Weezer, or Harvey Danger?

Weezer, or Harvey Danger?

The problem with Weezer’s newest self-titled album is that Harvey Danger already made it. But Harvey Danger sounded like Weezer when they released their first record in 1998. Uh-oh. Who’s on first? And does it matter if it’s all just the same?

In 1994, Weezer released its (first) self-titled album on DGC, and blew alternative music wide-open with a series of witty, rocking singles that were accompanied by witty, scholcky videos (courtesy of Yahoo Serious-esque auteur Spike Jonze). Within Weezer’s arsenal of chugging riffs and cooing harmonies could be heard echoes of The Cars, Cheap Trick, and even the 70s cock-rock of AC/DC and The Sweet. The band’s success was notable, inasmuch as their members went out of their way to appear as geeky as they were in real life (Overheard at record store in 1994: “Who are these losers on the cover of Weezer’s album?”) Sure, the “Happy Days” reset in Jonze’s clip for “Buddy Holly” was funny, but it only fueled the geek nitrous in the back of Weezer’s Chevelle. You ain’t going to catch STP looking likes geeks in their videos, dude…

Two years later, Rivers Cuomo, et al released the more introspective Pinkerton. It was promptly shit-canned.

You might remember the boys of Harvey Danger, but their record company doesn’t. In 1998, their churning, vitriol-spitting rocker “Flagpole Sitta” broke nationwide on modern rock radio after the fledgling group’s album was snatched up by Slash Records. The kids from Washington made the rounds of MTV chats, Spring Break concerts and radio station appearances. They were well on their way to rock stardom. They were promptly forgotten. Did you know that the followup, King James Version, was released in 2000? It was pretty decent, too…

It’s funny. When “Flagpole Sitta” hit, I remember thinking that it was the best song Weezer never wrote. What I had always loved about Weezer’s first record was the viscous brown noise of the riffs. Harmonies were fine, but it was the teutonic underbelly of “My Name Is Jonas” that melted my butter. Same deal with the Danger and their big single. “Flagpole Sitta” stood out from the modern rock pack because of its surging beat that seemed to choke the very melody being sung by Sean Nelson. Unfortunately for Nelson and his band, they spent all their gold with “Flagpole Sitta.” But evidently Spike Jonze wasn’t interested in crafting a few wily, culture-twisting videos for them to sustain the wilted power pop of their would-be followup singles, and they faded faster than you can say “writer’s block.” And 2000’s King James Version was released to the kind of fanfare reserved for a CCM crossover act. Sound familiar, Weezer? It should, because Pinkerton suffered a similar fate. Taken at face value, it’s a great record. But after the animated geek metal of their first album, Cuomo’s “series musician” gag didn’t have anyone laughing.

Unless their next video is the sequel to “Sabotage,” Harvey Danger will most likely be erased from most memory banks until “Flagpole Sitta” surfaces as track 5 on Rhino’s Monsters of 90s Alternative in 2010. But Weezer? Ho ho, they’re back with a tour and an album. It’s even produced by Ric Ocasek, and the single “Hash Pipe” is getting a major push in modern rock formats. And darn it anyway, there’s even a side-splittingly hilarious video to accompany the track, as well. But the master tapes must have been switched, because the mediocre sonic rough-housing on this most recent of self-titled Weezer records just makes me think of…Harvey Danger. Cuomo, Inc. has spit out 25-plus minutes of Play-Guitar-The-Roy-Clark-Way “alternative” rock, most of which wouldn’t sound out of place as filler on the next Halloween installment’s soundtrack. Basically, if you take ‘Weezer’ off the front cover, you’re left with a bunch of guys writing follow-the-melody guitar solos with an occasional flash of their lost brilliance.

I don’t think that Weezer’s new record can be saved by a few funny videos and the Geffen marketing machine. Bizarrely, neither does the band. My man Jake quotes River himself in his GloNo feature article on Weezer. Cuomo lays it down:

“I don’t expect it to succeed commercially, unlike everyone at the record company,” he says. “They’re all gonna be incredibly disappointed in a few weeks. The thing that I’m worried about, and this is a real concern, is that I also think our fans are gonna hate it.”

