Tag Archives: Weezer

Everything Will Be Alright In The End

I have been going through a lot of changes when it comes to my library life. I have been meditating on everything that involves libraries and my place in them for the past six months. The new Weezer album Everything Will Be Alright In The End (EWBAITE) was released during this time. Here’s my review: it’s awesome, pretty much perfect, and exactly what I have wanted in a Weezer album since Pinkerton was released in 1996. In the words of my son Aero….good stuff!

In the same way that The Blue Album and Pinkerton sang to me as a teenager,  EWBAITE speaks to me as an adult and as a librarian who has recently been thinking a lot about the big picture and going through some changes. My 17 year old self says, “Hey Justin, make one of those lists that lays out what the album means to you at this moment. It’ll help you think through what’s going through your brain.” Before, I would put these thoughts into a notebook and only look at them when I was moving and packing things into boxes. Now I’ve got this blog and it has become a place where I can be myself, talk about the things that are in my life, and work through everything and anything. Here we go.

Ain’t Got Nobody:  I feel alone in the library world. What is it that I am doing here? Are my efforts to bring a unique library experience to my community amounting to anything? It’s difficult to bring forth change. There are a lot of bumps and a lot of complaints along the way. How does one stay on the positive path? Sometimes I feel like I ain’t got nobody to talk to.

Goodbye heroes.You had a good run.Fifteen years of. Ruling the planet. But now your light’s fading. Adios rock band that we loved the most.This is a toast to what you did.And all that you were fighting for.Who could do more when.Time marches on. Words come and go.We will sing the melodies that you did long ago.

Ok, I am beginning to understand something. We all have a shelf life. Musicians and bands have one. They have their big albums and then the albums where everyone complains about how they don’t sound like the old ones. This is a very easy to spot cycle within a profession. The bloggers rise, the tweeters come up next, then then tumblrs, and who knows what else. Words come and go. Adios librarians that we loved the most. This is a toast to what you did. Keep on working but that “first two albums” part of your career is over.

Don’t wanna find myself homogenized.Don’t wanna become the very thing that I despise.Don’t want my ideas polluted by mediocrity.Don’t want my sentiments diluted.This is important to me.

I’ve had it up to here. This library thing is important to me…so important that I don’t want to pollute it with half baked ideas and some kind of mediocrity. This community doesn’t deserve that. They deserve the best. I tried to give my best to you but (sometimes) you plugged up your ears. Where does one go when they have had it up to here? How does one grow?

I like to think that I know quite a lot. But with you it feels like I forgot.I wish that I can explain who you are.But when I try to I never get far.

I used to have some kind of insight into library work that I loved sharing with the world. I thought about it all of the time. I constantly aimed to grow, change, and lead. But anymore I don’t know you. It feels like I forgot. You’ve become someone that I used to be very close to but anymore all I have are these memories. I don’t want to have just the memories.

We grow old, our hearts are dim.But our minds are free, to fly where they will.Your beauty is faded, you’re a broken shell.It’s only the weak that fall for your spell.You can’t control me no more Cleopatra.It’s time to move, to the next life.You’ll be reborn as a beautiful child.

This change has happened with age. I have become a caricature of what I used to be in terms of ideas and change. There is constantly something on my shoulder reminding me that everything has changed and it is never going back. But I won’t let it control me anymore. There has to be a better way to go through the day to day of life. There has got to be a place for me in libraries. I’m not waiting for retirement and just counting the days. I still have something in me. The next life. Change. I’ll be reborn.

EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT IN THE END

You find out where you are at this moment, you find out where you want to go, and you start moving your life on that path. You follow that path and find what you are looking for. You are what you are and you can’t change that. I am Justin William Hoenke, a husband, a father, a friend, a human being, and a librarian.

The path is rocky and difficult, but in the end it all leads to our return to our own personal Ithaka, a place that we call home and can be free to explore, grow, and try out all of the new things that we want to experience in this life.

I don’t know where I am going but I’m sure I will get there. It is scary. It is exciting. There is something cool happening inside of my brain and in my heart.

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.

