Sunday, August 30, 2009

I'll Give You Four: Weezer (Red Album)

Today is the first day of my second week of the new semester. This means I have completed my first week. It's not rocket science. . .

Either way, I foresee a busy schedule that will pull me every which way, but I still hope to at the very least post this type of column every Sunday (and as it is, this will be up on Monday). But no excuses, because I was off today, but I chose to spend the first half of my day lounging around, switching channels between the Little League World Series Championship (Chula Vista, CA beat Chinese Taipei to win the whole kit-n-kaboodle; USA! USA!) and the final round of the Barclays Championship, a golf tournament that held some serious dramatics, as a 20-foot putt separated the winner (Heath Slocum, I believe) from what would have been a five-player playoff (that would have included Paddy Harrington, Ernie Els, and the man himself, Tiger Woods). Great stuff on the sports front today. . . (as a footnote, the second half of my day was spent working out - first time in at least a month - walking Leia, straightening up the apartment, and doing some research online - today was a not a wasted day)

But that's not why you are here today (although I do intend to post an NFL preview before the season starts here in two weeks. It's time for my second installment of I'll Give You Four, where I give you four reasons why something that I find entertaining, brilliant, or a mixture of the two, should be viewed, listened to, or experienced by you, my faithful readers. This week, I'll go to something simple and easy for me to advocate for, my favorite band and their most recent album (in light of their new album, which will be released in October).


Weezer's sixth album was released on June 3, 2008. For fans like me, it was excitement-filled, because it was their first album since 2005's MAKE BELIEVE, which wasn't as good as their older albums (although, in my opinion, "Beverly Hills" is still one of their catchiest songs to date and is one of the more fun songs to listen to). The single "Pork and Beans" was a video sensation, as it showcased celebrities of the Youtube community.

But the album did not receive the greatest reviews, and apparently this is a common thing with Weezer. The internet explodes with opinions whenever they put anything out and it's divided down a fine line and usually results in people saying that they have not succeeded in anything since their first two albums (The Blue Album and Pinkerton). As someone who can always find a silver lining in anything that they produce, allow me to turn the tables on all those naysayers out there and show you why Weezer is the best around. Now I am no ROLLING STONE music reviewer and the only instrument I can play is the radio, so my opinion is rooted only in desire to listen to music. I listen to everything from country to rap, but no matter who, what, when, where, or why, I'm always in the mood for Weezer, especially The Red Album, which in my opinion, is their best all around disc to date!


1) Rivers being Rivers

Just like Manny Ramirez, who had that statement practically trademarked for himself (Manny being Manny), lead singer and band leader Rivers Cuomo is a very unique individual. He does things how he wants to do them and his quirks shine through. Again, people quote from the new song (which has a line about wearing "Slayer t-shirts") and say that he is just digging into the well too often and trying to be hip with his allusions to other bands as well as pop culture. But why is this a bad thing? "In the Garage" (from Blue) mentions "my favorite rock group KISS". "Only In Dreams" (also Blue) has a line that says "You say it's a good thing/That you float in the air/That way there's no way I will crush your pretty toenails to a thousand pieces". Not everyday lingo. But that's who he is. I mean, hell, "P,"ork and Beans" itself says "I'm gonna do the things that I want to do/I ain't got a thing to prove to you"! My favorite part of that song is that he says "I don't give a hoot about what you think". Only Weezer brings out the "hoot" instead of the profanity, and maybe that's why I appreciate them. Their vocabulary is slightly bigger than that of your average rock band.

2) Everyone Sings

Every member of Weezer does the lead vocals in at least one song on The Red Album. This threw me at first, as I wasn't sure who I was listening to! But when I listened to them over and over (as I am to do with anything Weezer does) I realized that it changed the style up only slightly and gave it a different breath that I totally enjoyed. In fact, one of the best songs on the whole album is "King" which you can read about in this excerpt from good ol' Wikipedia:

""King" is the last song on the deluxe edition of the Weezer album and is sung by Scott Shriner. In the liner notes for the deluxe edition Scott says that the song was not being voted by the rest of the band but was one of his favorite tracks from the demos Rivers played for the band. One day Scott called up Rivers and demanded the band add the song on the album, Rivers responded by saying that if he [Scott] wanted the song so bad he should sing it, and so he did."