If a half-hearted attempt at rocking falls in the forest, will there be any fans around to hear it? I don’t know, but the Danger’s Sean Nelson does. You can ask him. He works third shift at the Carl’s Jr on 29th Avenue in Spokane.

Say it ain’t so…

JTL

Pop Haiku

As the GloNo team is obviously a crack crew of wordsmiths, and as time is sometimes in short supply, perhaps a means by which postings can proliferate is through the use of haiku. As you may recall from your days behind a desk (or you may not, given distractions/unconsciousness or both), a haiku is a total of 17 syllables arranged 5/7/5. As in:

Navel contemplate
Audio irrelevance
Oops: did it again

Who knows: We might have a whole new critical genre on our hands.

Weezer vs. the Record Industry

Guess who won. You can find out who won the epic battle for control over the shape of Weezer’s new album in the latest Glorious Noise Feature. Check it out now.

Continue reading Weezer vs. the Record Industry

EX-FL

Who do we have to thank for the current climate of Rap Rock trash, wrestling home videos, and baggy black jeans on the great unwashed teens of America? Good Morning, Vince McMahon…

Vince McMahon’s burlesque football wet dream is mercifully over.

The XFL officially disbanded yesterday, with its backers NBC and McMahon’s WWF both admitting over $30 million in after-tax losses. That’s a lot of loot to buy a few dates with some washed-out strippers (X-strippers?). But that’s always what the XFL seemed like, even in its youth (4 months ago). It seemed like the league’s only purpose was to procure more face time (and more action) for its blustering, precocious demagogue. If McMahon wasn’t the face of absurdity already, showing up on a WWF program greased up like King Vaseline and barking insults at his audience, his appearance on Bob Costas’ “On The Record” was the end of the line. The comically inflated McMahon sat on the edge of his chair, jabbing his finger and spouting bizarre rhetoric at the diminutive, cool-as-a-cucumber Costas like Colonel Arthur “Bull” Simons on steroids and horse pills.

Now that his attempt to make up for getting cut from the Frosh football squad is over, I assume McMahon will return to what he does best: dumbing down America in new and ever-exciting ways. And with a little help from his friend Ozzy, things’ll go smashingly, mate.

Vince McMahon revolutionized the wrestling industry by infusing his WWF with heaping helpings of violence, titillation, and the live-action equivalent to Mick Mars’ talk box screed intro to the Crue’s “Dr Feelgood.” It was like watching a live feed into the mind of Josh, your 14-year-old neighbor. Josh may like boobs and power chords (not to mention Samsonite chairs across the neck), but he doesn’t know a thing Real Rock. And as the WWF picked up steam, its popularity fueled the like-minded antics of Rap-Rock and the OzzFest Nation. Like Monsters of Rock before it, OzzFest by the late nineties had become the standard bearer for limp-haired quartets with names like Saliva, Fist In Face and SupraNought. The shit-core plied by these groups was really not that different from the WWF’s turnbuckle pulpit ranting and flash pot bombast. Rap Rock had its Ozzy, and wrestling had its McMahon. Two guys who made a career of out shocking people just enough, and letting the rumors take hold like a cheetah taking down a gazelle.

But McMahon lost his shirt on this XFL jazz. After all, $30 mil buys a lot of Stacker-2. And Ozzy? Well, his fest is rolling through a town near you this Summer, with its usual array of sweating, angry men in black, red, and tattoos. And that’s just the audience. On stage, you’ll see the musical stylings of MuDvAyNe, Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society, and the too appropriately named Pure Rubbish. Even ol’ Marilyn Manson is getting out the vinyl jodhpurs and evil white makeup for a very special, even evil-er appearance. Ooh, scary. So OzzFest 2001 fighting the good fight while the WWF tries to recover from its fearless leader’s excess. It may not go away anytime soon, but even these genres’ biggest supporters have to sense the inevitable. Whether it’s He Hate Me or Hatebreed, the tide has to eventually turn away from the extreme in sports and music. The gazillion-dollar failure of McMahon’s XFL goes a long way toward proving this. And if this Summer’s OzzFest ticket sales aren’t as lively as they could be, there’s a good chance Mr Record Label Man’ll start thinking about putting his money elsewhere. Besides, the Rap-Rockers are running out of evil-sounding names. And Krokus: The Sequel doesn’t really have staying power, you know?

