Album Reviews – 2/11/09
Weezer / Raditude / Universal
Nosing their thumb at the three-year interval that preceded their last major releases, Make Believe and The Red Album, Weezer is back, just one year after Red, with Raditude. One explanation for the short turnaround time between Red and Rad might be the multitude of collaborators and producers the band had helping them out during the recording process. Artists from Jermaine Dupri to The All-American Rejects, and from Lil Wayne to Josh Freese are credited on Raditude, and if you think names like that have put the band back on track to being singularly influential indie kings then… well, then you are a very silly individual.
Thanks to input from their hip hop collaborators the band has made some very different decisions from past albums, but all are very safe and should prove very commercially beneficial. The most out-there decision, and one that somehow works, stands as the inclusion of the song “Love Is The Answer” which features vocals in Hindi by Amrita Sen. Cuomo and Weezer have an uncanny ability to write songs satirizing lifestyles, as on “Can’t Stop Partying” or “In The Mall,” while still appealing to those oblivious people living those lifestyles. He sounds serious when he’s singing about drinking Grey Goose in the VIP Room, but he must be joking – right?
Download: “Tripping Down The Freeway,” “Love Is The Answer – Hindi Version”
Nirvana / Live At Reading / Universal
Consistently rated as one of the best, most important, shiniest, tallest, and most nutritious rock concerts ever, Nirvana’s oft-bootlegged performance at the 1992 Reading Festival has finally been authorized for release on the ever popular [CD/DVD] format. Including a longer track list than the comparable From The Muddy Banks of the Wishkah, Reading seems like a natural addition to the collection of disciples of Krist, Dave and Kurt. The band sounds like they’re enjoying themselves almost as much as the crowd – even when playing singles they’d soon loath and refuse to play live. The one place where the CD comes up short, however, is the lack of context given on the disc; humorous interludes and the band’s interaction with the crowd – footage left in on old bootlegs – have been cropped out to accommodate the lengthy set list. Watch the DVD if it’s the story behind these grimy raw songs that really interests you.
Download: “School,” “On A Plain”
Michael Jackson / This Is It / Sony
Representing what will hopefully be the peak of the posthumous compilation album release wave, Michael Jackson’s This Is It draws on the hits from the golden era of the career or the iconic singer, songwriter and performer. Released in tandem with the film of the same name, the compilation’s playlist puts songs in the order they’re heard in the film but otherwise stands alone. Rather than completely rehash the work of previous successful compilations, This Is It makes a few unique choices. The oldest song featured, “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground),” dates back to 1978, proving, by absence of his older work with the Jackson Five, just how prolific Jackson’s recording career was, and also that This Is It is primarily about celebrating his accomplishments as a mature musician.
Next, instead of including all of the singles from his most popular albums (though “Smooth Criminal” off of Bad, “Black or White” from Dangerous, and “Thriller” and “Billie Jean,” off the seminal Thriller, of course, all appear) some less obvious cuts from these albums fill spots some might have reserved for more popular songs. For instance, the ballads “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and the inspirational “Man in the Mirror” off of Bad appear while the title track from that album is missing. Perhaps most surprising is the inclusion of the controversial “They Don’t Care About Us,” a song that reminds listeners that inside the unassuming frame visible on This Is It was a passionate soul more than capable of some righteous anger. The new song “This Is It” is a little tepid compared to older favourites, but some other unreleased demos, including a poem (“Planet Earth”) read unaccompanied by Jackson, are worthwhile listens.
Download: Actually, do yourself a favour and download all of the number ones off this album.
Tegan And Sara / Sainthood / Sire
Tegan and Sara Quin’s latest album marks a progression in terms of the girls’ sound and, thankfully, a continuation of their trademark fast paced, catchy-as-hell lyrics. Well, for the most part. The progression that everyone is talking about is the new wavy synth-heavy sound straight out of the eighties heard on tracks like “On Directing,” and also a distinct punk rock vibe coming from the quicksilver paced “Northshore.” These tracks feature their new sound fully realized and successfully achieved. However, other 80’s-themed songs have a sort of half-baked feel that just make you feel like flipping back to the heavily-loaded top of the album to re-experience lead single “Hell,” (co-written by Tegan with Hunter from A.F.I.) or else fast-forwarding to enjoy Tegan’s unique cadence on “The Ocean” and “Someday.”
Download: “Hell,” “Someday”