The Over/Under: Weezer

This is from 2009, but we thought we’d repost it given Weezer is on the cover of the current issue of MAGNET. Order a copy here.

Weezer has always gotten more than its fair share of contempt. We come not to bury Rivers Cuomo, but to praise him. Tucked beneath its Cheap Trick riffs and nerd-friendly lyrics, Weezer managed to record some of the best power-pop anthems of the past 15 years. And even if the band’s recent efforts haven’t lived up to its classic debut and history of hits, this is still a band with the power to surprise us. While some of Weezer’s songs have passed into our collective memory (“Buddy Holly,” “Beverly Hills”) and have no intention of leaving anytime soon, others should never have been released in the first place (we’re looking at you, “Heart Songs”). With Cuomo and crew about to launch their own online radio station courtesy of Clear Channel, what better time to examine the most overrated and underrated Weezer songs?

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The Over/Under: Nick Drake

British singer/songwriter Nick Drake released only three short albums during his lifetime, an output totaling less than two hours when spun back-to-back. But even more than most artists whose influence far outweighs the cumulative playlist, Drake laid the groundwork for every similarly inclined artist who followed him. Every playfully literate songwriter who sits in front of a four-track machine, every high-verbal, hopelessly romantic guitar player who tries to turn spooky poetry into tense, delicate confessional music owes Drake an artistic and conceptual debt. And since we’re in the midst of another of pop culture’s intermittent Nick Drake revivals, what with AT&T copping “From The Morning” for its current television campaign (as well as referencing the conceptual art of Jeanne-Claude and Christo, making for one of the oddest corporate ad mash-ups in recent memory), let’s dig a little deeper in the crates. Excellent though they are, “Pink Moon” and “From The Morning” aren’t the beginning and end of Drake’s formidable gifts.

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The Over/Under: Beastie Boys

The Beastie Boys’ evolution from bratty, snot-nosed hardcore punks into hip-hop elder statesmen is one of the unlikeliest stories in contemporary music. Actually, 25 years later, it can be easy to forget how unlikely that evolution was. When Licensed To Ill dropped in 1986, the album’s blend of rap and hard rock was perfectly suited to its moment; Run-DMC’s collaboration with Aerosmith on “Walk This Way” had been released only four months earlier (and was, like Licensed To Ill, produced by hip-hop crossover’s mad genius Rick Rubin). But the Beasties’ comparative youth, beer-spitting white-boy antics and casual queer-baiting and sexism dogged them through the album’s rapid chart climb and Run-DMC’s ill-fated “Raising Hell” tour, on which they played as one of several supporting acts. The group later claimed that much of that early slope-browed persona was intended as parody. Still, the young Beasties took plain delight in showing their asses in public. Even as Licensed To Ill help signal rap’s mainstream viability, parents and cultural watchdog groups—mainly white, it must be said—pegged Adam Yauch (MCA), Michael Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (King Ad-Rock) as dangerous influences on “impressionable” suburban youth. On the other side of the color line, many hip-hop fans, equally put off by the Beasties’ relentless clowning, dismissed them as callow poseurs unfit to carry Run-DMC’s Adidas. To their credit, the Beastie Boys learned their lesson in Licensed To Ill’s aftermath. In 1989, after relocating to California and hooking up with the staggeringly gifted Dust Brothers production team, the group released Paul’s Boutique. Infamously dismissed in its own day, the album is now revered as one of the most progressive and important hip-hop records ever made. By the time Check Your Head appeared in 1992, the Beasties had successfully shed their image as immature bozos and morphed into genre-savvy trendsetters. The band’s next two records, Ill Communication and Hello Nasty, would set the standard for the pop-culture-smashup approach that came to dominate hip hop in the 1990s. Following more generically straight albums of stripped-down rap (To The 5 Boroughs) and Blue Note soul funk (The Mix Up), and now firmly settled in the third act of their career, the Beastie Boys are slated to release the long-delayed The Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 1 late this fall. How far it all seems from “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!).” Thank gawd.

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The Over/Under: Parliament

Following on the (platform) heels of our Funkadelic Over/Under, this week’s Parliament entry presents a special challenge. First of all, every single one of these songs—even the overrated entries—is fantastic. Phenomenal. “Epic,” as the kids say (too often) nowadays. Whips, to put it succinctly, that ass. And yet, I want to argue that the weird terrain of Parliament’s full discography has been badly served by the canonization of a handful of cuts that, since the 1990s, have been played and replayed on best-of and live compilations or licensed for use in movies and commercials or mined for samples for other songs. Ground zero for that phenomenon is, of course, Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, the 1992 album that inaugurated the G-funk aesthetic and introduced younger crossover fans to George Clinton’s skewed vision, rebooting his music for a next-gen audience. A fair amount of cheese is always grated in the comment threads of these Over/Under columns about how “overplayed” doesn’t equal “overrated,” and I’m with that, absolutely. But when the canonical songs come to represent a band in the popular mind to the virtual exclusion of all others, there’s a serious imbalance that needs to be dealt with, and Parliament’s house-jam and singalong tracks represent only a part of what made the band one of the most important soul/funk outfits of the ’70s. So put a glide in your stride and a dip in your hip, and let’s pop the hood on the Mothership. There’s a lot of music under there that we haven’t heard in too long.

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The Over/Under: Funkadelic

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Earthlings, we’re long past due for a Funkadelic revival. So to mark the beginning of what’s shaping up to be a long, hot summer, MAGNET wants to give the P-Funk mob two Over/Under passes—beginning here with Funkadelic, with the better-known Parliament soon to follow. Despite a late-period surge in popularity, in the mass mind Funkadelic has always, and unfairly, been treated as the backup barrel on George Clinton’s funk-freak shotgun. When disco blew up, the flashier, club- and dance-friendly Parliament received hotter hype and wider airplay. But from its late-’60s inception to its early-’80s demise, Funkadelic provided a fertile ground for experimentally adept black musicians to push the boundaries of both psychedelic rock and R&B/soul. As the P-Funk collective’s guiding spirit, Clinton rotated and interchanged the rosters of both bands, but in long-term keyboardist Bernie Worrell and guitarist Eddie Hazel, Clinton found not only musicians of astonishing talent but creative forces that helped shape and augment his own vision, especially in the long-form rock workouts to which Funkadelic was best suited. You could argue that the separate band names represent a meaningless division, since most of the same crew played on Funkadelic and Parliament albums simultaneously, and that “Parliament” and “Funkadelic” more accurately describe divergent musical styles than independent entities. But while the Parliament brand continues to reap the rewards of the 1990s’ funk resurgence, Funkadelic remains unfairly overlooked by the masses. So it runs the risk of being a little “inside,” as the jazzbos say, but consider this Over/Under entry our humble attempt to light a spark and get the booty movin’. Like Clinton said, way back in 1970, free your mind, and your ass will follow.

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