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WHY CAN'T BANDS WITH UNLIMITED RESOURCES MAKE GOOD ALBUMS?
May 22, 2014 10:26 AM   Subscribe

When the band announced they’d be getting back together in 2000 after a three-year hiatus, people were understandably excited. Here was a band with a cannon of music that included everything from “Say It Ain’t So” to “El Scorcho” getting ready to unleash a new set of works on the world, the way we all wished J.D. Salinger would. Then “The Green Album” came out and although it featured Mikey Welsh instead of Matt Sharp, everything from the artwork to the use of producer Ric Ocasek seemed to indicate a return to form for the celebrated geek rock act. Except it wasn’t. I’d like to think that even the most strident Weezer supporters would admit that a song like “Hash Pipe” would never have fit on the first two albums, not because Cuomo had vastly evolved as a songwriter, but because it completely lacked the spark and character that typified the band’s earlier works. In fact, Weezer reportedly wrote 75 songs for this album yet this was the best collection they could come up with.
posted by josher71 (73 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
To answer the title question: constraints require creativity.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:31 AM on May 22 [3 favorites]


having not rtfa yet, i'd say the answer is simple: a) unlimited resources produces high expectations of return on that investment which means lots of meddling by the record company; and b) unlimited resources means too much crap to play around with in the studio instead of just fucking going balls out on a song like your next meal depends on it.
posted by spicynuts at 10:33 AM on May 22 [5 favorites]


kind of a loaded question, i think the green album is excellent & it's my most-listened-to weezer. so i guess i would have to reject this entire post :-)
posted by facetious at 10:37 AM on May 22 [6 favorites]


I've been in bands that just got worse the harder we worked.
posted by thelonius at 10:38 AM on May 22 [11 favorites]


I remember listening to Hash Pipe and the other singles and going "This is Weezer, that I've heard so much about? This is what all the hype was about? They're supposed to be nerdy and smart?" I never understood it.
posted by bleep at 10:42 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]


I wanted soooooo bad to comment before reading the fucking article, but I'm glad I didn't. I would have come in here saying something akin to spicynuts. The conclusion that the article makes—that super successful bands find themselves writing songs for other people instead of from their hearts—rings pretty true.

Having said that, Weezer is the only band that really broke my heart writing songs for me instead of from themselves. I remember frantically shaking down everyone in my family for enough money to buy tickets to a 'secret show' they played in Phoenix (outdoors in a tiny punk venue, in summer no less) just before they released the Green Album and being so incredibly excited that they were back and killin' it. Then the Green Album dropped and I was like, 'what?' Then Maladroit, 'what?' and the Red Album, 'What the FUCK?' and eventually I just didn't care any more.

Oh well, Weezer and Pinkerton are more than enough greatness for any one band, and I can't blame Cuomo and co for making a living riding that greatness as far as it will take 'em. I'm officially middle-aged now, but on a recent road trip still managed to belt out every single lyric for those two albums (with all four other riders, no less) and it was fucking awesome. For that, Weezer gets a pass on everything else. As in, I don't hate them actively, but yes I will pass on whatever else they put out.
posted by carsonb at 10:43 AM on May 22 [5 favorites]


I mean, it was obviously Matt Sharpe. Not necessarily his writing, but his presence. That loss coupled with Rivers being psychically demolished by the reaction to Pinkerton permanently kept him and the band from ever taking those kinds of risks again. That said, Island in the Sun is a fantastic song and every Weezer album since has 1 or 2 songs of that caliber. It's not like they utterly fell off.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:43 AM on May 22 [5 favorites]


No complaints about the Green Album here. I thought everyone recognized that Maladroit was the beginning of Weezer's overall downturn, with Make Believe as the immediately identifiable point where they started to suck. I don't even know if they made any albums after that, because I just stopped being interested.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:45 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


If Weezer are the subjects of their own Some Kind of Monster, it will all have been worth it.
posted by Beardman at 10:46 AM on May 22 [5 favorites]


i normally don't correct typos but "cannon of music" in the article is an amazing one. however, i don't know if it's applicable to Weezer.
posted by raihan_ at 10:55 AM on May 22 [8 favorites]


Everyone likes some music and hates some other music. One's opinion of a particular album means nothing in the grand scheme.