Weezer’s moment of redemption: The Album 5 demos

I’ve talked about my love of Weezer many many times (click here to read about it again if you want to).  The years between 2000-2002 were a particularly dark time for me as a Weezer fan.  I wasn’t 100% happy with the style that the band took on The Green Album and Maladroit. Looking back on things, I just realize that it was too big of a change musically that I didn’t really connect with.  Over time, I’ve grown to become a fan of those albums, but at the time of their release I was pretty bitter and upset, thinking that Weezer had abandoned their old school fan base in order to cash in on something bigger.

Released sometime during the first half of 2002, the Album 5 Demos by Weezer was the start of a new chapter for me as a Weezer fan.  Unlike any other batch of Weezer songs to date, the Album 5 Demos took the band to a different level.  The styles were all over the map and the band clearly was experimenting with little care about a commercial sound.  This was something I could get behind.

I realized that Weezer Mach II wasn’t all about the money and fame like I had thought.  Instead, I realized that Weezer was a new band.  The Weezer I loved back in the 90′s were gone and there was nothing I could do but listen to the past and remember those times.  If I was to carry on as a Weezer fan, I’d have to accept their new music and direction.  This was where I grew to love Weezer Mach II.

The song “The Organ Player” really struck a chord with me.  The vibe was laid back and the lyrics did more storytelling than Rivers had ever attempted to before in a song.  It was just a beautiful hymn-like tune that I still love listening to this day.  I met Rivers during the 2002 summer Weezer tour and asked him about the song.  He said something along the lines of “oh yeah, we’ll try that one again.”  I don’t think they ever did, but I sure wish they’d give it a shot.

“Booby Trap” doesn’t really sound like Weezer but maybe that’s why I love it.  It really captures the courages approach the band took towards music at this time.  It ain’t soul shattering like Pinkerton was to so many people, but who cares.  The tunes were pretty good and that’s all I needed at the time.

REVIEW: WEEZER “HURLEY” PART 2

One week later and I’ll say this…my first review was a bit off the mark.  With about 20 listens, I can give you a better review.

(for my first Hurley review, go here)

Hurley is a pretty fantastic pop album.  All of the songs are very well crafted, well produced, and well executed.  Easily, this is Weezer’s best effort during phase two of their career.  The Red Album and Raditude had some very strong (in some ways, stronger) songs but the albums had way too many ups and downs to be consistent.  Hurley fixes that to some extent.  I can listen to the whole album from start to finish without feeling much of a need to skip any songs.  The weakest song in my opinion is the dark-ish Brave New World. I’ve tried to wrap my head about the song but something’s off.  Perhaps it would’ve worked better on another album.

Raditude tread the lines of being a “Rivers Cuomo Solo Album” a little to me and Hurley has the same vibe, although a bit diminished.  I look at the writing credits and the extra musicians on the album and wonder why Rivers couldn’t collaborate more with his extremely talented bandmates.  I wonder why Ryan Adams takes such a center stage on the recording of Run Away (playing bass and guitar).

Rivers shines on this album (which could be another reason why it has a solo album vibe).  His vocals are strong and his writing (solo and collaboration) is pretty spot on.  What I miss are interjections from the rest of the band.  I always enjoy the brief cameos by Pat, Brian, and Scott and their steady and reliable backing.  It’s on the album but…it’s just in the back a wee little bit.

I’m now digging Hang On and I take back my “Andrew WK-esque and forced poppiness” comment.  It’s a simple and effective pop song.  I think I was thrown off by the triumphant introduction.  The discovery of Brian’s backing vocals at the end of this tune are killer.

The bonus songs on the Deluxe edition feel like scraps tossed onto the package to get more album sales from the diehard fans.  Represent (Rocked Out Mix) is a killer tune but I’ve already got the single edition and that’s much better.  After the bonus tracks on the last two albums, this one leaves a lot to be desired.

REVIEW: WEEZER “HURLEY”

Only one year after the poppy and collaboration heavy Raditude, Weezer’s new album Hurley is here and ready to rock your socks off.  Here’s my track by track analysis:

Memories

Despite an awkward and out of place introduction, Memories kicks off the eigth Weezer album in full force.  Chugging guitars and bass back up a new Rivers Cuomo.  Much like Pat Wilson’s drumming on Maladroit, Rivers’ voice is the star here.  He’s reaching to new heights, screaming, adopting vocal personas, and just taking it to the next level.  Memories is the best example of the overall theme of the album: raw, quick, poppy, and something new for the ever changing band.

