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Album Review: Weezer – Pinkerton:Deluxe Edition

November 30, 2010

Pinkerton: Deluxe EditionIt usually bothers me when I read reviews that use pronouns such as “I” or “me” (which I’ve done three times now already). But sometimes, there’s an album that is so innately personal to the reviewer that they can’t help but do so. The thing that makes Pinkerton stand out from all the rest is that this is that kind of album for everyone who hears it. There’s such an honesty, such a visceral truth here that it’s nearly impossible not to connect with the album on some level. Have you ever been frustrated? Hurt? Confused? Then you need to listen to Pinkerton.

That being said, I find it incredibly difficult to write anything about Pinkerton that hasn’t already been written. Its power and importance has already been documented countless times by countless critics and fans alike, and so any more discussion of its cultural impact really just seems redundant at this point. However, a retelling of the album’s up-and-down history is sort of required in any modern review of a Weezer album, so I’ll include one quickly for anyone unfortunate enough not to be familiar with this album.

In 1994, Weezer released their self-titled debut album. It went double platinum (and has since gone triple) and spawned three gigantic singles: “Undone – The Sweater Song,” “Buddy Holly,” and “Say It Ain’t So.” Weezer began to tour relentlessly to support the unexpected success. Rivers Cuomo, the band’s lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter, became increasingly disenchanted with the rock star life as his songs took a darker turn. He formulated an idea for a “space rock opera” called Songs from the Black Hole; then, for a number of different reasons, he dropped the idea and moved on to a different concept. He went to Harvard, underwent a painful surgery to lengthen one of his legs which had been too short since birth, and became increasingly inspired by Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly. It was from these things that Pinkerton was born.

On the day of the album’s release, Cuomo was slapped with a lawsuit from the Pinkerton Detective Agency, despite the fact that the title of the album obviously had nothing to do with the company. And from there, things only got worse as the album did not receive the critical or commercial acclaim Cuomo was hoping for. Pinkerton‘s failure has been overexaggerated in years past (for instance, it was Rolling Stone‘s readers who named the album the second worst of 1996, not the magazine itself), but the effect of the relative failure was still profound for Cuomo. Weezer continued touring throughout that year and into the next, but then Matt Sharp left the band to concentrate full time on his other project The Rentals and Cuomo became a hermit, reportedly shutting himself in his apartment, unplugging his phone, and painting his windows black.

Within the next few years, though, something miraculous happened. The people who championed Pinkerton started talking, which led to their friends deciding to pick it up. Little by little, word spread about the album so that by the time Weezer was finally ready to make a comeback in 2000, people were suddenly ready to welcome them back with open arms and screaming adoration. Pinkerton went gold on July 3, 2001 – the same day that the wildly successful “Green Album” (their second self-titled album and third overall) did. The album was long past having any chance for commercial success, but at least its artistic achievement had finally been realized.

But my first experience with Pinkerton was after all of this. I was a relatively new Weezer fan. The only albums I knew of theirs were the “Green” and “Blue” albums. One day, I was locked out of my house. Having nothing else to do until someone who could let me in got home, I watched TV through the sliding glass door. MTV2 was on, back when they still played music videos. After a few videos had come and gone, I saw a familiar name: Weezer. However, the song, “El Scorcho,” was completely unfamiliar to me. I saw that the album the song came off of was called Pinkerton, so I made a mental note to order the album online as soon as I could get back inside.

When the album finally arrived, I carefully unwrapped the package. My friend, also a new Weezer convert, was there with me, and together we waited in anticipation as I popped the CD into the stereo. When the CD started and the first feedback strains of “Tired of Sex” started, I thought… this sucks. I skipped to “El Scorcho,” the song I had seen the video for, and found that it fared no better to my ears. Dejectedly, I put the CD away.

