Music Mondays: My Weezer Fandom

For whatever reason, Weezer had nothing to do with my formative music-liking years in 7th or 8th grade when it was taking my future high school friends by storm. I’m sure I’d heard “Buddy Holly,” but the name Weezer meant nothing to me. Being kind of an asshole in high school I would constantly make fun of my new friends for liking Weezer even though I was basing that on absolutely nothing. It’s a wonder we’re still friends, though I think part of that’s because, at some point either sophomore or junior year, I asked my buddy Chad if I could borrow their records. At the time Weezer–consisting of lead singer and guitar player Rivers Cuomo, drummer Patrick Wilson, guitar player Brian Bell and bass player Matt Sharp–only had their 1994 self-titled debut (dubbed “The Blue Album”) and 1996’s follow up Pinkerton out. Unfortunately, Pinkerton didn’t do so well, Cuomo went crazy and the band went on hiatus for a few years. I listened to the two records and did a complete 180, becoming a huge fan of the band, even checking on a regular basis, though never getting involved in the message boards (I hate those things). Luckily for me, I got into the band towards the end of their hiatus which meant that 2001’s self-titled album (this one dubbed “The Green Album” for obvious reasons) wasn’t too far off. During their off-time, Sharp left the band to be replaced by Mikey Welsh on bass and Rivers started writing poppier, less personal songs because he was devastated by Pinkerton‘s failure (an album that featured lots of personal feelings from the singer). I remember going to my beloved local record store Boogie Records with my friend Matt during our free period senior year and buying the record the day it came out. The album wasn’t great–not as good as the previous two at least–but it was new Weezer, which meant new tours would be on the horizon. At the time, the band pretty much played the exact same set list every show, but my friends and I hoped to see them soon.

Also around this time, Rivers started doing a lot of interviews that lead to lots of angriness from fans, especially the ones where he practically disowned Pinkerton (an album everyone I know loved and, from what I read in an article in Guitar World about the then-new emo scene, influenced that entire scene thanks to this new thing called the internet) and said that his fans were assholes. I can’t tell you exactly where this happened, but it did. I was pissed. That’s when I realized that Weezer was one of the hardest bands to be a fan of, but I was hooked. Soon, I would go off to college and purchase the poster version of the Green Album cover which hung proudly in my room. On September 22, 2001, my freshman year of college, my parents came down to Delaware, Ohio, my friends Matt and Charlie who were going to Ohio State at the time came up and then my parents took us back to Toledo, which got us closer to Detroit where the show was. A band called The Start opened up and–this is the best part–I got to shake hands with new bass player Scott Shriner who also happened to be from Toledo! In fact, I worked with his cousin at the bagel shop. For whatever reason, Scott was running up the aisle near us and one of my friends notice and shot his hand out into the aisle. Scott very nicely stopped and shook all our hands before moving on to his destination. I don’t remember many specifics of the show, but I do remember singing like crazy along with all the songs. Good times. As I mentioned in a previous post, I actually drove up from Delaware, Ohio to Toledo to hit up the midnight release of Weezer’s next record Maladroit. Someone snapped a picture of Scott Shriner’s dad buying it at Boogie Records and it made its way onto Weezer’s website. That’s me in the gray sweatshirt and the missus in blue (she was nice enough to let me use her car for the voyage). I really didn’t like Maladroit when I first listened to it. I wanted to hear more Pinkerton-like music, but it was poppy like “Green.” But it eventually grew on me and I wound up digging the record. That was in 2002. I was a sophomore in college at the time. That summer my friends from Toledo and I went to see Weezer again in concert, this time they were doing shows with two stages, had five bands playing along with them (including Sparta and Dashboard Confessional who I realized I hate) and a side stage with smaller bands. Another good time was had by all. Then Make Believe came out and broke my heart. I know it sounds dumb to say something like that about a band filled with people you’ve never met (hand shake aside), but with that album’s string of poppy pap crap, I was done with the band…for a while at least. How many times did I need to get kicked in the ribs before I walked away? The record came out in 2005, I was still in college and I don’t think I’ve listened to it since then, though I do still own it (I’ve never even ripped it into iTunes). Soon, I’d graduate college and go on to work for Wizard in New York with a bunch of dudes who were also, at this point, former Weezer fans. Many of them felt the same way I did and some were even angrier about it. I kind of mellowed out after a while, but I still didn’t buy or even listen to their next two records “the Red Album” from 2008 and 2009’s Raditude. So, it’s been a good five years since my heart broke. By now it’s mended back together and was ticking better than ever (thanks to realizing a band isn’t really worth getting too upset about). Plus, recently I’d been seeing a few things that made me curious about their latest record Hurley: Rivers’ appearance on that B.o.B song “Magic” and their first single off the record called “Memories” which I really really dug. There’s finally an official video for “Magic” now, by the way. Watching Rivers doing his MC thing on stage is always funny.

