I can’t tell you how many times a friend of mine has made this statement, “Did you hear Weezer is putting out another album? I know their last couple records weren’t great but I think they might turn it around this time.” Then they go out, buy the new record and complain that it is fucking awful. Well, let me say this for anybody out there who has hope for another great Weezer record. IT’S NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. There is a big argument within the Weezer fanbase about which album is their best. Some say that their debut self-titled, better known as The Blue Album, is their magnum opus, others (myself included) think that their sophomore effort Pinkerton is their best. One thing is for sure, everything after Pinkerton has gone downhill. I thought that The Green Album was pretty good and I actually really enjoyed the throwback hair metal style of Maladroit. That brings us to Make Believe their 2005 release which was not only their best selling record but also the beginning of the end of a once great band. The reason Weezer’s first two records were so good is because frontman Rivers Cuomo was a depressed mess during the making of The Blue Album and to a greater extent Pinkerton. Cuomo refused to play songs off of Pinkerton for several years after it’s release because it reminded him of his lonely days at Harvard. Nowadays Rivers is as happy as a clam- he’s married with kids and all that angst must have worked it’s way out of his system. Good for him. Bad for the fans. What’s resulted is a myriad of uninspired pop rock albums with ill conceived experimentation, the worst of which being a collaboration with Lil’ Wayne on the 2009 track “Can’t Stop Partying.” Seeing them live is a gamble as well, I saw them in 2011 and they played a couple of their great tracks but the majority of the set was filled with ironic covers of contemporary music.
When The Strokes burst onto the scene in 2001 with their debut album Is This It? they exuded everything great about an American rock band. They had the slacker persona, catchy guitar hooks, half-drunk vocals and god damn it they were just fun. Is This It? was recorded mostly live in the studio with lead singer Julian Casablancas vocals being run through a small distorted combo amp because of this the record had a very raw garage band vibe that the masses gobbled up. Their second and third albums Room on Fire and First Impressions of Earth echo this garage rock sensibility and both are solid rock albums. What happens next is frustrating for any skinny jean wearing greasy haired Strokes purist. The group went on hiatus for a couple years to allow Casablancas to pursue an 80’s synth-pop solo career until the group returned in 2011 with Angles. I was so excited to hear a new Strokes album. Lucky for me a close friend worked for Spin Magazine at the time and she brought over an advanced copy. I threw a Strokes listening party for my close friends and we were all sworn to secrecy. 15 minutes into the new record we had to turn it off… they just weren’t the same Strokes that they used to be. The raw energy and perspective that made Is This It? such a great record was completely gone, replaced with pop hooks and drum machines. The Strokes are set to release a new record this year, but if their newest single is any indication it looks like their sticking to synthesizers and falsetto.
Tim Kasher and Cursive were one of my favorite bands to listen to during my formative high school years. They seemed to tap a vein of melancholy that no other bands at the time could. Their early releases like Domestica and The Ugly Organ were heart wrenching glimpses into Kasher’s battle to forget about a jilted lover (Domestica) and dealing with the pressure of being in the entertainment industry (The Ugly Organ). But as the band aged and lost members, specifically cellist Gretta Cohn, Cursive stopped producing stellar records instead focusing on weird concept albums (Happy Hollow) and completely changing their formula to fit into the mold of current music scene. Now I understand that bands grow and their styles change, look at Radiohead, but part of the reason I started listening to Cursive was for the distinctive “so awful it’s good vocals” of Tim Kasher. Their last two releases Mama I’m Swollen, and I am Gemini are by no means awful, and each record has a few tracks I really love, but as records in there entirety… I can’t make it all the way through without switching on The Ugly Organ.
It pains me to write this because I am a big fan of the Wu. But over the years the group has just turned into a bastardization (pun intended) of themselves. Their now legendary 1993 Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) still holds up as one of the greatest hip-hop records of all time as it completely revolutionized not only east coast rap for it’s lyrical content but the production and sampling techniques can be seen today in virtually every popular hip hop track. What happened with the Wu is that they all splintered off into solo careers with varying degrees of success. Don’t get me wrong GZA’s Liquid Swords, Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele, and Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… are all spectacular solo efforts but as the years passed by the work of Wu-Tang Clan as a group nosedived considerably. Following the death of Ol’ Dirty Bastard The Tang has been relegated to releasing mediocre solo albums every other year and constantly touring with the same tracks the were playing 20 years ago.
This one really doesn’t need to be explained with words. So here are two tracks. One from when they used to be the most volatile thrash metal band on the scene and one from 2012.