Despite my less-than-fortunate experience with their second album, I found my Weezer fandom growing throughout the next few months. I joined the Weezer online community and found one day that everyone seemed to love some song called “The Good Life.” I had never heard this song before, so I looked it up. To my surprised, it was on the loathsome Pinkerton. Skeptically, I put the CD back in the player for the first time since the fateful first listening. I skipped to “The Good Life” and… I absolutely loved it. It had that poppy Weezer sound I loved, but there was something deeper here too, more visceral, more honest. After the song was over, I let it carry on to the next track: “El Scorcho.” Much to my surprise, I now felt the same way about this song as I did the previous song. I started the album all over and listened to it from start to finish. Just from this one listen, I knew that this was my favorite album of all time.

That was nine years ago. In that time, I’ve seen Weezer steadily decline as a band, completely losing all touch of almost everything that made them special in the first place. Sure, they can still crank out  a good – occasionally even great – tune every once in a while, but they’ve lost that visceral quality, that brutal honesty, and they’ve also lost a lot of the smart sensibilities that informed Pinkerton. But Pinkerton has not lost any of its charm, its effect, its creepiness or its catharsis. Pinkerton is still the album it was fourteen years ago. Rivers has often taken on a naive, almost high school persona in his songwriting. Pinkerton is no exception. The album is filled with pubescent sexual tension, woe-is-me statements about girls not liking him, and ultimatums he will never be able to keep (“This happened to me twice before/It won’t happen to me anymore”). But it also features an almost inexplicable emotional maturity far beyond any of Cuomo’s other work. We all feel the way Cuomo is feeling; there isn’t a song on Pinkerton that everyone can’t relate to. Sure, maybe we’ve never fallen in love with a lesbian or conjured up a fantasy about a girl we’ve never met in Japan based on a fan letter in broken English. But I’d be willing to bet that we’ve all longed for something unattainable or been in love with an idea that was always far out of our reach. Therein lies the genius of Pinkerton: while Make Believe attempted to be relatable by featuring the most broad lyrics it could, Pinkerton is relatable by relaying very specific instances of very specific times in Cuomo’s life.

And we haven’t even gotten to the genius that lies in the musical backing of Cuomo’s sentiments. Drummer Patrick Wilson has never been this fierce before or since; he has been let loose on Pinkerton, displaying a skill and a raw passion that was never before apparent in his drumming. Bassist Matt Sharp loosens up his playing as well, allowing himself to foray beyond just the root note of each chord, adding a color that locks in perfectly with Wilson’s backing. Guitarist Brian Bell’s voice is all over this album, complimenting Cuomo’s perfectly, sometimes providing a steady base for some of Cuomo’s more complex melodies, sometimes doubling Cuomo’s vocal line for maximum impact, sometimes wailing out of key to further unleash the demons lurking within these songs. And Cuomo has really outdone himself on this record in the songwriting department. On “Falling for You” alone, he achieves a great number of moments that the rest of us would consider the climax of our entire careers. In the first verse, he continually uses the word “like”: “Holy cow, I think I got one here/Now just what am I s’posed to do?/I got a number of irrational fears/that I’d like to share with you/First, there’s rules about old goats like me/hangin’ round with chicks like you/But I do like you, an another one:” – and here’s the payoff – “You say ‘like’ too much.” It’s a subtle moment, but one that sends across its point rather economically and effectively. Later, Cuomo tosses off the line “What could you possibly see in little old three-chord-me?” The irony here is that “Falling for You,” with its key changes and modulations, manages to employ every single major and minor variation on each chord in the twelve-note scale. And as if that wasn’t enough, the final two notes in the vocal melody finally work to resolve the suspended guitar chord heard in the very beginning of “Across the Sea” – four songs earlier in the album. It’s an effective way to end this suite that features the brightest points of the album in order to clear the way for the spare, lonely, acoustic shudder of album closer “Butterfly.”