So, last week, I found myself in Best Buy doing something I hadn’t done in half a decade: buying a Weezer CD. I went with the deluxe edition because it was the same price as the regular. My friends and I used to joke that you can expect one thing from any Weezer CD: ten songs. Well, that rule had been broken in the past, but it made me chuckle that the regular version of the disc had that magical number of tracks. And, you know what? I really like this record. I don’t know if it’s just me being sentimental (like seeing a girl you used to like and thinking you’ve got a thing for her again, but really it’s just a fond memory) or if it’s legit. I’ve only listened to it once all the way through, but I wasn’t depressed after the first listen, so that’s much better than my first Make Believe listen.

You might be thinking to yourself “Oh, TJ, don’t go back to that band, they don’t know how to treat you right and will only wind up hurting you again.” But to that I would respond “Yo, I got this.” Now that I’m less emotional about the whole thing, I’ll probably even go back and listen to Make Believe again and keep my eyes peeled for “Red” and Raditude at flea markets, garage sales and used places.

Music Mondays: Fountains Of Wayne

I’ve done some moving around on the recurring feature schedule I made for myself recently. I’m dropping Crossovers I Want To See as a weekly feature because, frankly, I’m not sure if it’s the kind of thing that isn’t going to get old really quick. I also never got into doing a weekly record review on Fridays, but I still want to talk about music on a regular basis, so I’m changing the focus and moving it to Mondays, hence Music Mondays. There will be record review elements, but also more personal anecdotes involving various bands. The first entry will revolve around Fountains Of Wayne, a band I mentioned in last week’s Supergroup Showcase about Tinted Windows.

There aren’t many bands out there that I remember exactly when I first heard them, but it just so happens the the night I staid up watching MTV’s 120 Minutes and discovered Man…Or Astroman?! I also saw the video for FOW’s “Denise” off their second record called Utopia Parkway. This was probably around 1999 when that record came out, so I would have been 16. I was instantly taken in by their awesome pop rock sound. Soon enough I bought Utopia Parkway and then eventually found their first, self titled record at my beloved Boogie Records. I even got my friend Matt into them, which was fun. In fact, I believe I found their first album at the library first ad listened to it a bunch before finding the used copy. Anyway, it was fun to get into a band with a good friend who also had good taste in music.

The band consists mainly of Chris Collingwood (far right, above) and Adam Schlesinger (far left, above) on guitar and bass. These guys are the brains behind the operation as they’re the main songwriters. Collingwood also sings, offering his versatile vocals to the tracks. The guy has proven that he can sing in every style from mournful longing to country warbling and good old fashioned rock and roll. Jody Porter (second from right, above) acts as the other guitar player and Bryan Young (the other one) plays drums. These guys come together to create beautifully eclectic records that zoom in on real life from the heartbreak of breaking up to the mind-numbingness of working a crappy job. I defy you to listen to a FOW record and not relate to most of, if not all of, the songs. I always describe FOW as “What pop music should be.” What I meant by that is that it felt like the natural progression from 60s pop and 80s New Wave, skipping all the bad stuff including the late 90s pop I was being subjected to at the time.