It just adds a different feel to the album. And I in particular found it to be a fun addition!

3) Classic Sound

I remember popping in the CD for the first time and hearing "Troublemaker", the first track, start up. Those first 10 seconds or so sound like classic Weezer to me. I immediately got a smile on my face and said "They're back," because even I, an eternal Weezer optimist, felt like they had taken a step back with their most recent efforts. "Pork and Beans" has a guitar riff that bleeds Weezer sound. And unlike "Make Believe", where they practically used the same music as a previous song (listen to the introduction to "Perfect Situation" and then go back to the Green Album and listen to "Simple Pages" - undeniably similar), they tweaked their classic music just enough to feel like they were doing something new and fresh while still staying true to their roots. "Heart Songs" is a ballad that reeks of Weezerization (just made that up!) with their ode to all the bands that made them who they are (as a sidenote, every single time I listen to this song I get goosebumps when he says "our song come on the radio/now people go "this is the song"" - - Rivers gets that his music is important to people and I know what that means to an aficianado like that because of the way he writes his songs). All in all, I feel that the songs they put together show an updated version of the old-school Weezer, and that's what made the album pop to me.

4) "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)

And this song is the biggest reason for why this is a great album. Constructed of distinctively different parts, it is broken up into almost mini-songs that combine to form what I consider the greatest Weezer song ever. It's brilliance is in its originality and its sound, which is different than anything I had ever heard. The bassist, Scott Shriner, agrees with me about its brilliance by describing it as a "masterpiece that includes ten different styles of music based around a common theme." I have no idea how they created the different sounds within this song (although I definitely hear police sirens at one point) but it never misses. Each part of the song (including a small section where Rivers is really just talking) leads up to a great chorus of "I am the greatest man that ever lived/I was born to give" while a choir of voices behind him echoes his words. What a song to listen to as you head into work and your confidence is a little shaky! I would have paid full album price for this song alone, and yet, there are many others that are almost as perfect as this one (among them, "Dreamin" and "Troublemaker").

- - -

Well I hope I convinced you to go put $10 or so towards a great album that you will be listening to for years to come. One year and three months after its release, five of the songs off this album appear in my TOP 10 MOST PLAYED list on my iTunes account. It is a step above everything else that is out there right now (I can't believe some of the crap on the radio - which is why I don't listen to mainstream radio) and it only gives me hope for their new album coming out in October (awesomely titled "Raditude" - and if that doesn't scream "Weezer" I don't know what does!)

That's all for now - if I don't hop back on this week (I hope to get a movie review of THE FINAL DESTINATION up here soon) then I'll meet you back here next Sunday for the next installment of I'LL GIVE YOU FOUR. . .

Have a night!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I'll Give You Four

So here's my idea:

I'm gonna try this every Sunday. What am I going to try? Again, here's my idea:

Let's say that you like something, whether it is a television show, a band, a movie, anything. Ok, great. Now why do you like this particular thing, or even better, why are you right about this thing that other people are wrong about? Fantastic. "Give me a reason" is what is usually said.

Instead of doing you one better, I'll go ahead and do you three better.

"I'll give you four."

Four reasons why I am right and why others are wrong. Four valid, logical, arguable reasons why you should join me against the grain (or, if in the case of a critical darling, why you should jump on the bandwagon). And that's the idea.

So I'll start with one that not a lot of people are in on, a television show that was cut tragically short by a lack of viewers, which is often the case with shows like this. It's critically lauded (at least by some) and is professionally produced with a top-notch cast and an award-winning creator. And for some reason, it only lasted one season. And that one season, 22 episodes of roughly 40 minutes each, makes this one of the greatest 15 hour movies I have ever seen. Or, at the very least, became one of my favorite television shows (and would be number one, if it had only lasted longer).