Bands also change. If you've every written a bunch of songs in your life, you realize you develop away from what you wrote because you aren't living that life anymore that you were when you wrote the earliest songs.

Plus there is the first album(s) effect. Bands have finely honed tunes they played for years before recording. They usually go through all of those in the first two albums. Then they have to write new stuff, but now they are stars and there's a pressure to get it done. Not the best formula for creativity.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:58 AM on May 22 [5 favorites]


I think it's just that some people have one album in them, just like some writers have one novel in them, or two, or three. They have one thing to say, and they say it (hopefully really well) and that's....that. I'm not sure why, maybe they've just said it so completely that they themselves don't really have anything to add.

I think about writers who've had very long careers with very high quality work throughout - let's take Doris Lessing and Samuel Delany - and both of them seem to have, on the one hand, a really really strong emotional concern that runs through all their work (spite, in the case of Lessing; power relations as expressed in sex for Delany) and they have a series of shifts in their styles and concerns. Lessing doesn't just write quasi-autobiographical material (as in the first four Martha Quest books or the Golden Notebook); she shifts into science fiction, she writes "women's novels". Delany writes the ne plus ultra pulp SF novels, gets really into experiments with language, gets really obsessed with sword-and-sorcery novels, starts writing near-future/near-present novels focusing on black gay artists, writes memoir and memoir and memoir. They're both repeatedly invigorated by new stuff.

I wonder if with bands it's not just that they have less to say, but that if they have a lot of resources maybe they also have a lot of yes-men and less ability to be out in the world engaging with new stuff? Elvis Costello (everyone's favorite misogynist!) has a relatively long career with some pretty good later albums, in part because he gets obsessed with things.
posted by Frowner at 11:01 AM on May 22 [4 favorites]


What was wrong with "hash pipe"? I liked it as much as any other Weezer song. Which is to say, I might not buy it but I wouldn't turn the channel either.
posted by Hoopo at 11:11 AM on May 22


Same reason the Supergroups were, are, hit or miss, mostly miss.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:18 AM on May 22


I think there's a much more simple explanation for this kind of thing.

Mainly, i think the average band has about two albums of good material in them, max. Hell, i think most artistic concepts work this way. There's plenty of directors who put out two good movies and then decline. Plenty of writers put out 2-3 good novels too.

The people who can either put out more than a couple exceptional things, or even put out a stream of good-but-not-amazing stuff are themselves exceptional.

I've just seen it happen so many times. There's a lot of people out there who have X number of really good ideas, and work most of them into their first major release. Afterwards, they still have however many leftover really solid ideas that just didn't fit that they can then work into a sequel/second album/etc.

After that though, they've kinda just blown their load. There can be a million explanations, but a lot of times it's pretty blatantly obvious that whatever drive and inspiration they had before is just kind of... used up.
posted by emptythought at 11:20 AM on May 22 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: Some Kind of Weezer
posted by jonp72 at 11:21 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Regression to mean, but then that doesn't make for a very long article.
posted by Dark Messiah at 11:22 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


If Weezer are the subjects of their own Some Kind of Monster, it will all have been worth it.

Some Kind of Monster had two redeeming qualities:

1. It recorded, for all time, the unmatched douchebaggery of Lars Ulrich
2. It served as a warning to other bands about keeping Bob Rock out of your music.
posted by DWRoelands at 11:26 AM on May 22 [3 favorites]


I think as a band becomes more successful, the songwriting becomes less inspired by pain and frustration. I speculate that when a band has millions of dollars in the bank, there is no suffering being done at all. Therefore, the songwriting that was once completely inspired and brought about by life's struggles becomes totally sterile and antiseptic instead.

The example I always refer to is...

