Category: Music

Weezer’s Make Believe

Weezer - Make Believe

More than a decade has passed since I bought Weezer’s self-titled debut album, but I still haven’t grown tired of it. Two weeks ago on a mini-shopping spree, I bought Weezer’s newest album Make Believe to see what Weezer’s been up to these past 12 years.

Listening to the first track, “Beverly Hills,” I couldn’t help but smile; that song is rediculously catchy and reminiscent of “Buddy Holly” but with a more modern sound. Thinking that they hadn’t changed, the rest of the album came as a bit of a let-down. Perhaps my expectations were unreasonably high but I wanted something that rocked more than the Blue Album. Harder, catchier, better.

I’ve been listening to Make Believe a lot these past two weeks and my initial impressions were wrong. While this album is much more mellow than the 1994 Weezer album I’ve listened to hundreds of times over the years, it’s still an excellent record. The music is layered and the vocals are softer. Even on louder songs like “We Are All on Drugs” the edges are smoother than the sharp corners of Weezer’s debut, but like the Blue Album the songs reveal their brilliance with repeated plays. You might not love Make Believe at first, but give it a chance to really show it’s personality.

Alienating Customers

If you run a business and are looking to alienate your customers, just do exactly what the music industry does. You can’t fail with this method. More information about Sony BMG’s XCP was released today as several security firms confirmed that some Sony CD’s installed rootkit malware on users computers.

The software installs itself without the user’s knowledge and continues to run invisibly in the background. In addition, it creates vulnerabilities to viruses that may not be detectable by anti-virus programs and provides no means for uninstallation without disabling the CD-ROM drive or crippling the system if the rootkit files are manually deleted. The EFF explains what CD’s are infected and what to do.

Sony BMG claims the “software” is designed to prevent illegal ripping and distribution of its songs, but several analysts suggest that Sony is reeling from the decline of the DiscMan and the rise of the iPod. If you can’t rip a CD, you can’t play it on your iPod. The unbelievable anti-consumerism of the music industry infuriates me. If, as you claim—and I don’t believe—your sales are down, you should improve your product and put a priority on great customer service. You don’t, as the music industry has repeatedly done, sue your customers, lie to them, limit their listening habits, refuse to offer music in new mediums, hack into their computers, or install dangerous software.

Winamp to iTunes

When I find software that does what it should without getting in my way, I tend to remain faithful. For several millennia—or seven years in Internet Time—I’ve used Winamp as my primary music player on my computer. The free version did everything I needed it to do without trying to “help” me do things I didn’t need or want; yes, I’m looking at you, Windows Media Player.

The simple fact is that iTunes works very well. Its organization and playlist capabilities are simple and elegant; I can’t say that for Winamp and WMP is just abysmal. I hesitated letting iTunes organize my music files because I had carefully categorized my files by genre before I concluded that it would be easier than trying to determine if a song should go in the “Rock” folder or the “Alternative” folder or if new Aerosmith is still considered “Classic Rock.”

Say what you will about the iPod’s irreplaceable battery or the Nano’s screen, but Apple did a fantastic job with iTunes, the best music management software I’ve ever seen. I’m switching.

Jim’s Big Ego

Last night, Dan N., Dave J., and I went to see Jim’s Big Ego play in the Wolves’ Den on campus. I had not heard of them before yesterday, but I did recognize a few of the songs that they played and thought it was a cool set in general. However, I wanted to talk about two things they did that I thought were great. The first is that Jim (the lead singer and guitarist) sang parts of the Bill O’Reilly sexual harrassment scandal transcripts as an intro to a song—I think—called “Porno Plot,” which was just hilarious. The second aspect of their show that struck me as a great idea was something they called “napkin poetry.” For this bit, everyone was invited to write words, short phrases, or a line or two of poetry on napkins with markers and place them in a pile on the stage. The bassist—upright bassist—and the drummer jammed while Jim took the random napkin poetry and used it to make a free-form song, completely unique, and never to be performed again. The song, as you can imagine, was pretty incoherent; nonetheless, it was amusing and we were a bit buzzed so it really worked out well.

I didn’t find out until right now that Jim’s last name is Infantino, as in Jim “WTFMFWTFAYT?” Infantino. Had I known that last night, I would have talked to him after the show. Hmm.

Do the Evolution

I have been slightly obsessed with Pearl Jam‘s Do the Evolution video for the past week or so. Since I’ve never really been into the whole MTV thing since they stopped focusing on music, I missed the video when it first came out in 1998. Unlike most music videos, Do the Evolution is just as relevant as when it was released, or perhaps even more timely today.

While the song itself is good, it can’t compare with the video. The real strength of the video lies in its animation; it would be impossible to create the video using real actors and the animated style is able to capture much more detail than would be possible with film. It makes perfect sense that the video was created by both Eddie Vedder and Todd McFarlane, the creator of the comic Spawn. The video matches the song so perfectly that you wonder if the video actually came first.

In addition to the fact that the song sounds great and the video looks amazing, the work covers an astronomical number of events. Do the Evolution was intended to represent the entire history of humanity, but it does more than that ambitious goal. It doesn’t just present us with a sad history of mankind’s past, it foretells the future of the planet as well. I know it sounds pretentious, but give it a view. Unfortunately, the video is only available in Real or Windows streaming media; and Real Player is real obnoxious. If anyone knows a place where I can download or buy the Do the Evolution video, let me know.

See Do the Evolution for 56K, ISDN, or T1. Read the lyrics too.

Today is Grey Tuesday

In support of the Grey Album, a great remix created by DJ Danger Mouse, this site will be displayed in shades of gray today. The album takes advantage of the a cappella version of Jay-Z’s Black Album by remixing it with the music from the Beatles’ White Album. Hence, the Grey Album. The record has been suppressed by EMI, which claims that it violates their copyrights to the Beatles’ music. I say it’s a creative breakthrough and a shame to hide such a great piece of work.

Read more about the Grey Album at Grey Tuesday and download the album for yourself from Illegal Art or from any site listed on Grey Tuesday.

St. Anger is an Answered Prayer

Metallica: St. Anger

I bought Metallica’s new album, St. Anger, on June 8 and I’ve been listening to it non-stop ever since. It was somewhat of an impulse buy because I didn’t realize it was out until I walked by FYE in the mall. At $15.99, I couldn’t argue with the price considering that it covered the CD, a DVD of rehearsal performances of each song, and a special code to unlock live MP3’s and other exclusive stuff online. Not bad for a band scorned for being greedy enough to kill Napster.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the album. I read an early review that stated the album was a return to the Old Metallica, but with a brand spankin’ new bassist how could that be? What I heard when I listened was a totally new Metallica that didn’t sound like the first New Metallica. In a sense, it was a return to their old style, with quick rhythms and growling vocals, but there was another layer of sonic depth that wasn’t there on much of the early stuff. The songs are nice and long, nothing that most radio stations would play in their entirety, yet they never get boring. The lyrics are nothing extraordinary and occasionally, the words are somewhat repetitive as in “Shoot Me Again.” However, all of the songs rock in a way that’s pure Metallica.

In a sense, St. Anger spells redemption for a band that has seemed lost for quite some time. Metallica lost quite a few Bay Area Bangers with Load, essentially isolating thousands of their most dedicated fans with an album that at its hardest was alterna-metal. Having lost many old fans, Metallica then seemed to target their new ones by setting their sights on Napster’s demise. With special features for the new crowd, and furious rhythm and liner notes for the old, St. Anger can’t help but reestablish Metallica as the gods of rock.