The cyclical nature of pop music is a proven fact. And keep in mind that the current, blowhard version of the WWF is the league’s second incarnation (note to Hacksaw Jim Dugan: you were my favorite). So let’s hope that The Man is as sick of Vince McMahon as I am, and stops giving him airtime/seed money/support.

Same goes for you, Ozzy. There’s a hole in the sky.

JTL

What about me? It isn’t fair, I’ve had enough now I want my share: Open mic night

Open mic nights are a pisser. The talent ranges from three-chord Lisa Loebs to MFAs trying to impress their hippy girlfriends with Phish covers. It’s a funny scene and most bars that host open mics foster a certain group of regulars. Tonight I hit the open mic night at Quenchers on Western and Fullerton here in Chicago. It was standard fare.

A friend of mine called and left a message that he’d be down at the open mic at Quenchers and that I should meet him there. Well, I had some other business to attend to so I wasn’t sure if I’d make it. After some wrangling with the guy at the video store over my WAY overdue late fees for Bring it On and Citizen Cane, I made my way to Quenchers.

At first, things were slow. The hosts of the night were still trying to get the P.A. to work and weren’t having much luck. Rule #1 of open mic night is a crap P.A. Bar owners feel that if you’re willing to play for free, unannounced and without a bar tab, then you probably don’t deserve a P.A. Tonight at Quenchers was no different, but with enough spilled beer and cursing they got the damned thing in order and opened the night up.

The hosts of tonight’s free-for-all didn’t do it for nothing. They were a two-piece acoustic group with a CD to hawk, and man did they. They opened the night with a short set and then promised to return for a midnight reprise. It was a girl singer who mentioned Lucinda Williams as an influence but wrote and sang more like any other college girl with an eighth grade break up on her mind.

Just the same, they were better than act two. The second group to perform was a “blues” group (this is Chicago, after all) fronted by a late twenty-ish guy decked out from head to toe in pristine Nike gear. Our boy Damien did his damnedest to bring us down to the delta but only managed to bring us to Bone Daddy’s Rib Joint on Armitage. The first song of his set was some rambling number in a standard blues progression that had something to do with leaving his girl alone. The only vibe I got from this cat was a sense that his shoes were too white, his golf shirt too pressed and that he was probably singing something along the lines of the Mutual Funds Blues— a tune my unemployed ass can’t even hum!

Act two fared worse. Candy took the stage with her ornately decorated guitar. It was a hodge podge of catalog pictures and Precious Moments scenes all laminated on the soundboard of her $35 guitar. To make matters worse, her songs gave me the distinct feeling that she was a charter member of the First Wives Club. Egad, would this torture never end?

Yes it would. As soon as we came back to our hosts.

They came back on stage for an early staging of their midnight set to calm the brewing frustration in the bar. The original numbers were well rehearsed, tightly written and easy on the ears. But their triumph did not come without a price. In the middle of the second song of the set someone from the audience decided to join in, This isn’t necessarily unusual and is often encouraged at open mic nights, but this character took over the set. A regular, who plays the conga, set up right next to the stage and proceeded to pound away at his native beats while our heroine poured her heart out. Now, not only was the interloper too loud, but his African ballyhoo was entirely out of place in the middle of Plain Jane’s honky laments. Evil eyes were cast upon Conga Jim, but to no avail. He played on and nodded appreciatively between songs. Nobody knew what to do, so they played with their uninvited guest. The essence of the songs was lost and we all kind of clapped dully when the set was finally over.