NBC aired this Aaron Sorkin dramedy about the life behind the camera of a late night sketch comedy show (like Saturday Night Live) called the same thing as the show that we watch. It is run by Matthew Albie (Matthew Perry - this was my only gripe with the entire show; Perry is fantastic in the role, but Sorkin couldn't have named this character anything else but Matthew?!?!) and Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford) and contains a cast that includes "The Big Three"; Simon Styles (D.L. Hughley), Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson) and Tom Jeter (Nate Corddry). The network is run in part by Jack Rudolph (Steven Weber) and Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet). Drama, hilarity, and a lot of coincidental occurrences, well, occur.


1. The writing.

This is what Aaron Sorkin is known for. He wrote and created SPORTS NIGHT (another show that might get featured in this spot at another point) as well as the award-winning THE WEST WING (a show that I desperately want to watch - I found the entire series on for under $100 if someone would like to buy it for me). He also wrote THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT, an above average film starring Michael Douglas as the President who has lots going on in his life and then decides to get involved with a woman who also happens to be a lobbyist. The final speech by Douglas earned my vote, that is to say that if a candidate for the president or a sitting president actually gave that speech, I would be on his side.

You know these things already. Sorkin is well-known and for good reason. He writes better than anyone (arguably) and the banter that he creates between his characters makes someone like me just ecstatic. I love listening to his characters talk. And the Ramblerette (which is Heather's new nickname on here - I give credit to people like the Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, who names his wife The Sports Gal, and Fletch over at Blog Cabins, who calls his wife Mrs. Fletch) cannot stand it. I have been watching the series over the past week and a half that I've been on vacation and occasionally (read: rarely) it is on while Heather is getting ready for work or playing on Farmtown (don't ask) and she asks "What are you watching? It's so boring." She complains that it's too much talking. That's what I like about it. What he does is show how you can entertain without a car driving 120 mph or someone shooting another person in the chest fifteen times or better yet, being 300+ pounds and massaging another 300+ person in a hot tub. Because that's out there. None of those things are as entertaining as smart people talking fast and challenging each other with logic, whether or not these people could possibly exist in real life.

2. Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry.

I could be very generic and give you "The cast" as a reason, but I already gave you "the writing" as number one and I figured that I would be slightly more specific. These two men create characters in Matt and Danny that are at best brilliant and personable, and at worst arrogant and assholeish. Their "bromance" caused me to increasingly cherish the friendship I have with George, my co-creator of "Life 101," the screenplay that we wrote together. I can't help but believe that their relationship is based somewhat on the one that Sorkin and co-creator Thomas Schlamme share, as they certainly have a long lasting one (Schlamme was an executive producer on both SPORTS NIGHT and THE WEST WING). My hope is that there are more friendships in Hollywood like the one personified by Whitford and Perry and that people creating the shows that we watch are at least close to the characters that they portrayed.

3. Reimpactability

Yes it is a word that I just made up. But break it down. The "re" means again. I have now completed the series three separate times (once when it was on television, and twice since I bought the DVD) and I know that this time will not be the last. I pick up on jokes and lines that I had not ever before each time that I watch it. I marvel at the acting skills of relatively unknown and unseen actors like Nate Corddry, who shows both his comedic and dramatic chops throughout the show. "Impact" in this sense is all about the effect that the show has on the viewer. There are several episodes that have caused me to get rather choked up (alright, alright, they make me cry) and this has happened every time I have watched it (The Christmas Show, in particular the last scene, gets me pretty good). The laughs are the same each time. The appearances by guest stars (John Goodman is more than good in his two episode stint - he even got an Emmy nomination for guest star; Allison Janney is very funny as herself in The Disaster Show) are an extra treat in addition to the quality of the cast that puts in "A" work each show.