Of course, just as I started getting into them and started spreading the records amongst my friends, the band went on a few year long hiatus. During the break Schlesinger helped write the original songs for the Josie and the Pussycats flick. At the time I started getting heavily into bootleg trading online. This was back when you had to actually swap discs, I assume you just send digital files back and forth now with the use of FTPs or YouSendIt. I eventually found some people swapping live FOW shows and got my hands on an in-store Sam Goody acoustic set they did on 5-5-99 and a lesser quality regular live set from a place called The Shelter in Detroit on 7-15-99. Both are still in my regular listening rotation.

Soon enough I would go away to college in Delaware, Ohio. A few months into my sophomore year, I read that they were playing in Cleveland at a place called Peabody’s. I immediately told my buddies Matt and Charlie who were going to school in nearby Columbus, Ohio and more importantly, had access to a car. The three of us made plans to go to the show on 11-12-2002 and I even got introduced to OK Go, another band I would wind up loving. Luckily I did a concert review on my old website, so here’s my review from back then:

FOW is one of my favorite current bands, so I was stoked as hell when I found out they were touring. As I said earlier, we drove all the way to Cleveland (from the Columbus area) to see them. After OK Go finished up, some people moved around and we ended up being one person from the stage. I could have literally reached up and touched Chris. It was amazing. Actually, I wouldn’t have been able to touch him because he’s a very tall man. Their set blew me away. It had all the songs I wanted to hear “Leave the Biker” (my personal favorite), “Utopia Parkway,” and “Denise.” The only song I really wish they would have played and didn’t was “Lazer Show,” but I was by no means disappointed. They played three or four songs from their upcoming album that sounded great. Two songs that stood out were “Bright Future in Sales” and “Stacy’s Mom Has Got It Goin On.” Usually I don’t like it when a band plays songs that I haven’t heard yet, but it was different this time. The songs were so good they made me want to go out and buy the album. They closed the show with “Sink to the Bottom” (I think). Right after they left one of my friends reached up and took three pics from the pic holder on the microphone. Do I feel bad about this? Nope. I’ve got a FOW pic, even if Chris didn’t use it, it’s still cool. By the way, Jody looks like a true rock star, a combination of Keith Richards and Jimmy Page. As a whole the band was tight and performed amazingly. They didn’t quite have the energy of OK Go, but their music is also a lot more mellow. This very well could have been my all time favorite concert.

It really was a great show. I had seen some huge bands by that time, but they were the first one that I felt like I really discovered and followed (even though, yes, I discovered them on MTV). That upcoming album I mentioned would turn out to be 2003’s Welcome Interstate Managers and it would turn out to be my favorite of the group so far. The first three songs on the record “Mexican Wine,” “Bright Future In Sales,” and “Stacey’s Mom” are killer pop rock songs. “Hey Julie” would go on to be a favorite of the missus’ and even her ringtone. Heck, I even like “Valley Winter Song” at a time when I thought I hated county-ish music. Even though it’s a favorite, I’m still not a great fan of “Hailey’s Waitress,” but even the best records can’t be perfect. Matt and I saw the band in Detroit while touring behind this album, though I can’t remember exactly when.

In the last few years, we’ve gotten two more releases from the band. One, a two-disc collection of B-sides, outtakes and live tracks called Out-Of-State Plates came out in 2005 which also included their recording of “…Baby One More Time” a song their label passed to them and they recorded before Britney Spears got ahold of it and turned it into a gigantic hit. It’s not a bad record by any means, but there’s a reason many of these tracks aren’t on regular albums. It’s still fun to listen to, but not up to the same caliber as the regular records. Their last original record Traffic and Weather came out in 2007, another great, fun record that I still enjoy to this day, even after a sometimes-damaging heavy rotation in my car’s CD player for quite a while. I just discovered there’s a live DVD too, so I’ll have to check that out and hopefully a new record this year.