U2 in the 80s -- Sunday, bloody sunday...
U2 in the 00s -- It's a beautiful day!

Enough said.
posted by dope_feeny at 11:28 AM on May 22 [11 favorites]


I'm with emptythought. I think all the really great bands eventually blow their load. Most after only one or two albums. There are a few bands that sustain for more like 4-5, but it's exceedingly rare to get a rock career where everything is always good, on an infinite level, for decades.

Even with the Beatles, the reality is that their early pop career was arguably not great (I mean super enjoyable but not Great Music on like a transcendent level), and if you look at Great Beatles Albums you get, what 4 or 5 fantastic records? And those records don't represent a long span of time, either.

I think the Stones might be in the "exceedingly rare" category, but maybe they have a similar "pretty good gradually evolving to transcendent" career trajectory as the Beatles.

One issue I can think of is that I think bands from the 70s through today aren't allowed to evolve in that way, picked up for major label releases early in their career and allowed to grow through silly pop into work with real staying power. Instead labels find people who are already at the top of their game, and with a few exceptions (Radiohead? Springsteen?) don't really have anywhere else to go.

I hereby nominate the Black Keys as a band who have entered their officially boring Green Album phase.
posted by Sara C. at 11:31 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]


I can unequivocally state that the Beastie Boys have never released a bad album.
posted by spicynuts at 11:35 AM on May 22 [5 favorites]


It's also easy to get lost with too many resources at your fingertips, and I think this happens to a lot of bands that get successful. Now that anybody can have an almost endless amount of sounds at their fingertips with a slick and convenient DAW, I have to put artificial restraints on myself when making any music because otherwise it's "let's tweak these drums for hours on end until they're perfect (they never are) and then end up getting bored with the song". And that's just me dicking around with Ableton for my own amusement, for nobody else to hear - people who have access to all the serious studio gear and personnel to run it that they'll ever need? I don't know how they get anything done. Back when all I had was a shitty guitar and a computer that could barely run a tracker (Jeskola Buzz!) I cranked out so so much material that I really liked, but unless I really make myself stick to artificial limits nowadays I can't get a damn thing done and what I do finish I almost never enjoy because the overtweaking and lack of immediacy really comes through.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:37 AM on May 22 [3 favorites]


I think the Stones might be in the "exceedingly rare" category, but maybe they have a similar "pretty good gradually evolving to transcendent" career trajectory as the Beatles.

One dynamic that might have helped the Beatles and the Stones was the informal rivalry between them. Even if the Beatles and Stones had nothing left to struggle about, they still had to struggle in competition with each other. And any British band that wasn't the Beatles or the Stones had to struggle to claw their way to recognition.
posted by jonp72 at 11:37 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]


The thing that always made me chuckle a little with Weezer fans disillusionment post-Green Album is that they really thought Weezer were something more than just another major label band. And they were for a time, but there's something to be said for fame, money, and paying the bills.

It's sort of like people reacting to recent Green Day records, though that's a bit more complicated given that they actually had more (in my idealistic youth) DIY cred, but their music is just for commercial radio.

I think there's some merit to the theory that bands only have a few good albums in them, but I also think it reflects bands just sticking together longer than they should. When a band is spent creatively, it'd be great if they just called it a day. Of course, most fans can't quite take that and the bands don't want to leave the money behind. (What else are they supposed to do?)

Then there's the NOFX-like bands: they have the ability to churn out albums that don't seem to age. I have a weird respect for them, even though I can't stand it, because they are consistent for their fans. It's a case of the fans aging out instead of the band aging out.
posted by kendrak at 11:45 AM on May 22 [2 favorites]


Because most of the time they don't want to, but need the money.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:46 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


I can unequivocally state that the Beastie Boys have never released a bad album.