Ruling Me

Jumping ever so close to Raditude’s pop territory, Ruling Me is another probable singalong hit single for Weezer.  The beautiful moment in this song for me is how the chorus just leaps in out of nowhere and encourages you to sing along.  Overall, it’s not one of the best songs on the album but that doesn’t mean it’s horrible.

Trainwrecks

Easily one of the best songs on Hurley, Trainwrecks is a mix of excellent chug-along guitar with majestic vocals from Cuomo.  The melody and production are strong, joining forces to create an emotional masterpiece.  Listen to this song and you’ll understand just why I’ve loved this band for almost 20 years.

Unspoken

The verses of Unspoken have a few cringe worthy moments.  Cuomo’s vocals feel strained and weak, giving him his worst performance on the album.  Wait a second, what’s going on with that vocal breakdown?  I hear feedback?!?!?!?  SAVED.  The end of Unspoken returns us to a familiar area with Weezer songs: triumphant chorus, excellent vocals, huge guitars.  Now only if there was something we could do about the production of the first few minutes of the song…

Where’s My Sex?

While the idea of Cuomo’s daughter asking “where’s my sex?” instead of “where’s my sox?” is a funny story for him to tell, it really didn’t strike me as great song material.  Fearing a We Are All On Drugs PART II, I braced for the worst.  Where’s My Sex is a pretty solid rock tune with a great verse riff standing out over the rest of the song.  The band loses me a bit in the pseudo-Dreamin’-esque breakdown mid song (due to poor execution, it just comes out of nowhere and doesn’t sound all that great), but in the end we’re saved by the almighty guitar riff.  Hurley rock at its finest.

Run Away

Production wise, this song is a bold and daring move for Weezer.  Starting off with piano and a 78rpm scratchy vinyl vocal, the instrumentation blends perfectly with Cuomo’s strong voice to give us one of the most rewarding Weezer songs to date.  The song sounds so big and does it without over the top production.

Hang On

This song marks the start of what I’d like to call Weezer’s brief lapse into Andrew WK’s territory.  Hang On is a loud guitar and synth driven pop song with an infectious chorus and has a vibe (musically, not vocally) to Andrew WK’s style.  While I dig WK, Weezer’s foray into this style sounds a bit forced and overly poppy like it is trying to be squished onto the radio.  The weakest track on Hurley.

Smart Girls

The second Andrew WK-esque song on the album makes up for Hang On and delivers a quick, fun, song with some over the top (and pretty goofy) lyrics.  I would’ve laughed this one off a few years ago if Weezer had released it, but today I’m cranky Smart Girls and its disco beat as I drive down the highway in my 2008 Chevy Aveo.

Brave New World

I’m still on the fence about this tune.  Perhaps I haven’t listened to it as closely as I should, but Brave New World is a unique song that really doesn’t take me anywhere.  I’m not saying that it’s a bad song, it’s just…well, there.  Weezer songs usually take me to new heights and this one just sort of goes in one ear and out the other.

Time Flies

A simple folk song, Time Flies finds Weezer at their most experimental on the album.  Featuring what sounds like a steady bass drums, guitars, and a mandolin-esque lead guitar part, Time Flies is reminiscent of the 2008 Hootenany performances Weezer would perform with their fans.  A great way to end the album although it feels a bit abrupt.  Which leads me to my conclusion…
—-

Hurley feels quick, not in a forced way, but in a “hey I’m excited about these songs so let’s record them and put them out into the world” kind of way.  This leads to some ups and downs on the album, but overall Hurley is a pretty raw and rockin’ album that finds the band doing what they do best: capturing who they are in the moment and refusing to look back.  Hurley won’t blow your brains out, but does every album by Weezer have to do that?  No.  I’ve gotten over my “Blue and Pinkerton are the best Weezer albums and I won’t like anything else” phase and instead accepted the band as a tour de force in modern music, a pop band who will keep on keepin’ on (in the words of Joe Dirt) and provide the fans with a wealth of good music.