Tag Archives: Weezer

REVIEW: Weezer “The White Album”

For all of my Weezer related writings, please go here!

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According to most if not all reviews of Weezer’s 2016 “The White Album”, Weezer is back and at their best level since 1996. Here’s where I believe those reviews are wrong: Weezer’s been back for awhile now and despite some low moments, they’ve been making some amazing and interesting music since officially “coming back” in 2000.

“The White Album” is a beautiful album full of crunchy guitar, off kilter leads, awkward lyrics, and stellar drumming from Pat Wilson. It is a very typical “Weezer” album in the fact that it covers all of these bases, but at the same time it does something that Weezer albums have not quite done: it takes the energy from their first two albums and mixes it PERFECTLY with their perfect pop song sensibilities that they’ve been honing since “coming back” in 2000. Weezer isn’t back; they’ve just finally managed to bring everything together from their career in a nice 10 song package.

Rivers’ songwriting collaborations have always been questionable to me, but it is on this album that they finally really pay off. You can hear the co-writers pushing Cuomo to new levels in order to get the best songs possible. Pat’s drumming is once again one of the standouts on this album. I realize that I say this about almost every album, but queue up “Jacked Up” and turn up the volume. Pat’s drums drive the song. Scott’s bass isn’t as high in the mix as I’d like it to be, as his bass lines are always melodic and perfectly timed for this band. Brian’s got the little interesting and beautiful tidbits from guitar and piano covered on this album. It’s almost as if he’s the real star of this album, lending not only his arranging and playing skills to every song but also helping co-write.

High points? Wind in Our Sail, (Girl We Got A) Good Thing, Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori, LA Girlz, Jacked Up

Overall, “The White Album” is a really solid and well crafted set of 10 pop rock songs from a band that excels at giving us albums that can make you smile and sing along.

 

 

2015 Year In Review

PLAY

LISTEN

READ

WATCH

THINK

  • Be nice to each other.
  • Library. What a weird name for what public libraries actually do in 2015.
  • Have fun.
  • I want to stay at home with my family more.
  • Hi There.

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.