Well maybe not "bad" but they have at least one "mixed at best" --I am a huge fan but To The 5 Boroughs has maybe 3 or 4 songs I'll listen to--and Hello Nasty I find I don't really go back to very often. My sister once said it sounded like the Beastie Boys becoming a caricature of the Beastie Boys and now I can't think of a more perfect description of that album.
posted by Hoopo at 11:54 AM on May 22


jason_steakums: I think this is absolutely right. Having some constraints on the creative options available to you helps push you and motivate you in my experience. Like you, now that I've got access to all the tools I need (after spending I don't how many years I spent dreaming of the day when I could have unlimited tracks, effects, etc. to work with, only to find that once I had that, it was harder than ever to settle on a direction to go in). So to keep it interesting for myself, I always try to impose little arbitrary limits or other working challenges on myself to give me something to work against.

But I wouldn't rule out the effects others are describing as playing a role. A lot of artists have years to build up the material for their first couple of albums and then find themselves with nothing left to release and struggling to live up to their own previous standards.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:57 AM on May 22


There are probably a bunch of reasons for it, but pretty much no "alternative rock" band that became popular in the 90s was able to continue to put out number 1 alternative rock chart singles in the 2000s without significantly changing their sound to become more commercial. Weezer, Foo Fighters, Green Day, and RHCP pretty much dominated the 2000s in terms of #1 singles from 90s alternative bands, and aside from maybe the Foo Fighters they all sounded completely different than their breakthrough albums.

The 90s were the decade where major labels fought to find and sign the next big indie hit band, and a lot of bands that eventually became popular in the 90s developed their sound in local non-mainstream scenes. That meant a lot of one hit wonders and a lot of diversity in styles. By the time the 2000s rolled around, the music industry seemed to change gears to a much more risk averse strategy and pushed the same few bands to put out copycat singles of whatever their last hit song was. If Weezer had kept making albums like 90s material in the 2000s, their career trajectory probably would have been less like Green Day's and more like Beck's. Today it seems like the tide has turned and major labels aren't able to keep cranking out lackluster singles from the same half dozen rock bands, but in the 2000s a band like Weezer had the choice of either putting out those sorts of songs or not getting the kind of promotion that it took to make their songs huge hits.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:01 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Lately I'm starting to see this with Guided by Voices. There's been a noticeable decline in quality in their most recent 27-or-so albums.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:14 PM on May 22 [25 favorites]


but pretty much no "alternative rock" band that became popular in the 90s was able to continue to put out number 1 alternative rock chart singles in the 2000s without significantly changing their sound to become more commercial

Oh-Oh-Oh [Raises hand and waves it wildly]. I think Modest Mouse actually pulled that off. But, of course, their quality really dropped off after Good News . . . .
posted by rtimmel at 12:14 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


I know a few of you dislike the all-caps thing but Film Crit Hulk said a few words about Weezer's first two records vs. everything after that as well.

His conclusion was shared with Potomac Avenue's above: the absence of Matt Sharp.
posted by bigendian at 12:25 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]


Lately I'm starting to see this with Guided by Voices. There's been a noticeable decline in quality in their most recent 27-or-so albums.

Don't be so hard on Bob Pollard. He's going through some tough times. The last time his car was stalled at a long red light, he only wrote 5 songs.
posted by jonp72 at 12:27 PM on May 22 [3 favorites]


So, the point of this article is that Some Bands Fall Off? This is not really news. At least they didn't bother mentioning the Stones. I thought I was going to read a great theory about why this happens, but nothing was really posited. It seemed like I was missing a page two to this article.
posted by Edgewise at 12:27 PM on May 22


Writing music at all is hard. Writing pop music is possibly harder. Writing excellent pop music is even harder. Writing excellent pop music with a bunch of people peering over your shoulder is hard to the point that it has only happened a handful of times, ever.
posted by mike_bling at 12:37 PM on May 22 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth, the saying as I've heard it goes something along the lines of "You get your whole life to make your first album, and six months to make the second one."
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 12:38 PM on May 22 [2 favorites]


or: early work is about getting there, later work is about staying there.
posted by bendybendy at 12:42 PM on May 22