And this is just one song on an album of ten. And for my money, it’s not even the best one (that distinction goes to “Across the Sea”). But it is, I think, the best way to describe Pinkerton as a whole. It’s muscular yet fragile; boastful yet shy; bombastic yet it still has reservations. Cuomo has mentioned that around this time he wanted to quit writing pop music by the time he was thirty and become a classical composer. You can actually see the strains of that mindset beginning to develop in songs like “Falling for You,” “Across the Sea,” and “Pink Triangle.” These are all very much still pop songs, make no mistake about it, but there’s something else going on too. Cuomo has always been among the best in the business at writing a pop song, but Pinkerton confirmed the suspicion that at the time he was just one of the best songwriters in the business period.

So what makes this a deluxe edition? How about the twenty-six extra tracks featured? Don’t get too excited; the selection actually leaves a bit to be desired. There are the four essential b-sides, of course, which really could have been released as an EP and would rival the greatness of Pinkerton. Then there’s “I Swear It’s True” and “Getting Up and Leaving,” the ill-fated would-be b-sides to the “Pink Triangle” single, if the album ever had enough legs to produce said single. These two songs surprisingly hold up quite well to the rest of the b-sides, if being slightly inferior in quality. Also present here is the full-band version of “Long Time Sunshine,” with a gorgeous a capella coda tacked on to the end that was obviously written for Songs from the Black Hole. And the collection comes to a close with “Tragic Girl,” a song that was apparently recorded in the 11th hour after Matt Sharp had already flown home, thinking that the recording sessions were over. A fill-in bassist was called in, “Tragic Girl” was recorded, abandoned, forgotten about for thirteen years, relocated, and included here. And it ranks right up there with the very best on Pinkerton. Alternate versions of “Tired of Sex,” “Getchoo,” and “Butterfly” are interesting and nice to have. But that’s only 11 tracks, and there are 26 bonus tracks in all.

There are five versions of “The Good Life” present here, five versions of “Pink Triangle,” and four versions of “El Scorcho.” These are all great songs, but there are seven other great songs on the album as well that maybe deserve a bit of the limelight themselves. Once you’ve heard one acoustic version of “The Good Life,” you’ve pretty much heard them all. The only song outside of these three singles that is featured in live form is “Why Bother?,” and that only appears once. Aside from those, “Across the Sea Piano Noodles” is a pointless alternate take of the song’s twenty-second piano intro, and the interview that closes out disc 1 is mildly entertaining on first listen, but features no insight to the band at the time other than the fact that there were fans out there who just didn’t get it. And then there’s disc 2 opener “You Won’t Get with Me Tonight,” a Songs from the Black Hole demo that really is a great song, but simply doesn’t belong here. It’s Rivers Cuomo’s own home demo, first of all. Every other recording featured here is a full-band Weezer recording (except for “Butterfly,” obviously), which makes sense seeing as to how Cuomo has continually spoken of his plans to release his third installment of his series Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo, which will reportedly cover only the Pinkerton years. “You Won’t Get with Me Tonight,” then, seems a prime candidate for that disc, while its slot here could have been taken up by a full-band version of “Blast Off!,” “She’s Had a Girl,” or “Dude, We’re Finally Landing,” all of which exist according to an essay written by band historian Karl Koch and included in the liner notes but are all conspicuously absent from the tracklist.

Despite these gripes, though, it is exciting that this album even received a deluxe edition in the first place, let alone one this expansive. When “The Blue Album” was re-released six years ago, it was a much quieter affair: disc 1 was just the original album itself, while disc 2 featured an assortment of 14 bonus tracks, most of which were already available to the Internet-savvy Weezer fan. This not only features a much more in-depth look at the album it’s celebrating, but it also comes with the most exciting promotion Weezer has ever attempted: The Memories Tour, in which the band stops for two nights in a select few cities to play their first two classic albums in their entireties: “The Blue Album” the first night, Pinkerton the second. After Pinkerton‘s failure, Cuomo retreated inward, blaming the record for all of his problems and trying to move as far away as possible from his greatest accomplishment. In the years after he decided to drop every Pinkerton song from his setlists, however, he’s gradually begun to warm back up to the album. Finally, now, having seemingly made peace with the album and then some, perhaps he can leave his demons behind and actually move ahead.