As another brokenhearted stockbroker strapped on his Ovation guitar for a round of health club sorrow, I ordered another $1.75 Pabst and scratched my name on the board. Who am I but another out of work dotcomer with three chords and a story to tell?

I-Rock, you rock, we all rock in Detroit Rock City

i-rock

I-Rock, you rock, we all rock in Detroit Rock City
Semi-Fiction
(Intro to a feature from GLONO contributor, Phil Wise)

Being in a local band is cruel business. Local music scenes are full of assholes and egos—and that’s not counting the musicians. There are loads of ruthless club owners and booking agents who will take a band for every cent of the two hundred or so dollars they make in a night. There are dilapidated vans waiting to strand their hopped up occupants just out of reach of their gigs. There are jealous bands scheming to wreck your set to ensure that they walk out the favorites. There is very little to encourage local musicians to stick with it, but the rewards do come on occasion. You all strike THE note at the right time and your head spins and your spine tingles and that feeling you had when you heard the first record that moved you is coming from your own body.

The Overtones were my band. The whole concept was my idea and we paid heavily for it. I had hung out in Kalamazoo for years and seen ball crunching rock from groups like the Sinatras, Twister, Fortune & Maltese, the Sleestacks and King Tammy. All of these bands were actually just different variations of the same five or six guy line up under different names. Mike Limbert was bass player for Twister and the Sleestacks and he was also Mike Maltese, the keyboard-playing partner of the nefarious Freddy Fortune. Fortune & Maltese were backed up on drums by Sinatras smasher Scott Stevens and later the group was augmented on keyboards with Karl Knack when Jason Fortier, who came by way of King Tammy, left F&M under mysterious circumstances and Mike Maltese (Limbert) had to take over bass duties once again. The whole lot made up the fantastic and semi-fictional label Leppotone Electrical Recordings and I wanted to join the club.

My first stab at Leppotone stardom was with the Vantrells, a four piece pseudo-mod group that quickly disintegrated when lead guitarist, Matt Southwell, headed west in search of movie stardom and Mike Nesmith. The Vantrells wore skinny black ties and suit jackets and played crunchy power pop with a hint of the Who and the Knack—maybe it was more than a hint, I’m not that creative. When the Vantrells died I moved quickly to establish a new group and saw a hit with other Kalmazooians Jay Howard and Collin Stoddard. Jay and Collin signed, skinny ties and all, and we set out on Michigan with a grudge and crappy amps.

The problem with being a local band is getting out of town. The Overtones had great shows in Kalamazoo, thanks to loyal friends, lots of attitude on stage, and Jay’s good looks, which drew a sizable crowd of girls to our nights at the legendary Club Soda. But we were determined to break from Kalamazoo and we looked east to the BIG BROTHER of Michigan: Detroit.

Read the rest of the story in GLONO’s features section.

Continue reading I-Rock, you rock, we all rock in Detroit Rock City

What’s In a Name?

While looking at The Billboard 200, which, curiously enough, lists the 100 top-selling albums, I happened to notice that the top of the chart listed All For You by Janet Jackson. It opened at #1. But perhaps I’ve missed something, as I am, admittedly, not particularly interested in her music: The listing didn’t include her surname, it was just “Janet.”

It is supposedly a mark of almost universal success when an individual is known by a single name. Socrates. Plato. Aristotle. Elvis. Madonna. (Although the last-named is a bit tricky, inasmuch as depending on the venue, that moniker may refer to Someone Else Entirely.)

Janet’s brother Michael once tried to pull off being known as “Michael” (and let’s not lose sight of the fact that he also married Elvis’s daughter), but that didn’t work, as if that name broadly signified anyone, it was Jordan. So then he tried to be known as “The King of Pop,” which is certainly distinctive, but fatuous. (Janet’s brother Tito, so far as I’m aware, never tried to push the one name, presumably knowing that it had already been assigned to the former leader of Yugoslavia.)

Bruce Springsteen almost had it, with the “Bruce, Bruce” chant, but it fizzled. (And it should be noted that on the chart in question, Live in New York was at spot 69, down from 52 the week before, and it was charted for a mere 4 weeks.)