Hari Kondabolu says it better than I can: Weezer Broke My Heart.
posted by thack3r at 12:50 PM on May 22


How can someone write an extended piece on bands with unlimited resources putting out disappointing music and never once mention GNR's Chinese Democracy? That was, I believe, the most expensive rock album ever made and not even the most die hard apologists for Axl Rose could half-heartedly argue if you called it a miserable piece of crap.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:53 PM on May 22


the reason the stones had all of those songs is because they ripped most of them off from blues players.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:56 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


i think the number one lack of constraint on bands these days is time - if they want to take years putting out the next album they can - and the quality and excitement of those albums suffers a lot
posted by pyramid termite at 12:59 PM on May 22


the reason the stones had all of those songs is because they ripped most of them off from blues players.

Ehhh... Not really... Most of the Stones' successful early compositions owed as much or more to Mersey beat as to blues. Also, there's the messy nature of folk songwriting in general. Even the copyright holders for many blues standards are less "The True and Original Songwriter for This Tune" and more "Person Whose Version Was the First Registered."

That's a whole complicated side discussion. There's a lot more to it than the old trope of cynical whites ripping off the noble old bluesmen though.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:00 PM on May 22 [4 favorites]


Man, this is a hacky article. Did the writer have unlimited resources?

1) Weezer fell off on purpose. Pinkerton tanked, and Cuomo reacted by saying, "You want bullshit riff-rock? We'll give you bullshit riff rock!" and it sold better than ever. It was an intentional strategy by Cuomo to sell more albums and it worked. Green is pretty terrible, and it's also pretty popular.

2) The top-of-the-head counterpoint is Steely Dan, who had insane resources and then made incredibly fastidious records that are still pretty much genius in terms of production. I'm not a huge fan of their hermetically-sealed white jazzishness, but it's impossible to think they fell off after success.

For me, the more likely explanation is that bands who have made a shit-ton of money have a huge infrastructure around them to promote their music and monetize it, meaning even if they fall off creatively they still get paid. So while it's nice to think that constraints breed creativity, I think that's an oversimplification and a bit of wishful thinking from people who have felt ripped off by the bloated bullshit of successful bands.
posted by klangklangston at 1:04 PM on May 22 [5 favorites]


I don't think the "Did the Stones steal their early material" question is really germane, since, I don't know, is their early material really that great? I think that falls into the same category as the early poppy Beatles stuff. It was just stuff for them to do while they got ready to make the really exciting work.
posted by Sara C. at 1:05 PM on May 22


I read an interview with Rivers Cuomo in Guitar World shortly after Pinkerton came out. I was never the hugest fan of Weezer, and honestly that Jay-Z + Blue Album mashup album probably gets more play from me over the years than the original release. But two things from the interview always come to mind whenever blog X decides to write yet another lament of Weezer's decline: 1. Rivers said that he literally has a mathematical means of writing songs. He LITERALLY has a formula he follows. This is why when I listen to Raditude, I hear the same thing I hear as when I listen to Pinkerton. There may be a heart and soul missing from newer releases, but never having had a "Blue Album makes me feel things" period it is not evident for myself or anyone else who hasn't. It is the same songwriting. and 2. Rivers made an offhand reference to a Metal band he was in before Weezer, how they were total glam style and had a regular-word-but-misspelled-with-an-umlaut name. He refused to say the name. He refused to say anything more. I want to hear that band.
posted by mediocre at 1:07 PM on May 22


Challops drop: Early Stones was largely bullshit; early Beatles was better than most of the later AOR bullshit. Beatles were a great singles band that fooled the world into thinking Rocky Raccoon and Blackbird weren't tripe.

(KINKS4LIFE)
posted by klangklangston at 1:08 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


"Rivers made an offhand reference to a Metal band he was in before Weezer, how they were total glam style and had a regular-word-but-misspelled-with-an-umlaut name. He refused to say the name. He refused to say anything more. I want to hear that band."