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Spoiler Policy

November 14, 2010
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As I published my new review of the “LOST: The Complete Collection” box set, I realized that it featured a fair few spoilers. So, I thought I’d let you all know my spoiler policy: I have none. Everything on this site is read-at-your-own-risk, so if there’s something you don’t want to know about something, I suggest you don’t read that particular post. For instance, if you haven’t watch all of LOST and want to someday, DO NOT READ ANYTHING I POST ABOUT LOST. If you haven’t finished a particular Sonic game, DO NOT READ ANYTHING I POST THAT MAY MENTION THAT GAME. And if for some reason you want to be surprised about the way a certain Weezer something-or-other sounds, DO NOT READ ANYTHING THAT MAY MENTION SAID SOMETHING-OR-OTHER.

Just wanted to make sure no one got mad at me for reading anything they weren’t supposed to. Now I can continue posting with a clear conscience.

Box Set Review: Lost: The Complete Collection

November 14, 2010

LOST - The Complete CollectionIt’s a bit hard to write a LOST article for this site since the show is already over. Weezer and Sonic continue to have new products released, but Damon and Carlton have repeatedly stated that as far as they’re concerned, there will never be another piece of footage shot for LOST.

However, there is the box set. This set actually came out a little while before this blog was started, but I still it’s recent enough to warrant a review. The set contains every episode of every season, all the bonus features that came with the original DVD sets, some extra bonus features, a map of the island, an episode guide, a game board and pieces for Senet (the game Jacob and the Man in Black played in “Across the Sea”), a DHARMA Initiative pen black light, an ankh, and a letter written by a crew member of the Black Rock.

First, the strength of the series itself need hardly be mentioned. LOST is one of the best TV shows of all time (if not the best), and I will not accept any arguments. Just the ability to rewatch the entire series front to back seems worth the price of admission. But that’s not all there is. Most of the special features actually manage to do something in the way of adding to the show, whether it’s a documentary on the making of the pilot episode (fun fact: the only CGI present in that episode was the polar bear), the “Missing Pieces” mobisodes that aired between seasons 3 and 4, the “LOST on Location” featurettes that visit the (mostly gorgeous) Hawaii filming locations of the show, silly light-hearted videos such as the “Slapdown” series, or the all-new official epilogue to the series entitled “The New Man in Charge.”

The New Man in Charge

Namaste.

“The New Man in Charge” tells the story of what happens post-“The End,” after Jack’s death and the escape of the Ajira 6. The first half takes place in a DHARMA logistics warehouse in Guam in the present day. Ben shows up and tells the two men working there that their services (which happen to be to load the pallet supply drops from season 2) will no longer be required. They protest and Ben shows them the Hydra orientation video, in which Pierre Chang fires off answer after answer. After the video is over, Ben leaves and goes to visit a Keith Johnson at Santa Rosa Mental Hospital, aka Walt Lloyd. Eventually, Walt is convinced that he needs to go back to the island. Ben then leads him back to a DHARMA van sitting outside where who else but Hurley, who has had the best scenes inside DHARMA vans, is waiting for him. It’s a nice sendoff to some of our favorite characters and a clever way to silence those who wouldn’t stop complaining about the finale’s lack of answers (actual lines from the epilogue: “We deserve answers!” and “So we watch it together and then we all leave. Is that a deal?”).

Aside from the actual video content, the box set is filled with other things to keep LOST fans entertained for a while. There is a complete replica of the Senet game featured in the series, and an Easter egg found on the Complete Collection bonus disc which explains how to play the game. There’s a map of the island, for those who were wondering what exactly it looks like from above. There’s an ankh with a secret message written in hieroglyphics inside it and a page from the supposed journal of a Black Rock crew member to expand on the mythology a little bit more. And there’s a DHARMA pen black light that contains something more valuable (when talking about this show) than any of these other items: secrets.

