dig his work, because I totally do — his songs on David Lynch’s “Lost Highway” soundtrack are so awesomely scary, you’ll never sleep again! — but for whatever reason, he’s just not one of those people that I follow religiously. But after checking out the band’s latest album, “The Slip”, I might just have to change my tune!

Not only does “The Slip” recall the raw, grungy, feedback-heavy NIN of yore, but it is also infused with a really mellow vibe that is kind of dreamy. Oh yeah, and did I mention that the album is available to download online for FREE?

Yep, like my boys Radiohead and Coldplay before him, the creepy cool Mr. Reznor has hopped on the free music bandwagon in a big way, and I’m happy to report that he does not disappoint.

“The Slip” kicks some industrial-strength ass, and aside from making for some rocking, mood-tastic music — I’ve had it on in the background all day and I’m still loving it — this might just be the NIN album that brings you back into the Reznor fold. I mean, hell, it worked for me…

While the entire album rocks, my favorite is the second track “1,000,000”, which is so cool and so gritty, you’d swear you were hearing it live. And with several format choices available for download at NIN.com — I opted for the high-quality MP3 version, but true audiophiles will probably be more inclined to download the higher-than-CD quality 24/96 WAVE version — you practically are.

Interestingly enough, while enjoying my free NIN tunes today, I came across another free online album the band released in March called “Ghosts I-IV”.

Almost entirely instrumental, Reznor said at the time that “Ghosts” is the kind of music he always wanted to make and give away for free, but never could till now. Awesome! I have only downloaded the first nine songs so far — the entire 36-track album ranges in price from $5 for the basic MP3 tracks to $300 for a super deluxe edition — and they are gorgeous. Haunting, melodic, the tracks practically shimmer…really, it’s beautiful.

So, while I go unearth my flannel shirts and buy the rest of the tracks from “Ghosts I-IV”, I urge you to check out both of the free NIN downloads for yourself. As Reznor writes on the download page for “The Slip”: “We encourage you to remix it, share it with your friends, post it on your blog, play it on your podcast, give it to strangers, etc.”

And while I haven’t gotten around to remixing it yet, I am telling you guys about these two rocking free downloads, so I guess that counts.

Que viva la free music revolutíon!

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“In Rainbows” Album Art!

With the upcoming release of the CD version of Radiohead’s previously download-only album — the staggeringly beautiful “In Rainbows” — I was thrilled to see that the band has finally released pictures of the actual album cover art. Yeah!

True to form, the bold cover art was designed by frequent Radiohead collaborator, Stanley Donwood. Wow…all those crazy cool colors on the outside kinda makes me wanna buy the album (again!) just to see the artwork inside.

Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” cover art! (Dec. 20, 2007)

Still no new pictures of the more expensive Radiohead Discbox version of “In Rainbows”, but I did find this rocking pic of the contents (and coolly futuristic container!) of the brand new, limited edition Radiohead Box Set.

Containing all seven of the band’s full-length EMI-era albums — Pablo Honey (1993), The Bends (1995), OK Computer (1997), Kid A (2000), Amnesiac (2001), I Might Be Wrong (Live/2001) and Hail To The Thief (2003) — the Box Set also features new packaging for the albums but retains the original album artwork and liner notes for each CD. Very cool.

Radiohead’s new Limited Edition BOX SET (Dec. 20, 2007)

Available on Amazon.com for a limited time at the super low price of $71.99 (that’s like, $10.28 per album!), the set is a must have for any new Radiohead fan. I say new, because any true fan has all those albums already (that’s right!) and probably doesn’t need the box set. Or do they?

I mean, seriously, that white “Star Wars” box they come in is pretty damn cool…

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Radiohead: “In Rainbows”

Avid Radiohead fans rejoice! For today, October 10th, marks the release of the band’s new package-free download-only album, “In Rainbows”.

Their first album — not including Thom Yorke’s 2006 solo outing “The Eraser” — since 2003’s incendiary “Hail To The Thief”, “Rainbows” marks a turning point in the band’s career and the music business in general, as it has no set retail price.

That’s right, go the album’s website: www.inrainbows.com create an account with an active e-mail address and then pay whatever price you like for the download. Could be $10.00, could be $0.00. Pay what you think is fair and the album is yours to download. Crazy, huh? Or brilliant?!

Radiohead Discbox!

Bypassing the major labels and the superstore chains altogether, the band is betting that their true fans will pay for the album, which judging by their hip, generally older-skewing demo is probably true. Christine and I ordered the album last weekend and paid somewhere around $11.00. The price is a little murky as it is listed on the website in pounds, but seems fair considering the price of CD’s these days.

After three sleepless nights of waiting, the link to the download page arrived in my inbox this morning and aside from a few technical difficulties (which they promptly addressed via email from London!) the album has been playing on my Macbook ever since. And all I can say is…wow. Totally worth the four year wait!

Hauntingly beautiful and surprisingly accessible, the album positively shimmers. So far my favorite track is a thumping, ethereal number called “Reckoner” but really, the whole album rocks. It is definitely worth 5.4o pounds or whatever other price you chose to pay for it.

And for die-hard fans with deep pockets there is a larger packaged version of the album (pictured above) due out in December. Called the Discbox, this version includes a hardback book, a couple of vinyl records, a slew of extra songs and a price tag of roughly $80.00. A bit steep for my blood at the moment, but hey, Christmas does fall in December, so you never know…

Anyway, check out the album, pay what you can and most importantly enjoy the supersonic splendor that is Radiohead!

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