So I started looking at the list to see who else might be going for the one-name fame. Plenty. Individuals and groups alike. As in the following:

2Pac, Case, Shaggy, Lifehouse, Dido, Nelly, Eve, 112, Train, Ginuwine, Dream, Ludacris, OutKast, Tank, Enya, Aerosmith, U2, Creed, Incubus, Sade, 3LW, Fuel, Saliva, Jaheim, ColdPlay, Godsmack, Moby, Tantric, Disturbed, Mudvayne.

(Seems like many of these people have learned to spell through Hooked on Phonics.)

Will Janet make it as “Janet” (presumably that hasn’t happened yet, as at least some of us, when we hear Janet, we think “Reno”)? In a word: Maybe. (Hmm. . .that might be a good name. . . .)

Blender: Rock and Roll and Boobies Too

But no nipples.

I spent about an hour last Saturday morning hungover on my brother-in-law’s crapper. Did the same thing Sunday morning. The john is well-stocked with several issues of Maxim and Stuff, and I’ve started to like those magazines for what they are. They’re fun. And occasionally there are some interesting articles. The thing that really angers me about them is that they never show nipples. They show all kinds of cleavage and every young starlet in every imaginable sultry pose, but never any nipples.

That just seems cheap to me. A rip off. A prick tease. A Playboy-Lite for these neo-Puritanical times. Playboy at least has great fiction, intelligent interviews, and halfway-decent articles. All that and full nudity.

But still, I no longer resent Maxim and Stuff for their rather meat-headed editorial slant. There’s a certain playful anarchy going on in there. Like when they teach you step-by-step how to pick a lock. Maybe this sounds to you like a recipe for drunkfratrape disaster, but I’m hoping it’s pretty harmless. Let’s the kids think they’re being naughty without really causing any trouble.

Plus, I read an interview with a sexually precocious 17-year-old supermodel who blew off the advances of a member of a certain boy band, claiming, “The Backstreet Boys are all butt ugly.” I’ve had a soft spot for these rags ever since. Call me open-mided. Or call me a sucker. Whatever. It’s pop trash and it’s entertaining. Like watching the E! channel.

So when I read Michael Goldberg’s column, The Drama You’ve Been Craving, about publisher Felix Denis’ new music magazine, Blender, I had to pick it up. Even though Goldberg warned me not to:

If Blender succeeds by following the approach Dennis has taken with Maxim and StuffMaxim is currently the best-selling general-interest men’s magazine in the U. S. — we may end up longing for the days when we could count on Rolling Stone, for all its problems, to occasionally deliver a solid article about a meaningful artist such as Radiohead or Tom Waits. Clearly Blender will be targeting “generation mook,” those Tom Green/Limp Bizkit/Eminem-loving kids. I’m expecting the worst.

Well, after reading through much of the premiere issue, I think Goldberg can relax a little. Maybe.

Maybe Blender is being sneaky, and corporately co-opting “cool” like the Gap, Volkswagon, and Sprite, but Issue One contains an interview with Thom Yorke of Radiohead, a big article about Weezer, a full-page review of the new Lucinda Williams album (plus a full-page picture — a woman baring no cleavage for once), and a two-page review of the new Beach Boys reissues.

Granted, the interview with Yorke is based on dopey questions sent in via email by fans. And Weezer isn’t exactly an underground band, and the writer didn’t defend Pinkerton nearly strongly enough. And much of the rest of the issue is filled with “bootylicious” photos of Janet Jackson and Destiny’s Child. But check out this excerpt from Andy Pemberton’s editorial:

Who else would review over 200 CDs every issue and cover everyone from the big fish to the tiny minnows? Who else knows that music is beautiful and scary and sad and wise and fun – especially fun – whatever genre it’s from? Answer: no one (we checked).