Zoom, maybe?
posted by klangklangston at 1:11 PM on May 22


Yeah, looking at the Wikipedia entry for Rivers, Zoom nee-Avant Garde is probably that band. Listening, it's actually pretty awesome. I feel a sort of strong Fates Warning-esque sense of progressive metal melodicism in this track in particular.
posted by mediocre at 1:21 PM on May 22


Okay, I guess I can understand why Rivers wouldn't want to talk about his pre-Weezer band in the days of Pinkertons troubled release and reception.
posted by mediocre at 1:27 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Everytime I see some discussion about this type of thing, I want to know the ages of everyone involved because Blue Album and Pinkerton we out when I was in my music consumption prime (and my overall salad days) and I feel like Weezer (and my favorite band, Smashing Pumpkins) both declined around the same time adn I wondered if they really declined or I just got older and more jaded, harder to entertain, gloomy and pessimistic about finding anything genuine, raw and new.

So...I guess I would be glad to hear that the "decline" is a consensus decision across ages, because it blows that rain cloud out of my airspace.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:29 PM on May 22


I think that's an oversimplification and a bit of wishful thinking from people who have felt ripped off by the bloated bullshit of successful bands.

You might be right, but if so, then I think there's also a healthy dollop of a sort of blue-collar pride involved. Lots of current popular musicians (like Mike Watt) came up in a time before digital tech was so accessible and affordable, when it was much harder and more expensive to get access to decent studio gear/time. In those days, a big part of what distinguished the better artists from the mediocre was the ability to make do with less ("We Jam Econo" style and the whole DIY punk aesthetic, really) and to creatively make the most of limited resources. I think after a while you just start to think of the abilities/attitudes that economic necessity can give rise to as objective goods in themselves when they serve you well in particular situations. Sort of like what we see in other areas of politics and economics. Skills and values that may really be only conditional goods can come to be perceived as absolute goods when they work long enough because a particular economic arrangement holds.

But I still think that working within constraints and with limits (self-imposed or otherwise) can have a powerful focusing effect. Probably not enough to explain why so few artists can deliver past their first couple of releases though.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:31 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


I feel a sort of strong Fates Warning-esque sense of progressive metal melodicism in this track in particular.

I've been around here on MeFi for a fuck of a long time and I think this is the first mention of Fates Warning ever. That band does not get the cred it deserves. Incidentally when I got my first Fates Warning album at the age of like 14 the lyrics literally scared the crap out of me...like I felt the urge to actually go to confession (which I have never once done).
posted by spicynuts at 1:36 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Google proves otherwise. But this is still only the third time the words Fates Warning have ever been used on Metafilter. Kind of surprising though, but maybe my obsessive collecting of obscure metal vinyl puts me in a place where a band like Fates Warning may as well be Nickleback in terms of name recognition. At least, when compared with acts like Crimson Glory.
posted by mediocre at 1:48 PM on May 22


You don't happen to have Savatage's "Sirens" on vinyl, do you? If so I will buy it off of you. It's impossible to find.
posted by spicynuts at 1:52 PM on May 22


Christ.. how revealing is it that I have been torturing myself over my choice to use as an "obscurest of the obscure" reference? At first I went with Lords Of The Crimson Alliance, but then I realized while that may be ultra obscure, it is also because it just wasn't that good. So I changed it to Crimson Glory. But after linking to the video for a track off their second album I realized I really should have linked to a headbanging album track instead of the power ballad of the single slash video. Than I thought "Wait, crap.. Crimson Glory is waaay too well known to be using as an example of obscure metal from the 80's."

Then I realized that I need to stop diving into this rabbit hole. If they haven't heard of Fates Warning, they haven't heard of Crimson Glory.