4. Fearlessness

Aaron Sorkin is a brave man. In certain episodes, executives and presidents of the network are complaining to the television show creators about ratings, advertisers, and more. Sorkin was dealing with this on a personal level. As the season hit its midpoint, there were such vivid parallels to how the actual show was doing on NBC to the "show within the show" that I remember wondering at the time if Sorkin was taking actual conversations he was having with his bosses and putting them into the words of his characters. But he didn't stop. He created a world that was so real that I was certainly convinced that the world of television worked as he was portraying it. Whether SNL or other variety shows are anything like STUDIO 60, I really don't care. This was the behind the scenes of THIS show. And after the pilot episode, I was in. I cared whether or not these characters succeeded or failed in their endeavors. A major knock on the show was that the parts of the actual variety show were not funny. Well, I agree that not everything was shown in the sketches was as funny as the funniest seasons of SNL. But some of the recent seasons of SNL (Horatio Sanz anyone?!?!) were not that funny either. This was not the point of the show (although I would argue that some of the sketches are good ideas and could really make for funny television). Sorkin was showing how this show got made and the characters that make this show come together. And when he wrote about the difficult times, that's when he was at his best, in my opinion at least.

There are the four reasons why you should check out STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP. It's only one season long (again, a tragedy) so not a difficult show to jump into. Give it a shot. Ultimately, its an interesting take on the late night variety show (as a side note, let me include that 30 ROCK came on at the same time and now has lasted much longer and to great success - see: multiple Emmys - and I cannot stand the show. I have given it many chances and it still cannot make me laugh. Sorry. Maybe it is too smart for me. Like Arrested Development, right? Pass!)

So this is my new idea. I have some other ideas lined up and you can expect me to keep up with the new stuff that comes out and about. What do you think?!?!

Here I Go Again On My Own

Ok, so here's the scoop. . . (and yes, I began my triumphant return with a Whitesnake reference)

I am beginning again where I always seem to end up.  I have four posts this year and I really should just put a cork in this thing and call it a day.  

But, it's very possible that I could see a small up-tic in the viewership because of my contribution to a fellow blogger, code-name Fletch, creator of the movie-centric Blog Cabins.  He runs a contest once a week called Tuesday's Twelve Tags where he puts twelve movie taglines on his page and has his readers guess which movies they come from.  He also plans ahead so that there is a theme to all of the twelve films and there is a point value given to that theme as well as one point for each tag that is correctly answered.  The reader with the most points when all is said and done wins. . . well, nothing.  But it's fun.  And I happen to be the reader with the most wins (10) and I have a pretty good lead too (second place has 5.5 I think).

So I offered to create one of these tests for him.  He's going to put it up on his page (which has many many more readers than this site ever had) in a week or so and I am gonna go ahead and start working a little harder to make sure there is material (good or otherwise) on the site so that if some of his readers happen to become my readers, then there will be contemporary news and information.

The other bit of information is that I have to post more than just updates on me because, well, I'm just not that interesting.  So expect more movie stuff (especially with Fletch's audience being interested in that sort of thing) and sports stuff as well (just because I like that sort of thing and the NFL and NBA seasons are just around the corner - at least that's what I keep telling myself).

I have some posts in mind already and I have a couple of new weekly column-type things on the other side of my mind as well.  Add that up with the fact that my vacation ends today (oh yeah, I was on vacation from the MW for 12 days - fantastic amount of time) and my second to last semester begins Tuesday (I'm still in denial) and I have a lot on my plate.

But I'm here for you.

I leave you today with a picture of the newest addition to my family, my little Leia (as in Princess - see: Star Wars).  Heather and I bought her from a breeder almost two months ago and she has been a perfect addition. She is playful and fun and sweet.  She is a Miniature Australian Shepherd and is just short of six months old.  She is our baby.  Enjoy (and yes that's a real picture and not a stock photo of her breed, as has been suggested):

Talk to you again soon - - This time, I promise. . .