Using the black light on various parts of the box set reveals hidden images and in one case even leads you to extra bonus content. For instance, if shown on the backside of the strip that covers the casing for the actual DVDs, you will see a replica of the famous blast door map from the end of season 2. And if you shine it on the map of the island, a frozen donkey wheel with come through. But what’s more; turning the map sideways and taking it out of the top of the box set will reveal that the frozen donkey wheel is actually from another CD envelope which contains another full disc of bonus features for the entire series. Secrets have always been one of the main appeals of LOST, and the fact that they even included this in the box set itself is a testament to the amount of care that went into this package.

Of course, not everyone will find this set worth the money. If someone is a casual viewer of the show, they might not care about all of the bonus features and extra content included. It is, after all, the age of Hulu, and why spend your money on something if all you want to do is watch the episodes again? But for those of us who have taken a significantly larger interest in the show, it’s entirely worth it to make this investment.

I don’t update my blog, I’m a traaaaaaainwreck!

October 23, 2010

 

Sorry I haven’t updated in a while. I’m sure I’ve been devastating my loyal readers by not keeping up with this. But fear not, as I have now received my midterm grade for the class I’m writing this for and I’ve decided that I’d, you know, rather not fail. So I solemnly swear to update more frequently. Here’s what’s been happening since I last updated:

LOST

  • The LOST Encyclopedia is out. This is an official book that details almost everything there is to know about the show, and as I understand it, also features some previously unknown information. I have not picked up this book yet because, you know, time, money…

SONIC

  • The long-awaited Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is now out! I will save my review for another post, but I will say that it is absolutely everything it’s hyped up to be.

WEEZER

  • Weezer is quite busy these days. The tracklists for both the Pinkerton reissue and Death to False Metal have been announced, with both albums being released on November 2. Tracks from each have leaked: “Tragic Girl” and “Getting Up and Leaving” from the former, and “Autopilot,” “The Odd Couple,” “Losing My Mind,” “Blowin’ My Stack,” “Turning Up the Radio,” and “Everyone” from the latter. The Pinkerton reissue will be epic. Death to False Metal, not so hopeful.
  • Also, I have tickets to the Boston stop on the Memories tour! It’s not until December, so you’ll have to wait a little while to hear about it. But I am excited beyond belief.

I’m sure there are other things that I’ve completely forgotten about as well, but that’s a basic rundown. See you soon (I hope).

The Implications of Super Sonic

September 22, 2010

One of the most exciting parts of any Sonic game is the ability to become Super Sonic. This was a tradition that began in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and has been integrated into every main console Sonic game since, and many of the spinoff games as well. The method is, of course, that you gather all seven Chaos Emeralds and (usually) 50 rings. Then you jump, double jump, or whatever other method the game uses for the transformation, and bam! You’re yellow, you’re invincible, you go even faster.

Now, this is pretty awesome. Sure, progressing through the levels as Super Sonic makes the games far less challenging, but hey, after gathering all those damn emeralds, you deserve a reward. And to make up for this fact is the integration in several of the later games (starting with Sonic & Knuckles) of a special final level that can only be completed with Super Sonic. But even with his many enhanced qualities, Super Sonic still has his downfalls. The most obvious one is the fact that the longer you remain Super Sonic, the more your stock of rings depletes. If you don’t keep collecting rings and reach zero, you turn back into regular old Sonic – but a vulnerable, ringless version. The second major downfall is the fact that Super Sonic can sometimes be very difficult to control. His enhanced speed and jumping abilities make any precision-based level very difficult to complete. And he can still drown, be crushed, or fall into bottomless pits, so don’t think that his invincibility knows no bounds.

As the years have gone on, the impact of Super Sonic has diminished. Back in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, the Super transformation idea was expanded to a brilliant degree. Suddenly, the player could also play as Super Knuckles if the same requirements for Super Sonic were met with Knuckles, and Hyper Sonic, Hyper Knuckles, and Super Tails if the seven Super Emeralds were collected along with the Chaos Emeralds. This somehow made something awesome even awesomer, as it boosted each character’s already boosted abilities even further.