And yes, I do own Sirens. But I don't sell my records, sorry. If my house were burning down, I would get all my records before I went for my (theoretical) wife.
posted by mediocre at 2:01 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


DAMMIT! Do you know how long I've been looking for that record? I had it on cassette when I was a teenager and figured that would last me. Now you can't get it anywhere.
posted by spicynuts at 2:05 PM on May 22


Well, there's always eBay. I know there are copies there. I have mellowed out with it over time. But I used to be all about the hunt. Literally hitting a couple record stores every single day to check over new used arrivals. That's how I ended up with Sirens, someone came in and unloaded that along with Streets (A Rock Opera) and Dungeons Are Calling. As well as Running Wild's first two, pre-pirate shtick albums. And Witchfinder Generals hyper-rare "Soviet Invasion" EP.

Damn it, stop pushing me further down this rabbit hole..
posted by mediocre at 2:11 PM on May 22


I have mellowed out with it over time. But I used to be all about the hunt. Literally hitting a couple record stores every single day to check over new used arrivals.

I recognize that, because I did that. But for me, it was always about the music, not *owning* the physical record/CD/tape/whatev. I bought because once upon a time that was the only way to get the music. That has changed since the arrival of big hard drives. Now I can have the music, physical medium or not. A ton of music that was not available to me because the copies were too rare or expensive, or didn't even exist for sale, is now available for download thanks to the glory of the internet and the sharing community. I have done my part by uploading all my obscure stuff I've gathered over the decades, having spent a huge amount of time, money and energy collecting. I want to share the joy of music, and don't care to be in some exclusive tiny club of rare owners of "X". So my immediate question would be, "can I download it from somewhere?" If yes, then problem solved as far as I'm concerned, because I got the music.
posted by VikingSword at 2:34 PM on May 22


I totally get it, VikingSword. My purchase rate seriously dipped when high capacity MP3 players became realistically able to keep all the music I wanted on them. But I also get a bit too giddy when someone is looking at my records and for example pull out Blind Guardian's debut album in MINT condition, then every single other Blind Guardian album up until A Night At The Opera, and I get to tell them how I acquired every one.

But lets not derail this any further..
posted by mediocre at 2:44 PM on May 22


I think it's (partly) a combination of three interconnected things:

Because of regression to the mean, one can expect that an exceptional record is followed by a normal one.

Because of the useful, but ultimately hindering, notion of genres, artists are driven to do more of the same, which naturally doesn't sound as fresh and innovative as the first time.

And amplifying the effect of the first two points, most artists just don't make enough music to have more than one or two great records.

Frank Zappa used to release 3 or 4 albums a year, with wildly varying styles, so normally at least one of them was really really good. On the other hand, Weezer have released 8 albums in 20 years.
posted by rogerbraun at 2:58 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


I'm amazed that it takes some fulltime pros so long in the studio. If I had the luxury of being able to make music in something other than the margins of my life again, I think I'd be putting out new singles every week in perpetuity. It's so easy to get ideas down now, if you've got the time.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:14 PM on May 22


But then again, I'm sure even the big successes have real lives they need to attend to from time to time.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:16 PM on May 22


There's a NY Times article which talked about Cuomo's days at Harvard, which he applied for while touring for the Blue Album, and only finally graduated from in 2006. ("The Good Life" describes this time.) I mean, if you have an identity crisis about your career and your music while you are touring for your first album, you're probably gonna have a bad time.

I really want them to finish their rock opera though.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:20 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


I've been around here on MeFi for a fuck of a long time and I think this is the first mention of Fates Warning ever. That band does not get the cred it deserves. Incidentally when I got my first Fates Warning album at the age of like 14 the lyrics literally scared the crap out of me...like I felt the urge to actually go to confession (which I have never once done).

Listen to A Pleasant Shade of Gray three times, then go, and sin no more. Unless you're into black metal.

then every single other Blind Guardian album up until A Night At The Opera


Live was a good album even though the last two albums have been terrible and okay, respectively.
posted by ersatz at 6:47 PM on May 22


I was a tremendous Weezer fan in their time. which has obviously long passed. I still really love Pinkerton and Blue, and I did buy Green and Maladroit and maybe Make Believe and Red. I haven't listened to anything after Pinkerton (at least not on purpose) in years. It's all pretty dreadful.

