glunders asked: Loved your review of the 75th Anniversary Batman book. On that topic, do you have any suggestions for arcs people should pick up in the current (and sprawling) ComiXology sale?
Working on that for CA now!
I know I’m not a noted Batmanologist but until CA’s list comes along and gets far more attention, here’s this: http://www.panelbeats.co.uk/buyers-guide/comixology-sale-picks-batman-750.php
One of my favourite shows:
One of my least favourite shows:
Do you see my problem
That you don’t actually like Doctor Who?
That you only like RTD-era Who and are being unnecessarily passive-aggressive toward the Moffat era in order to make your opinion seem relevant?
You are not understanding. Let me break it down for you:
"Doesn’t pass the Bechdel test". Fuck’s sake.
Pretty sure Russell does most if not all of the things listed alongside Moffat’s picture, as it goes. But yeah, whatever, the creator of the married lesbian interspecies couple and co-creator of Captain Jack Harkness is definitely “queerphobic”.
"Keeps to the canon storyline and rules". That manages to be pathetic and inaccurate.
did I just see a post saying Moffat was self congratulatory and RTD wasn’t?!?!?
Weezer - Back to the Shack
For most bands, a leadoff single that self-referentially comments on itself or the preceding back catalogue, and that purports in its style to represent a return to “the good old days”, would be an intriguing novelty. In Weezer’s case, it’s practically par for the course.
Back in 2008, the first we heard of “Pork and Beans” - in a thirty-second preview clip released on Amazon - was a crunching guitar riff that seemed deliberately chosen to say “Look! It sounds like The Blue Album!” Of course, back then the only album that it felt like Weezer had to “recover” from was Make Believe - and as it turned out, the resulting Red Album was, for both better and worse, a far more experimental and varied record than anything they’d done before anyway. Nevertheless, “Pork and Beans” - written after the record label demanded more singles for the album, and explicitly referencing the fact in its lyrics - established a trend for fourth-wall-breaking in Rivers’ songwriting.
Following the ghastly experiment that was 2009’s Raditude - an incomparably bad pop album that saw Rivers handing over most of the songwriting chores to musicians of often inferior repute - the band’s indie-label debut Hurley, in 2010, was once again purported to herald a new-old era. Just Google “hurley back to basics” to see how often the phrase cropped up in interviews and reviews. In opener “Memories”, Rivers sang of his desire to get back to the band’s early days - but it rang hollow, as it didn’t seem to tell the story of a young Weezer that any fan would actually recognise:
Pissing in plastic cups before we went on stage
Playing hackey sack back when Audioslave was still Rage
Watching all the freaky Dutch kids vomit then have sex
Listening to techno music on the bus while we earned our checks
(That’s the opening verse. Who decides that’s the opening salvo of their album? Well, the man who also wrote “Where’s My Sex?”, I suppose, but there you go.)
Unfortunately, “Memories” didn’t actually herald the “back to basics” approach that many fans were looking for, either. It ended up being the opening track on a somewhat unimaginative album that may not have had the ridiculous guest-appearance-from-Lil-Wayne excesses of Raditude, but still had several co-writers and was so uninspired that arguably the best track was a bonus addition of a cover of “Viva La Vida”. Which, you know, isn’t exactly much of a selling point.
So, then, to “Back to the Shack”. The first new material from the band in four years, and the leadoff for an album, Everything Will Be Alright In The End, for which the “No, but we really are sorry about all that crap we’ve been putting out, we’re going to try to be as good as we used to” pleas feel perhaps a little more convincing than before.
A lot of that is down to “Shack”, a song that’s actually been floating around Weezer fandom for several months, thanks to having made a very public debut on the Weezer Cruise in February (and on Youtube immediately afterwards). Unlike “Memories”, the lyrics to “Shack” very specifically address the fans, and the fans’ feelings about the band:
Sorry, guys, I didn’t realise that I needed you so much
I thought I’d get a new audience, I forgot that disco sucks
(There isn’t actually really anything “disco” on Raditude, but I guess Rivers didn’t want to open the can of worms that would have come with saying “hip-hop sucks”)
"Sorry". That’s the first word of this album heard by anyone (even if "Shack" doesn’t end up being the opening track on the record, it’s the first-heard song). This is a musician actually apologising for a previous album. And just in case you weren’t sure which one:
I ended up with nobody and I started feeling dumb
Maybe I should play the lead guitar, and Pat should play the drums
That latter line, of course, being a direct reference to the fact that on Raditude, various tracks featured session musicans on drums, and occasional turns by Pat Wilson on guitar. The “ended up with nobody” could also be a reference to the low sales of that album - Raditude sold more than Hurley, but the latter was on indie label Epitaph rather than Geffen and had no singles or videos released. As far as the major label records go, Rad was comfortably the worst selling, barely reaching half the sales of even Red.