Then, things changed. As much as I think that the 3D games get an undeserved bad rap, I do believe that they have so far utterly failed in the integration of Super Sonic. First of all, the progress that was made with Sonic 3 & Knuckles was wiped away – the Super Emeralds, and by extension Hyper forms, were never revisited again, ruining what was shaping up to be an awesome progression for the Super forms. But even more tragically, Super Sonic was reassigned to only appear as a bonus character who had one final boss fight once the other requirements for the game were met. Super Sonic was no longer a reward for being awesome at the games, he was a requirement in order to beat the games themselves.

This, of course, was due to the reassigned role of the Chaos Emeralds. For the most part, special stages in the Sonic games were eliminated. This honestly didn’t bother me quite as much – those things could get quite tedious after a while. However, this also forced Chaos Emeralds to be collected during regular gameplay, which meant that there would be no way to earn them before the game developers wanted you to. I might get some heat for saying this, but the first Sonic game is one of my least favorites of the series. Two big contributors to this placement are the lack of variety in the playable characters and the lack of a Super form. But if you’re forced into being Super Sonic one way or another, doesn’t that take away some of the specialness of actually achieving it?

Some of these things have been reintegrated into the series various times. There is still no sign of a Hyper form, but a few other characters have been able to achieve Super status since the debut of the Sega Dreamcast. I know for a fact that Shadow the Hedgehog can transform in Sonic Adventure 2 and Shadow the Hedgehog, and even Knuckles and Tails are able to use energy from the Chaos Emeralds in Sonic Heroes (although in the latter, neither get full exposure to the Emeralds, meaning they do not fully transform). I also hear that Shadow along with a character named Silver the Hedgehog are able to transform in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), but I have never played this game and therefore cannot comment on it. But the spirit of the old Super Sonic has never fully been recaptured. That is, apparently, until now. I’m about to reveal a major spoiler for an upcoming Sonic game, so stop reading now if you want to be surprised.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4 has been heralded as a return to 2D form in mostly all of its aspects. It looks like one of those aspects is the return of Super Sonic during normal gameplay. As if I wasn’t excited enough for this game, this really pushes it over the top for me. Please check out the video below and revel in its awesomeness with me (in the comments, perhaps?).

Album review: Weezer – Hurley

September 13, 2010

Whenever a band puts out a new album, there’s always a tendency for fans to compare it to their previous work. This is especially true with a band like Weezer, for whom the term post-Pinkerton has almost become an insult. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, Weezer’s fans are among the most fickle of any band. They all love the band’s first two albums, but many scoff at most anything that came after. And now Weezer’s back with their sixth post-Pinkerton album (and eighth album overall), Hurley.

Hurley is no Pinkerton. But it is also no Raditude. In fact, the only thing it seems to share with its closest contemporaries is its jokey cover and title. In spirit, it truly does harken back to the band’s glory days (even if in quality it hangs more around the “Green Album” range). Rivers Cuomo is finally back to putting thought into his music and writing soulful power pop gems. “Ruling Me” is like a mix between “Don’t Let Go” and “Perfect Situation” – essentially, what Make Believe thought “The Green Album” should have been. “Brave New World” is the band’s most dynamic penultimate track since “Falling for You.” And the album is bookended by “Memories” and “Time Flies,” two backward-looking songs written from a state of pure nostalgia.

Fans’ preference for the Weezer of old has not been lost on the band. Rivers Cuomo has been putting out volumes of Alone, a compilation of his home demo recordings, since 2007. The deluxe edition of Raditude saw the inclusion of “The Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World,” a song that was played live in 1997 but never released. And Hurley comes right on the heels of a few major announcements: a deluxe edition of Pinkerton, a compilation of the band’s demos over the years entitled Death to False Metal, and the Memories Tour, during which the band will play two nights in every city – the first night in order to play “The Blue Album” in its entirety, the second night Pinkerton. Truth be told, we should have seen this coming. Cuomo has been more and more interested in his older music as of late, so it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to see such attempted revivals of Old Weezer. But does the quality of the music reflect the sentiment?