Except Glorious Noise, of course. We’ll let Blender focus on the fun, and that’s okay. Fun music has it’s place. Not everybody has to be heavy and serious and snobby. And if Blender turns a few frat boys on to Lucinda Williams or Alejandro Escovedo then that’s good for everybody, right? Except for the snobs who want to keep their favorite bands as their personal pets. And we’ll let them worry about it themselves.

PHOENIX, ARE YOU READY TO ROCK?

Nope.

“…Due to scheduling conflicts, the 3-day music festival scheduled for May 11-13th in Queen Creek, AZ has been cancelled…”

This is the statement released by KSLX-FM (“Phoenix’ Classic Rock…Non Stop!”) on their official website. The above is followed by this impossibly chipper announcement:

“…Keep it tuned to KSLX and we’ll let you know when we reschedule our 15th anniversary show!”

The KSLX Rock Fest was to feature three days of rocking, courtesy of REO, BTO, Kansas, Grand Funk Railroad, Poco, “and many more.” It was cancelled after only 400 or so tickets were sold for the event. Despite the ambiguous “scheduling conflicts” cited by the station’s website, this sad fact was acknowledged by the KSLX-FM’s own marketing manager, who was quoted in Monday’s Chicago Sun-Times. She literally could not believe that only 400 people in the tri-county area would want to receive a weekend-long Classic Rock ass-kicking the likes of which hadn’t been seen since Ram Jam blew into town back in ’86. But them’s the breaks. Even REO Speedwagon couldn’t believe it. On their official website, they send a shoutout to all their Arizona fans (the sum of which, evidently, is between 1 and 400), lamenting the cancellation but promising a speedy return to the region. I know it hurts to say goodbye…

What does Rock Fest’s failure say about the future of what I like to call The Classic Rock Road Show? This is the annual Summertime circuit of oldies shows that feature AOR dinosuars still touring behind their hits of yesteryear. For example, Three Dog Night will be performing at Chicago’s Hawthorne Race Course this Saturday evening. Of course, they’re billed third behind a horse race and a classic car show. And somewhere, Danny Hutton silently cries in a dark room. Because that’s the thing about these nostalgia tours that swing through your local Rib Fest each year. No matter how many gold records these cats scored back in their heyday, they’re still left to compete for ticket sales with the 3pm appearance by Pikachu and Jifflypuff. Now how Rock and Roll is that?

I’m a fan of nostalgia. Chicago is famous for its cover and tribute bands, and there’s a few that do a decent job with their chosen subjects’ most famous tunes. Some beer-sloshing jokesters called Something For Joey do power-trio versions of 70s AM hits like The Looking Glass’ “Brandy” and Pure Prairie League’s “Amie.” Point of fact: The real Pure Prairie League was slated to perform at KSLX-FM’s Rock Fest. Even if they had performed, I’ll bet that Something For Joey does a better version of the song that made the real band famous. Because who wants to watch a geriatric version of anything? Alright, the Stones are still out on the road. But Mick still fucks a model, and you can bet that Keith hasn’t hung up the drugs. Say what you want about sex, drugs, and Rock and Roll, but that trio of demons keeps The Rolling Stones young. Look what happened to Aerosmith. They got clean, and all of a sudden it’s a good idea to record ballads that The Backstreet Boys rejected. Nostalgia is fine. But sometimes all we want is the song, and how it makes us feel. When that same Chicago nostalgia act rips into REO’s “Time For Me To Fly,” you can almost feel the crush of General Admission humanity around you at the old Chicago Stadium; almost see the 3-quarter sleeve tour shirts and Farrah Fawcett haircuts. But I don’t really want to be there. I just want to hear the riff, man. And I don’t need the fossils in REO to play it for me.

Evidently, neither did any more than 400 souls in Phoenix. KSLX-FM’s 15th Anniversary Rock Show was over before any aging AOR Rock hero could even plug in his Telecaster or hack up a lung. But the Classic Rock Road Show rolls on, and somewhere, Creedence Clearwater…Revisited is trying to out-rock the Shady Acres Accordian Consortium down on the North Stage.

I’m going to go get an Elephant Ear. You want one?

JTL

Rock and roll can change your life.