Music

Various Artists: Rock Music: A Tribute to Weezer

Robert Jamieson

Various Artists

Rock Music: a Tribute to Weezer

Label: Dead Droid
US Release Date: 2002-02-05
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The possibility of a tribute album being a success is tenuous at best, and the few factors it hangs on determines whether it will sink or swim. Commercial success will always be based on the prominence of both covered artist and artist doing the covering. The recent soundtrack for the film I Am Sam is a perfect example of this: The best-known band in the world (The Beatles) covered by a selection of current, mostly well-known singers (Rufus Wainwright, Eddie Vedder, Sarah McLachlan, etc.). The other type of success is less tangible and is based on a slew of more subjective factors, such as: who is doing the covers, and do they do the originals justice; is the original material and artist being paid tribute worthy of said tribute in the first place. The only firm criteria for this kind "does it work?" success is whether the ones doing the covering can add to the original, shed light on why it is worthy material, and make it their own.

The value of worth being the factor most subjective in nature doesn't diminish the fact that Weezer may some day be a band that should be paid tribute to. But not yet. Having just released their fourth album, Maladroit, Weezer is still finding and defining its' own place in the annals of popular music. Having released their first two albums in 1994 and 1996, it wasn't until 2001 that saw the release of Weezer's third record, the hugely successful, self-titled "Green" album. It was during this lull that Dead Droid Records started putting together Rock Music: A Tribute to Weezer. Perhaps feeling that Weezer was no longer (as many believed), they felt it was time to pay tribute to them. Unfortunately for Dead Droid, Weezer resurrected itself and became a successful, viable band again.

Rock Music contains songs culled from the first two Weezer releases, plus a couple of more obscure songs. The groups paying tribute are not household names, though many may be recognizable to indie rock/pop-punk fans. This may be where the trouble begins. It's not that the groups here do bad job, in fact most do a great job of mimicking almost every moment of the original they are working with. Perhaps having bands cut form the same cloth as Weezer was not the way to approach this. Many end up sounding almost identical to the Weezer version, from note-perfect guitar work to tempo and sound.

The tribute starts out with "My Name is Jonas", the first track from Weezer's debut. Affinity does a good job recreating the instrumental track, particularly the clean guitar riffs, but their bombastic style of screaming vocals and pounding guitar and drums leaves little of the charm of the original recording intact. The same goes for "The Good Life" (from Pinkerton) by Impossibles. The quiet-then-loud style gets tiring in short order, as does the "I'm more ironic-sounding than you" attitude. This points to a flaw in even some of the better tracks. Most of Rivers Cuomo's lyrics are quite personal, and were performed by him with a lot of emotion. Even when they get the rest right, none of the bands seem to have any passion for the material at hand. The Holy Grail of these types of confessional lyrics is in "Say It Ain't So", possibly Weezer's best track to date. Further Than Forever starts this song out promisingly enough with the opening guitar riff of the original replaced by piano, and continues to perform a faithful rendition of the rest of the song. Singer Chris Carraba also carries off all the phrasing of Cuomo's singing as well, but cannot match the emotional impact.

Perhaps in a few more years, Weezer's legacy will become a clearer, and a tribute album might be warranted. Hopefully then it can be made by groups of a broader selection of musical styles. Rock Music: A Tribute to Weezer seems more like a showcase for a group of bands than a tribute to a band that has influenced them. There are some bright spots, such as Dashboard Confessional's reading of the rarity "Jamie", Grade's take on "Surf Wax America", and Midtown's revved-up version of the soundtrack tune "Susanne". But as so many of the groups did their best to emulate the band they were covering, little of their own style came through. They can't all sound like Weezer normally. This record would be mostly of interest to fans of the individual bands, not necessarily to fans of Weezer. They've already heard the original, so an imitation isn't necessary.


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