For the most part, the answer is yes. “Run Away,” cowritten by Ryan Adams and the best song in the lot, starts off with a lonely piano and Rivers’ voice. It’s very home demo sounding, like something off of an Alone record. But then the other instruments kick in and Cuomo begins waxing poetic (for Cuomo, anyway) about making love in the Milky Way. All the while, Ryan Adams and possibly Brian Bell add guitar flourishes into the background that require multiple listens to be picked out – an attentional to detail not shown since, well, Pinkerton. The “ooh-ooh” background vocals in the chorus recall Wilco’s Summerteeth, and the song peters out right when it seems it’s about to build in a big way – which isn’t a complaint, as it fits the context of the song perfectly.

Perhaps most striking about the album, however, is Cuomo’s voice. In nearly every song here, he emotes as if he actually cares. “Run Away,” the bitter “Unspoken,” the resigned “Time Flies,” the longing “Ruling Me”… none of these songs sound fake or manufactured in the slightest. Which seems like it should be par for the course, but with this band, small victories such as this can be revolutionary.

Of course, not everything here is good. “Smart Girls” is a Raditude-worthy vapid pop song that relies more on a kitsch factor than it does actual songcraft. Also, it will undoubtedly be a hit. “Where’s My Sex?”, meanwhile, is just as idiotic as it sounds. It was written after Cuomo’s daughter was looking for her socks, but accidentally said “sex” instead. So essentially, he just let a two-year-old cowrite a song with him. Awesome. Aside from that, the songs features terrible schlock-rock riffs and a bridge that seems to have been cut and pasted from a completely different song – different tempo, different key, different melody, everything.

You’d think that two songs that were this bad would bring the album down some. But then you have to remember that this is Weezer we’re talking about, and only two bad songs seems like a blessing. So is this album’s seeming quality just a product of its context as far as post-Pinkerton albums go? Partially, yes. It also features no songs as good as “The Angel and the One,” the highlight of the otherwise pretty awful “Red Album.” But on the whole, Hurley is the most enjoyable album the band has produced since “The Green Album.” And as far as Weezer comparisons go, that’s not half bad.

Fans: The Little Bitches

September 9, 2010

As promised, the following is a comparison of all three subjects of this blog. This particular entry will focus not on the franchises themselves, however, but on their fans.

One of the most striking things that these three subjects have in common is the fact that a good amount of their fans haven’t enjoyed their recent output in quite some time. Let’s look at each individually.

Weezer: Where exactly Weezer stopped being the great band they once were is a point of contention amongst their fans. Nearly everyone agrees that their first two albums, Weezer (nicknamed “The Blue Album”) and Pinkerton, are easily their best. But that’s about all the fans agree on. Some think that those two albums are their only decent albums; some allow their second self-titled album (nicknamed “The Green Album”) to keep them company; some have combined any number of their following albums in the “good Weezer albums” category; and some simply like everything the band has put out. The same goes for the band’s bassists. Weezer has had three bassists (Matt Sharp, Mikey Welsh, and Scott Shriner) and no one can seem to agree on which of the three is the best, and what amount of influence each had on the band’s songwriting (never mind the fact that until their third self-titled album or “The Red Album,” Rivers Cuomo had almost 100% of the songwriting credits to his name). The fans’ divide, in fact, may be even more famous than Weezer’s most recent musical output; no review of their records can start without first recapping their history and their relationship with their fans, and Cuomo has gone on record many times lamenting his fans’ lack of support, going as far as calling them “little bitches” in an infamous 2002 interview with Guitar World.

