Monday, June 1, 2009

Matt Sharp and the Quest for the Holy Grail of Weezer B-sides

I recently got the Deluxe Edition of the Blue Album for my birthday, and it set off this obsessive streak - I tend to get those often - where I have to find every song released by an artist. As much as I love Weezer’s early albums, their later albums always feel like they miss the mark: basically a failed attempt to recapture whatever kind of dork rock magic they conjured in the early days. Most people believe they suffered from one particular thing: the loss of Matt Sharp (bassist/falsetto singer) to the Rentals.


With this in mind, I set out to get ONLY the material that the band released during his tenure. Here’s the summation of my effort to consolidate all the disparate (and worthwhile) B-sides that featured Matt Sharp:


The Deluxe Edition of the Blue Album has a bonus disc with B-sides, acoustic, live and demo tracks. While the whole disc is great, the first three tracks perfectly capture the dorky, innocent vibe of Blue Album: “Mykel and Carli,” “Suzanne,” and “Jamie.” “Suzanne” is easily the best track on this disc, as it has a 50’s pop song feel to it. An acoustic track of “Jamie” is also on the disc (in addition to the regular version), and the harmonies are pulled off perfectly. So that’s worth checking out too.


Next, we have the The Good Life EP, which features the B-sides “I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams” (with Rachel Haden of That Dog/The Rentals on vocals) and “Waiting on You.” The first B-side is synth-heavy with chick vocals, while “Waiting on You” is a slower track. The EP also features two live acoustic tracks from Pinkerton: “The Good Life” and “No Other One”. These tracks are pretty good but nothing mind-blowing. “I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams” definitely deserves best track of the EP.


Moving on, we have the El Scorcho EP. Both of these B-sides are absolutely amazing. “You Gave Your Love to Me Softly” (which originally appeared on the Angus soundtrack) is a faster “rockin’” Weezer track. “Devotion” is heavy as shit and sounds like a fucking Skepticism song because of the slow, droning guitars and constant synths! The chorus has these awesome ascending harmonies with pretty unique riffs playing off each. I would say “Devotion” tops the other B-side only because of how unique it sounds within the pantheon of early Weezer songs.


In between their debut album and Pinkerton, the band began to work on a space-themed rock opera called Songs from the Black Hole. It was supposed to follow the tale of a crew flying into space on some kind of mission. Sounds awesome, right!? Unfortunately, the concept fell apart and a bunch of songs intended for the rock opera were included on Pinkerton instead (supposedly Tired of Sex, Getchoo, No Other One and Why Bother). Some of the other songs ended up as B-sides (all those included in the two EPs above). Rivers had recorded a bunch of the songs as demos on home recordings, which he released through his Alone/Alone 2 albums. Some demos surfaced through various places on the internet for most of the other songs that were entirely unreleased.


I found a version that a fan had compiled that tried to mimic the vision for the album as best as possible through all these different releases – it was, as expected, pretty shitty. However, the first two tracks – an intro called “Countdown” and the first track “Blast Off!” – are actually pretty great. “Countdown” features dreamy and haunting acapella humming behind a NASA countdown sequence into “Blast Off!”, which could have easily been included on Pinkerton. I believe the demo for this song was recorded at the same session for the Pinkerton album – the snare drum and general vibe of the song are so similar to the Pinkerton songs. The other songs are mostly weird little clips trying to convey the story. I would be nice to see what the album would be like if it was recorded and produced entirely.


The last B-side worth mentioning is Weezer’s cover of the Pixies’ song “Velouria”.


So, in full, here are the tracks you should check out if you want some great Weezer B-sides during the Matt Sharp-era:


Mykel and Carli

Suzanne

Jamie

I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams

Waiting on You

You Gave Your Love to Me Softly

Devotion

Countdown

Blast Off!

Velouria


Finally, I would also HIGHLY recommend the first Rentals album, The Return of the Rentals, if you want to continue the sludgy, dork rock goodness. It was actually released between the Blue Album and Pinkerton, which is probably why a lot of the unreleased Songs from the Black Hole sucked – Matt Sharp was away with Rentals while Rivers was working on writing that album.

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