I have some suspicions beyond loss-of-Matt-Sharp as cause for decline, and obviously "make a shit-pot of money" is high on the list. But I've seen Weezer perform maybe half a dozen times, and every time, I get more and more Pat Wilson at the front of the stage. I'm not saying "Pat Wilson sucks," but he's maybe my 7th-most-favorite member of the band.

In any case, I remember when news of a new album broke in 2000, along with some demos and random cuts. It was exciting. I saw them at Irving Plaza that summer--maybe 1000 sweaty people packed in together, people who were really aching for Weezer--and it was just-about-magical. They played a few new songs, a couple of which never made a record but probably should have. There was still an energy to the band that's been missing since they hit the real-actual-big-time.

I saw them on the Green album tour, and then again on Halloween a few years ago, but the last time was the two-night Blue-Pinkerton back-to-back album shows. They were good--better than they'd been in awhile--but ultimately pretty sterile. They ought to hang it up, but you can't really blame them for grabbing for a few million more dollar bills while they're still out there to grab.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:21 AM on May 23


... and now I'm down a Pinkerton-era B-side hole, so thanks for that.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:34 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]


I was RTFA until the point where he refers to Green Day and The Offspring as punk bands, then I sort of zoned out. Does he complain about how Avril Lavigne isn't punk enough anymore later on?
posted by signal at 7:31 AM on May 23


I always sort of considered Piebald to be the successor to Weezer, but for no discernible reason.
posted by gucci mane at 8:52 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]


So...I guess I would be glad to hear that the "decline" is a consensus decision across ages, because it blows that rain cloud out of my airspace.

Well, I'm 24 and only really started listening to Weezer about 4-5 years ago. Pinkerton is one of my most beloved albums. I can still sort of enjoy some of their later work up to a point, but think the decline is tremendous and undeniable.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 12:34 PM on May 23


To me, Rivers Cuomo always came across as the archetypal "nice guy" who's super into obscure slightly creepy anime, fetishizes Japanese girls, and thinks being nice to women is currency one exchanges to obtains the sex. This I think, unfairly colored my appreciation or lack thereof for Weezer.
posted by stenseng at 12:54 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]


The people who can either put out more than a couple exceptional things, or even put out a stream of good-but-not-amazing stuff are themselves exceptional.

Bowie was one such for quite some time and then ran out. He was of course, very diverse, which helps immensely. Damon Albarn reminds me a lot of Bowie in this way, having put out good and sometimes amazing stuff for 2.5 decades, diverse in scope.

There are many others of course.

Bands need an audience to support diversity, or the audience themselves have to be diverse. Without that, neither has much of a chance musically.

I never paid much attention to Weezer, though being a Pavement fan I heard they were somewhat Pavement like. I disagreed.
posted by juiceCake at 11:41 PM on May 23


I wouldn't go so far as to label Cuomo a "nice guy" but, yeah, he was never shy about putting his fetish for Japanese girls into his work--way more than even Tarantino does letting audiences know he has a thing for feet.

Matt Sharpe leaving was the biggest reason for Weezer's decline. But I 100% genuinely believe that the second biggest reason was that Cuomo married a Japanese woman and that took away all the weird, fucked up angst he channeled to make the first two albums so good.
posted by riruro at 3:49 PM on May 24


>To answer the title question: constraints require creativity.
It might also be true that creativity requires constraints.
Or at least that it may be enhanced by constraints.
posted by smcameron at 8:51 PM on May 24


The Uses Of Difficulty
Jack White, the former frontman of the White Stripes and an influential figure among fellow musicians, likes to make things difficult for himself. He uses cheap guitars that won’t stay in shape or in tune. When performing, he positions his instruments in a way that is deliberately inconvenient, so that switching from guitar to organ mid-song involves a mad dash across the stage. Why? Because he’s on the run from what he describes as a disease that preys on every artist: "ease of use". When making music gets too easy, says White, it becomes harder to make it sing.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:31 PM on May 28 [2 favorites]


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