Take me back, back to the shack
Back to the strat with the lightning strap
Appropriately enough for a song that’s specifically targeted at the band’s hardcore fans, “Shack” plays heavily on Weezer’s existing iconography. This has always been a major part of the band’s appeal to their fans - from the stylised “Winged W” logo (and its ascii equivalent =w=) to the various acronyms and weird phraseology (“SS2K”, “Vars”, “PP”, “Disney gay”) of their online fanbase. The “shack” of the song’s title is, of course, the famous rehearsal garage seen variously in the Blue Album liner notes and the “Say It Ain’t So” video (as well as previously referenced lyrically in “In The Garage”). “The strat with the lightning strap”, meanwhile, is Rivers’ favoured (dark red or light blue) Stratocaster - with the signature lightning-bolt strap as iconic a part of his “classic” look as his horn-rimmed glasses.
Finally settled down with my girl
And I made up with my dad
Rivers’ father had been sung about before in “Say It Ain’t So”, while his wife Kyoto first met him as a fan back in 1997 and may well also have been the subject of mid-2000s-era demo “Private Message”.
Had to go and make a few mistakes
So I could find out who I am
If you’re including “Where’s My Sex?” and “We Are All On Drugs” among your “mistakes”, Vars, then I’m down with that.
I’m letting all of these feelings out
Even if it means I fail
'Cos this is what I was meant to do
And you can’t put that on sale
Another explicit reference to history: Rivers’ lyrics on the first two albums, and Pinkerton in particular were famously intensely personal - and the crushing failure of that second album is what’s generally considered to be the catalyst for him retreating into a goofier, more distanced style of songwriting in the years that followed. Here, though, he seems to be acknowledging that that wasn’t necessarily a good thing, and that “letting all [his] feelings out” is something that the fans actually want to hear.
Take me back, back to the shack
Back to the strat with the lightning strap
Kick in the door, more hardcore
Rockin’ out like it’s ‘94
Let’s turn up the radio
Turn off those stupid singing shows
I know where we need to go
Back to the shack
We belong in the rock world
There is so much left to do
And if we die in obscurity
At least we raised some hell!
It’s clear, then, that “Back to the Shack” is a shameless grab at appealing to the sensibilities of existing fans, referencing familiar names, subjects and images while assuring them that the new record will be much better and much more like the old days.
That isn’t really borne out, however, by the music. It’s a decent enough track - certainly better than almost everything on Hurley and Raditude, by simple virtue of actually having some measure of sincerity in the lyrics - but it’s not especially exciting, and the verses follow something of an established pattern for post-Make Believe Weezer, by having Rivers sing over a drum beat with just an occasional KER-CHUNG of a guitar riff. Aside from the "If we die in obscurity" part of the bridge, it doesn’t really sound like 1994-era Weezer, either.
Still, what it does put me in mind of is the first era of post-comeback Weezer - specifically the “Summer Songs 2000” through to Green Album and Maladroit days. And while I think Maladroit in particular is a somewhat overrated album (though that might be because the circumstances around its release, where fans had heard several demo versions of each song in the year leading up to it, so that the eventual album just felt like a compilation), that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If we assume that 1990s Weezer are never going to return - and they’re not, because they’re not the same people, literally in one case and figuratively in the rest - then at least the early 2000s iteration were a pretty rock-solid modern rock band capable of chucking out strong melodies and memorable riffs. Which is pretty much what “Back to the Shack” does.
Whether it’s reflective of the quality of the album itself remains to be seen - I’ll be disappointed if it’s all of this (passable rather than great) standard, but there’s enough in the clips that have been released so far to suggest that it might not be. Whether or not Everything Will Be Alright In The End turns out to be an American Idiot-esque concept album about the rise and fall of a rock band, tracks like “Return to Ithaca" and "My Mystery" sound like they’re going to be experimental and interesting like the good bits of The Red Album, rather than experimental and unlistenable like… the bad bits of The Red Album. Crucially, the record sounds like it’s got good tunes and a bit of heft, and that’s about as much as we’ve been able to hope for from Weezer since their first incarnation were killed by the trashing of Pinkerton.
"Rockin’ out like it’s ‘94"? Not quite. But I’ll take rockin’ out like it’s ‘01. Those were some alright times too.