Tag Archives: Weezer

REVIEW: Natural by The Special Goodness

Artwork by Ali Bromberg aka @mutantmanifesto

Sometimes bands stay in your life longer than family members or friends.  When this becomes the case, it gets really hard to listen to their music.  You start to feel like you’re part of the band and the music and that “you would’ve done this or this differently” to make the album “perfect”.  That was my worry when I listened to Natural by The Special Goodness, the band’s second or fourth album (depends on how you’re counting). I have been a longtime fan and supporter of Patrick Wilson and his projects.  In 1998 I tracked down their first album (known as The Bunny Album) on Ebay and got it for about $100 from Japan.  Approaching Natural as an almost 15 year fan was gonna be tricky.

Turns out I didn’t need to worry about it at all.  Time has a way of changing everyone’s outlook on life.  These days, I’m still very much into music yet at the same time there’s a disconnect…I have a wife and two boys that trumps over any kind of love of music that I may have had in my youth.  I feel that Natural represents that kind of idea in music form.  Whereas past Special Goodness efforts were pretty awesome but just not all there, Natural manages to pull it all together with a sound that is simple yet big and warm.   And to top it all off the songs are the best batch to come out of the Weezer camp in years.  For the first time, The Special Goodness sounds like The Special Goodness.  It doesn’t sound like a project, an experiment, or a band.  It sounds like Patrick Wilson making sounds that means something to him.

The songs on Natural are simple.  The words don’t have any giant revelations when you read into them, the music is stripped down to the basics, the performance is never flashy just for the sake of being flashy, and the production keeps the instrumentation at the minimum.  With this album, you get guitar, bass, drums, vocals and that’s all.  And there’s a beauty in that simplicity.  The songs are able to breathe and the unique parts of each production work together to form something really beautiful.

I guess there’s a reason why the album is called Natural.

RIP Mikey Welsh

This past Sunday, I woke up to the news that Mikey Welsh, the former bassist of my favorite all time band Weezer had passed away at the age of 40.  I spent the rest of the day completely in shock, and thoughts of Mikey, life, and mortality were never far from my mind.

My story with Mikey Welsh goes back to around 1998-1999.  When I first read about Mikey and saw pictures of him, I had never seen anyone quite like him.  He had tattoos!  He looked tough!  His bass sound was all fuzzy and distorted and it really rocked!  As an 18-19 year boy, this was quite exciting.  I was always labeled as the geeky kind in my teens, and the sheer rockin’ essence of Mikey was just what I needed to roughen up my edges.

Me, Karl Koch, Pat Wilson, and Mikey Welsh (at my parents house post Special Goodness show, 1999, Pittsburgh, PA)

Fast forward to 1999, when I was lucky enough to host Mikey, Pat Wilson, Lee Loretta, and Karl Koch at my home for one evening while their band The Special Goodness were on tour.  I have fond memories of helping the crew unload their instruments and helping them carry them up four flights of stairs.  I remember carrying Mikey’s bass guitar case, which had WEEZER sprayed painted across it.  It was pretty awesome for an 18 year old super fan to be carrying the instruments that helped make the music that I loved so much.  Before the show started, I got to hang out with the guys.  I specifically remember Mikey working on little pieces of art that he worked on in the van while they were traveling.  I think he sold them for $5 each or something at the shows, and they always sold out quickly.  I also remember Mikey being entranced by a video game at the venue.  At one point he asked me for another quarter to play the game, which I gave him (you still owe me, dude).

When the band came back to my parents house after the show was probably the coolest music geek moment of my life.  I was getting a chance to hang out and talk music with some of my idols.  Mikey was nothing but kind and polite to my family (as were the rest of the gang).  My dad still remembers him as “the nice one with all the tattoos”.  For some reason or other, we had MTV on (as seen in the picture above) and I remember Mikey’s comment about the band whose video was on at the time (Stone Temple Pilots).  He said something along the lines of  “yeah, that’s how hard I wanna rock” which makes me crack up.

After this experience, I didn’t keep much in touch with Mikey other than seeing him backstage at a few shows in 2000/2001.  He was always kind to me and remembered staying at my parents house in 1999.  I recently got back in touch with him about a month ago through Facebook and Twitter, where Mikey was posting his stories and talking with his fans.  It just so happened to line up with a trip I was taking to Burlington in early October.  I had hoped to possibly meet up with Mikey, but he had already planned his vacation to see Weezer at RiotFest in Chicago a week later.

I didn’t get to see Mikey, but I got to see his artwork and I was very impressed.  My wife Haley, our son Finn, and I stopped by the store Maven where Mikey created this awesome piece of artwork you see in the picture above.  I tweeted the pic at him and he thanked me for stopping by to look at it.  That was the last time I spoke to Mikey.

It always hurts to see people go before their time, especially someone super talented like Mikey.  He was a hero to me and I can’t imagine my adolescence without his influence.  He taught me to rock harder no matter what I do.  He taught me that fuzzed out bass is a delight to listen to AT ANY TIME OF DAY.  Thanks for the music, the art, and the kindness Mikey.  You will always be remembered as a great person.

I leave you with a track Mikey co-wrote for the Juliana Hatfield album Total System Failure.  If you haven’t listened to Mikey’s contributions to this album yet, I suggest you do.  They’ll give you the perfect idea of just how amazing his bass playing was.

MUSIC CAN MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD OR MUSIC CAN MAKE YOU FEEL BAD, AND THE REST IS BULLSHIT

The idea of music as a “life saver/life changer” is something ingrained in our culture.  How many times have you heard the phrase “that song/album changed my life?” come out of someone’s mouth in your lifetime ?  Countless times, no doubt.  Recently, I’ve had the idea in my head that, after all those years of thinking that way, I may have totally had it wrong about music.
PINKERTON SAVED MY LIFE AND OTHER BULLSHIT THAT I SAID IN THE PAST
I’ve gushed about my love affair with Weezer’s 1996 album Pinkerton here and here and a bit here so read those if you want background.  Looking back on things, did the album really “save my life?”  I mean, c’mon, I was a 16 year old boy living in the suburbs of Pittsburgh.  My family was in pretty good shape financially and didn’t have any weird emotional troubles.  I had a roof over my head, 3 meals a day, and all was well.  I didn’t need to be saved.  I was full of shit thinking that I needed to be saved.  I just needed some kick ass music to rock out to, and that’s what Pinkerton gave me.  34 minutes and 32 seconds of energy and excitement unlike anything I had experienced at the time.  It was just a really fucking good rock record, not “the voice of a generation” or something like that.

Weezer’s output from 2000-present is a clear example of this.  Is Rivers Cuomo trying to save the world when he sings these lines from “Burndt Jamb” from 2002’s Maladroit?

Gothic flavor,
How I miss you.
If I only
Once could kiss you.

I’d be happpy
For one moment
Of my lifetime
I’d be there.

And the water
Running over
Me is growing
Ever colder.

Make me happy
For one moment
Of my lifetime
I’d be there.

To me, it sounds like a bunch of stupid words put together.  But here’s the deal.  It fucking rocks.
Back in 2002, I didn’t want to admit this for fear that I’d be labeled some kind of idiot who listens to throwaway music and that my “cred” as someone who knows good music would be tarnished.  I bashed a lot of Weezer’s output during this time to keep up some kind of image as a music snob or something like that.  Truth is, I ain’t happy at all with that label.  I don’t want to secretly listen to Weezer circa 2000-2011 in dark alleys and hide my secret away from the world.  Dammit, I like this music…a lot…and that doesn’t make me any less of a person.

Music can make you feel good or music can make you feel bad.  The rest of what everyone else says is bullshit.