LOST: LOST, too, is somewhat famous for its dissatisfied fans (although arguably to a lesser extent). The show gained a large part of its fame by introducing mystery after mystery and asking question after mind-boggling question. Then, somewhere in the second or third season, fans realized that these questions weren’t going to be answered in the amount of time they would have liked. They weren’t happy. Many stopped watching the show completely, and others stayed on to see if their questions ever got answered (spoiler alert: some did, some didn’t). Which isn’t to say everyone was disappointed; there is also a large contingency of the fanbase that was more interested in character development than answers, and as it turns out, they were the ones the show was aimed at all along. All throughout the final season, executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse repeatedly stated that the show was all about the characters and that every mystery would not be answered. This caused even more controversy. Episodes in the final season such as “Across the Sea” or series finale “The End” caused a rift in the fanbase never before seen, not even when universally loathed episodes such as season 3’s “Stranger in a Strange Land” aired. The backlash got to be so bad that even when Lindelof and Cuse did answer most of the remaining questions in a DVD-exclusive epilogue entitled “The New Man in Charge,” it wasn’t enough to appease the fans. Tweeted Lindelof, “I’m so glad we made ‘The New Man in Charge.’ I was starting to miss getting yelled at.”

Sonic: Out of the three, Sonic is probably the one with the least hostile fanbase. However, it does receive its fair share of hatred for the newer games. No one denies that the Sega Genesis games are undisputed classics, but once Sonic went 3D in Sonic Adventure for the Sega Dreamcast, opinions began to splinter off. Some thought that Adventure and its sequel were the last good Sonic games, some thought that they started a trend of terribleness. Many fans aimed their anger at a new character introduced in Sonic Adventure 2, Shadow the Hedgehog. People were even more outraged when he got his own eponymous game in which he was given guns, of all things. Some people found some level of enjoyment in some of the later games such as Sonic Heroes and Sonic Unleashed, but most were revolted by games such as Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) and Shadow the Hedgehog.

So, what makes fans behave this way? Did all three of these things really just happen to hit a huge decline after their first two, three, four successful efforts? For my money, the answer is no. I detest a lot of Weezer’s post-Pinkerton work, but I do love “The Green Album,” I find enjoyment in select songs from Make Believe and “The Red Album,” and I actually think their newest effort, Hurley, is quite good. I absolutely love all six seasons of LOST; sure, there are bad episodes here and there, but I actually think the ultra-divisive sixth season is my favorite of them all. And I’ll be damned if “The End” isn’t the most incredible two-and-a-half hours of television to ever air. And while I’ve never played Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) or Sonic Unleashed due to them both being released on consoles I can’t afford, I love every other main console Sonic game besides Sonic Heroes. Yes, that includes Shadow the Hedgehog and its guns – it’s different from the other games, sure, but why does that have to be such a bad thing? Why do people tend to show so much hatred for what is new in the things they once loved and spend all their time pining for the old?

If you thought I had an answer to that question in this paragraph, you were wrong. God knows I wish I did, but I don’t. And who knows? I might be guilty too. I actually prefer newer LOST to older LOST for the most part, but I did mention that I hate Sonic Heroes. And although I enjoy songs off of Make Believe and “The Red Album,” I think they’re pretty bad albums on the whole. And don’t even get me started on Maladroit and Raditude, the two albums in the world that I  most detest. So am I being a hypocrite by wondering about this phenomenon? I’d like to think I simply dislike these particular things because of my discerning taste, but I’m sure everyone thinks that. And so, since I cannot be impartial, I am no closer to solving the puzzle.

One thing about this tendency that I find interesting, however, is the fact that those it’s aimed toward seem to recognize it and even embrace it. Although it seemingly didn’t quite pan out the way they’d hoped, “The New Man in Charge” was more or less an effort to please the answer-crazed portion of LOST‘s audience. Weezer, meanwhile, is currently planning on taking their first two albums on tour in their entirety – something that their fans would have thought impossible eight, five, or even one year ago. And Sonic Team is now all set to release Sonic the Hedgehog 4, a 2D game based on the formula of the old Genesis games. So no matter what drives the fans to despise the newer installments of the things they once loved, they can take comfort in the knowledge that their cries do not go unnoticed.