Weezer’s “Death to False Metal” (2010) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-11-15 11:00:14. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  3 / 5 stars

Didn’t I already write a Weezer review this year?  And last year?  And the year before that?

Yes, on all three counts.

So, allow me to begin with the disclaimer that Death to False Metal, though it receives only a half star lower than the rating I granted Hurley, is not as cohesive an effort in comparison.  The individual songs shine in places and come up short in others.  It is, after all, a collection of songs that, for various reasons, didn’t make the cut on their previous studio albums.

What is fascinating about this release — and what grants credibility to Rivers Cuomo’s stance that this should be considered Weezer’s ninth studio album proper — is that the songs haven’t simply been culled from studio tapes, digitized, and hastily thrown together.  As the official press release reads, “The album was created using the basic tracks of 10 previously unreleased recordings — nine never-before-heard songs plus one cover — to assemble a brand new and truly modern-sounding record.”

This is what is most striking about the album on first listen: that it sounds like an album.  Considering that the tracks hail from periods as diverse as Pinkerton, Maladroit, Make Believe, and The Red Album, this could very easily have sounded like your typical “Greatest Misses” compilation.  Some, like Bob Dylan, have pulled off this brand of release, largely due to the fact that their vaults are populated by excellent cuts.  Most, however, release these compilations for the enjoyment of only the most fanatic segments of their audience.

On Death to False Metal, Cuomo and company have introduced a third option: remake the songs as one might restore a car, balancing a faithfulness to the original design with an attention to more contemporary sensibilities.

Death To False Metal (Weezer, 2010)

Death To False Metal (Weezer, 2010)

As could be expected, even with a band with as characteristic a sound and feel as Weezer, there is still a sense that these tracks have been compiled.  The transition from the grunge of “Everyone” to the glittery pop/rock of “I’m a Robot” is particularly noticeable.  What’s more, both of these tracks fall firmly under the “I-see-why-they-were-scratched” category.  Still, there is an energy to them that is infectious, and if you enjoy this band’s style, you will find yourself turning up the sound.  Although these two songs have the potential to become grating, they also clock in at well under three minutes each.

Elsewhere, the simplicity is appealing, as it is on “Trampoline” and “I Don’t Want Your Loving.”  And “Turning Up the Radio” is yet one more reminder that, simple or not, Weezer are the kings of the epic chorus.

The decision to work from the basic tracks up is what sets this release apart and what makes it a solid album.  If you want to split hairs about the quality of individual songs, even in comparison to other Weezer tunes, then you could lose yourself in the criticism and find, in the end, that you’d missed the point of the album.

The point, as supported by the opener, is to turn up the volume and enjoy a set of songs that have been filtered through the Weezer of 2010, which — contrary to what critics (myself included) were concluding as recently as a year ago — is actually saying a great deal.

The packaging itself is impressive as it so very rarely is with this band.  Much of the obvious has been stated and restated as concerns the cover, but little has been noted about the presence of lyrics, pictures, drawings, and other elements of intelligent design within the booklet.

The fact that two staples were required for assembly is, in itself, pleasantly surprising.

So, if you’re tired of what passes for rock on mainstream radio, pick up a copy of Death to False Metal.  It won’t change your life and it probably won’t make your end-of-year top ten list, but it will be an album you’ll crank up and enjoy over and over again.  Even the Toni Braxton cover that concludes the disc is surprisingly consistent with the tenor of the previous tracks.  And, if you manage to block out all memories of nineties radio and half-drunken karaoke nights at your local bar, then you might even think it’s a decent song.

After a questionable 2009, Weezer has returned with two of the most enjoyable and respectable releases of 2010.  Death to False Metal may be an “odds and ends” album, to borrow the language of early band chatter, but it holds its own against the very strong Hurley.

Music Review: R.E.M.’s “Live at the Olympia in Dublin: 39 Songs”

Originally posted 2009-10-30 17:25:25. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

RATING:  4.5 / 5 stars

By Chris Moore:

Sometimes, the big publications just get it all wrong.

