Anticipated R.E.M., Weezer albums won’t disappoint

Tim Paluch and Leah Eaton



Compare to: Billy Bragg, Elliot Smith, Wilco


1998’s “Up,” the first R.E.M. album without drummer/founding member Bill Berry, was, for the most part, musically distant and a big disappointment for fans of the ageless band. Berry’s past rhythmic percussion was replaced with drum machines, and the songs sounded flat, forced, and a bit overproduced.

Then, along comes “Reveal.” This sounds like the album the band was trying to make without Berry, but apparently it took an extra album to perfect it. “Reveal” captures the personality transition of a band entering its third decade of recording and proves R.E.M. has come a long way since 1981’s “Radio Free Europe,” their first single and a feat all in its own.

Even though most of the songs on this album are melodically different, they somehow manage to flow elegantly into one another, something only a band like R.E.M. can still manage to do. “Reveal” is full of quiet, tepid songs that accentuate lead singer Michael Stipe’s haunting and dusty voice. The vocals are as energetic as anything R.E.M. has ever released, despite the tranquility of the album’s well-composed ballads.

The songs themselves are deep and emotionally written, from the album’s opener, “The Lifting” (“you’ve said the air was singing/it’s calling you/you don’t believe/these things you’ve never seen/never dreamed”) to the gripping “I’ll take the rain” (“I used to think/as birds take wing/they sing through life/so why can’t we/…If this is what you’re offering/I’ll take the rain”)

While the electronic drum machines remain, they shift back and forth between man and machine, as evident a minute or so into “The Lifting.” There is a perfect complementation between hi-fi production and serious musical vision on “Reveal,” as these complex songs manage to effectively weave together deeply layered hooks and choruses, piano runs, acoustic guitars, electronic digital sound, and a calm and peaceful percussion.

While the album lacks the sure-fire bouncing radio hits (with the exception of “Imitation of Life” and “The Lifting”), it leaves you realizing this is something more than that.

“Reveal” is R.E.M.’s best album since 1992’s “Automatic for the People.” There is, plain and simple, no weak point on the album. Every song defines itself as a triumph of a band that have worked out some minor setbacks to get back on top of its game.

-Tim Paluch


Depeche Mode

Compare to: The Cure, Duran Duran, Morrisey


Depeche Mode’s newest album, “Exciter,” brings about mediocre emotions.

The first two tracks are promising, beginning with the upbeat tempo of “Dream On”, getting right back into the melancholy aspects of life that Depeche Mode often relates to. The third track begins reminescent of their “Violater” album, but it is quickly destroyed. And after the first two tracks begin with hope for a good album, “The Sweetest Condition” dashes all such hopes.

Although the instrumental aspect is well established, and the lyrics, when read, are quite eloquent, putting the two together seemed to be too much for this usually critically amazing band. The timing seemed to be off on many sections and, thankfully, moved to the fourth track quickly.

The fourth track appears to be pretty much the last decent song on the 13-track album. This ballad promises to bring Depeche Mode back up to their status as good musicians.

The rest of the album is close to what the third track represents. Although some elements are truly amazing, it almost seems that the album was put together quickly and without a lot of thought.

The “Dead of Night,” an anthem for the players, has the background instrumentals seemingly influenced by Nine Inch Nails. The overall sound of Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails does not mix well and only extends the problem of lyrics and music fitting together.

Two purely instrumental tracks provide interesting points in the album, but only take up about four minutes in the fifty-seven minute album.

Occasionally, the lyrics and the music fit together so perfectly that it catches your attention and takes your breath away. Unfortunately, the times that this occurs are so few that the album proves to be a disappointment for the listener.

-Leah Eaton

“The Green Album”


Compare to: Nada Surf, Foo Fighers, The Rentals


It’s been five years since Weezer got itself booted out of the mainstream music scene, as “Pinkerton” was passed over by critics, MTV, and major radio outlets.

The high-energy grunge-pop album, full of dark and angst-ridden introspective lyrics detailing singer Rivers Cuomo’s lady problems, for some reason, wasn’t kosher for anyone outside of Weezer’s dedicated fan base.

After five years and a fistful of rumors surrounding Cuomo’s psychological strifes, Weezer is back with another self-titled album (now referred to as “The Green Album”) that, once again, proves their case as kings of the guitar pop hook.

Coming in at a whopping 28 minutes, “The Green Album” is the same geek-rock Weezer of old, managing to pack witty lyrics and the heavy guitar-pop sound of their 1994 debut album into ten, two-and-a-half minute long, excellent pop songs.

Although the album lacks the passionate and personal lyrics of “Pinkerton,” Cuomo isn’t shy about venting about the ladies (although the words are a bit more charming) seen on the powerful final track, “O Girlfriend,” a strong and deeply layered ballad. “Oh girlfriend/ that’s the end/ and I’m lost without your love, O love.” Quite a jump on the maturity scale from “Pink Triangle,” Cuomo’s ode to the opposite sex on “Pinkerton.”

The album’s first single, “Hashpipe,” mixes a kick-ass bassline with a crunch-guitar hook, all the while giving off a ’70s dirty rock feel.

Visions of tight denim and overexposed chest hair jump into your head as Cuomo gives us an “ugh” grunt as the song begins.

A little different than your typical Weezer single, but in this case, that’s a good thing.

Weezer steals a page from the Beach Boys with the second track, “Photograph,” an early 60’s surf-rock single that just screams “radio friendly.”

Plain and simple, the album rocks. “Island in the Sun,” which starts as a calm acoustic ballad, explodes into a guitar-heavy chorus reminiscent of all those pre- “Pinkerton” hits.

There’s not much else to say about “The Green Album”; after all, it’s only 28 minutes long. Any longer, and you lose the irony that this highly anticipated album, from a band that dissapeared for five years, would put out ten songs clocking in under a half hour. Any shorter and it would have been just ridiculous.

Ten tracks, 28 minutes, one excellent album. Rock’s nerds are back in town.

– Tim Paluch