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Whiskeytown: Pneumonia

Posted: July 19th, 2005 | Author: Brian | Filed under: Music Reviews | 14 Comments »

It’s been awhile since I’ve did some music reevyoo’in. And, since nothing as of late has struck my fancy, I figured that I’d give in and pick one of this past year’s gems to look at.
Whiskeytown. For those not in the know, they are a disbanded group of musicians (hailing from North Carolina), most notable among them was Ryan Adams, self-proclaimed savior of rock. But before you go getting any of them pre-conceived notions about the sound, be well forewarned that this is indeed not rock. In any way. In fact, I cringe to say that it’s alt-country.
I first heard of alt-country when a friend referenced Wilco (much loved by many a college student). Since the second half of the word has “country” in it, my brain shut off. How unfortunate for me, as discovering Pneumonia has been such an incredible find.
I hate country. I can’t stand modern country, but have always held a special place in my heart for bluegrass. Perhaps this is why this release is even allowed into my collection. Believe you me, I feel scandalous owning something mildly resembling country.
Enough babble. The disc overall feels like a comfortable pair of jeans. Nothing surprising, nothing envigorating or energizing. It somehow has a lazy-day feeling…as if I’m sitting on the front porch in the rain on a Sunday morning. It feels good in all the right ways, and almost feels as if I’ve heard it before in some distant, subconcious soundtrack to life in general.
Stand-out tracks include “The Battle of Carol Lynn,” “Sit and Listen to the Rain,” and my all-time favorite, “Jacksonville Skyline.” Missing from the album is Adams’ braggadocio. Stripped of all pretense and ego, perhaps this is why the album has such a raw, honest feeling. Emotion seeps from every track, but in a controlled manner (read: not in an emo-annoying way). The playful, Beatles-meet-Billy Joel track, “Mirror, Mirror,” lightens the contemplative mood of the disc, but in a fitting and non-distracting way.
Discs like this always seem pointless to review, probably because they’re so close to your heart. It’s like trying to decide if your arm is good, bad or even worth keeping. It’s pointless. Both are just there and there is something fitting about it.
Simply put, Pneumonia is one of those timeless albums that betrays no decade, no musical fads, and defies genres. Hell, it made an alt-country fan out of this guy.
Thus ends this half-assed review.
Never be ashamed of your music. Music is art and entertainment, and if it entertains you…then rock out to it like there is no tomorrow. Don’t apologize to anyone for what you listen to, unless of course the volume is too loud. In that case, apologize and turn it up just a little more.


Weezer: Make Believe

Posted: May 19th, 2005 | Author: Brian | Filed under: Music Reviews | 1 Comment »

Alright. At some point here I will review the new album, Make Believe. But I want to apologize first of all to the band for sleeping on their past few records.
See, I absolutely adored the Blue Album. I still consider it one of the best discs in my collection. The problem is, I’m a Weezer snob, and cannot move past it. I compare every subsequent album release with their original 1994 debut. This, my friends, has led me to be a very bitter and disgruntled Weezer fan. And here today, I’ve come to repent.
No arguments, I never re-bought Pinkerton when it was stolen from me in 1999. I never bought The Green Album or Maladroit. Hell, I never so much as listened to the last two, other than what made it to the radio. I refused to believe that a band that proved so promising, so exciting and new in 1994 could suck so bad afterwards (or so was my assumption of Pinkerton after giving it one listen).
Well fast forward to last week. On a whim I gave the new album a listen to. Whoa. Not what I expected. Did someone forget to turn the Suck Dial up on the recording? Where was the cacophany of guitars, the wandering and rambling melodies of their sophomore album? Where was the whiney “oh poor me” attitude of the lead singer? Instead I have presented to me a tight, happy collection of pop/rock songs written by noneother than Rivers Cuomo himself. Mr. Buddy Holly. Huh.
In all seriousness though, Make Believe has received some dismal reviews from many a music jerk like myself, who undoubtedly is still searching for the past (except they hold Pinkerton’s introspective and smothering sound to be the Holy Grail of Weezer). Nothing, and I mean nothing, is meant to be repeated twice on record. So why am I still searching for it all these years later?
Here is what I’ve learned from Weezer’s ironic catalogue. Though millions of fans despise their “new” sound, feverishly yearning for the style of years past, in front of them is the same basic formula and presentation that made the band famous in the first place. Now having listened to Pinkerton, Weezer (green), and Maladroit again, I see it so clearly. Rivers is still the same awkward, maladjusted fool he was in 1994…still simaltaneously embracing and loathing his rock-icon status. He still writes beautiful pop songs, knowing just when to wrap up an album so as not to drag it out. So we should all just get over it.
The new album is filled with gems. Long gone are the days of El Scorcho and Tired of Sex, where Rivers’ self-loathing bleeds onto the record. Instead, for the first time in a decade, the kid is looking up. His lyrics are more optimistic then they have ever been. Though they may border on a self-help manual (undoubtedly influenced by his immersion into Eastern meditation), it still rocks. His quirkiness and awkward honesty are still there. It’s just instead of saying “maybe you’re not good enough for me,” he’s making ammends for those that he’s hurt in the past.
All in all, this is a great album. There are a few 6/10 tracks, but there are also some really stunning pieces. The trick here is to stop looking for a duplicate album, a repeat performance. Instead, I throw my hand in the air, triumphantly making the metal sign, and bob my head to well-crafted pop rock songs, with crunching guitars and soaring melodies.
Rivers is one messed up dude. His band is completely dysfunctional. But in my newly reformed opinion, he still knows how to write catchy-ass, head-nodding pop/rock songs. And you know what, that’s what matters.
Never be ashamed of your music. Music is art and entertainment, and if it entertains you…then rock out to it like there is no tomorrow. Don’t apologize to anyone for what you listen to, unless of course the volume is too loud. In that case, apologize and turn it up just a little more.