In his Rolling Stone review of R.E.M.’s Live at the Olympia in Dublin, Will Hermes writes, “This two-CD/one-DVD document captures intimate, occasionally great performances.”  He goes on to add, “If Michael Stipe sometimes sounds like he’s reading lyrics off his computer, it’s because, well, he actually was.”

If I have to read one more cleverly phrased review bestowing a mediocre rating upon a release I love, I swear I’ll lose it.

Live at the Olympia in Dublin spills over with positive energy, the kind of energy that leaves fans breathless and voiceless after a night of singing, screaming, and giddily laughing.  Stipe’s voice is hardly robotic, as Hermes might have you understand.  His vocals alternate between smooth and clear deliveries at some points, alternately cracking in all the right places at others.

And the computer is hardly a crutch.  It’s more a means of on-stage schtick for Stipe and the band.  It is apparent that he is getting a kick out of reading others’ interpretations of his eighties-era, admittedly very mumbled lyrics.  (He has since come over to the good side, including lyrics in all R.E.M. booklets since Up.)

And it’s genuinely funny to hear him reading them, reflecting on them, and moving on to the present day, namely his evolved sensibilities and more recent material.

What really gets me is that Hermes refers to the tracks I had most looked forward to — the Accelerate outtakes — as “solid.”  This is an overstatement.  I was far from impressed with the outtakes, and although I had so hoped to tout them as the forgotten gems of their 2008 sessions, I simply had to admit to myself, Well, I suppose these guys knew what they were doing when they assembled Accelerate.

And that is precisely what has renewed my interest in R.E.M.  I’ve always liked Stipe’s attitude, and I’m continually drawn to R.E.M.’s unique, raw-but-refined instrumental sound.  And yet I’ve been hard-pressed to find any albums that stand out to me, certainly not enough to stand up to some of the great albums of all time.

Then, along came Accelerate.

R.E.M.'s "Live at the Olympia in Dublin" (2009)

R.E.M.'s "Live at the Olympia in Dublin" (2009)

Their 2008 studio album — their fourteenth at that — is a tremendous record.  There are catchy electric hooks, acoustic underpinnings, great lyrics, and Michael Stipe’s perfectly ragged vocals seasoning and binding it all together.  What truly distinguishes this record is the energy that simply oozes from the seams.  And this doesn’t come across as some aging group of rock and rollers embarking on a pitiful attempt to recapture past heights — after all, R.E.M. never was known for being all that rocking a band.

Watch the music video for “Living Well is the Best Revenge,” and you’ll immediately observe the youthful, creative force of a group of men who love what they do.  The song is performed while driving around in a car, acoustic guitars squeezed into the small vehicle, the steering wheel converted — while driving, mind you — into the percussion instrument of choice.  It looks like they’re having a lot of fun, and that comes through more than anything else on the record.

Rolling Stone reviewer Hermes apparently longs for the days when “Stipe’s vibrato-seizure vocals and Rorschach-blot ‘lyrics’ clung to songs exploding at the seams.”  He comments that, instead, “The stitching is tighter now, and drummer Bill Rieflin often holds things together too neatly.”

Say what you will about Rieflin’s drumming — and it’s not groundbreaking or award winning, but it gets the job done.  I draw the line at his allusion-dropping, not-so-subtle riff on Stipe’s vocals, as if to imply that something has been lost.

If that’s true, then something has been lost on me.

R.E.M., as Live at the Olympia in Dublin continues to suggest, is more alive and well than they have been in a good long time.  If living well is truly the best revenge, then Stipe, Mills, and Buck are bound to have the last laugh.  Their on-stage personas, musical chemistry, and ability to dig deeply into their catalog to populate their shifting set lists — never mind their willingness to exercise their unfinished work during live, recorded performances — continue to breathe new life and vibrancy into all their work, both past and present.

If you’re ready to live in the moment, then you should really give these guys a listen.