I can’t think of another band that I discovered during that time that still makes music I enjoy as much as the first records I heard. Most of the 90s bands I got into have seemed to have a dip in quality of their songs or have moved into stylistic places I’m not such a fan of, but Fountains Of Waynes’ diversity lends itself well to my aging along with them. Fun fact, after my Wizard internship, I was at home with my parents. The computer was kept in a hutch that also held the stereo. One day I was listening to Welcome Interstate Managers and “Little Red Light” popped on. I started freaking out because the song has a lyric that goes “New York to Nyack, feels like a hundred miles.” I had just spent nine weeks in Nyack so that was pretty awesome. They even refer to the Tappan Zee bridge which I had crossed a few times. It was cool to have lived in a place referenced in a song. That was a new feeling. Now I live in that area and still get a kick out of finding myself in more and more of the locations they sing about.

Book Review: Sonic Boom by Peter Blecha

For the majority of my active music absorbing career, I’ve felt like I’ve been playing catch up. I guess that’s what happen when you’ve got 40 or so years of rock and roll (not to mention blues, jazz, folk and whatever else you might eventually get interested in) with dozens and dozens of sub genres with their big hitmakers, indie darlings and one hit wonders. It’s a lot to take in and as a result I had a problem understanding how so many bands fed off of each other in a fairly short period of time to create all kinds of classics bands.

Peter Blecha’s Sonic Boom which came out earlier this year, does an amazing job of cataloguing all of that albeit in the specific area of Northwest America. Thanks to the cover, which features a shot of Mudhoney, I kind of figured Sonic Boom would be mostly about the grunge scene, but I couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, my one complaint about the book is that Blecha didn’t give this highly influential era comparably few pages. The section focusing on the intricacies of the scene from the late 50s through the 80s takes up roughly 229 pages while the 70s-90s get the remaining 50 pages. The funny thing is that it doesn’t come off as though Blecha dislikes that music, he just kind of breezes through it, which feels rushed after reading about bands you’ve never heard of like The Fleetwoods.

But, like I said, this book really educated me on an era of rock and roll that I was mostly unfamiliar with and, better yet, and entire sub genre of music I didn’t know. I learned about bands like The Sonics, The Wailers, The Frantics, learned more about The Ventures (whose surf rock records blew me away when I stumbled upon my dad’s uncle’s discs when I first got my own record player for Christmas in high school) and Paul Revere and the Raiders. Plus there were just so many ins and outs to the scene that it played out like a soap opera more often than not. Plus, it’s fun to read about real life events that informed one of the all time best rock and roll movies That Thing You Do.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the book was getting an understanding as to how different the record industry used to be. First off, records were sold regionally, so you might record a single on 45 and sell it in your area, but it might not do a anything anywhere else in the country. I’ve been saying for a while that it’s interesting to me that the music industry seems to be turning back to this single format that dominated the industry for so long. Now, we’re just buying them on iTunes instead of rolling down to the record store and picking up a record. Another aspect of the scene I found fascinating was the focus int he early to mid 60s of teen dances that would be held at school gyms or VFW halls put on by anyone who could rent the place out. I never experienced any dances like that in my day, but it sounds like local politics really got in the way.

It made me think how cool it would be to open some kind of club that would foster young/new bands. You could record the live shows and put them out as a podcast. Then, considering how easy it is to record with Garage Band, start a little recording studio in the back and then just release them through iTunes. That would work right? Who wants to open a club?

Anyway, I recommend Sonic Boom for any fans of rock who are looking for a detailed history before the Beatles came and changed everything (including focus on plenty of bands who influenced them and just about every other band that would come after). Like I said, it’s definitely light on the 90s grunge stuff, but if you’re in the mood, I highly recommend checking out a movie about that revolution called Hype. I haven’t seen it since high school (when I got into grunge, again, after the fact finishing my Nirvana CD collection, picking up Badmotorfinger to go along with Superunknown and giving TAD and Mudhoney a shot thanks to my beloved used record store Boogie).