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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Weezer, Julian Casablancas and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, November 1, 2009

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Weezer, “Raditude” (Geffen) ***

Putting the sobriety of 1996’s “Pinkerton” aside, we generally think of fun when we think of Weezer — whether it’s “Undone — The Sweater Song,” “Buddy Holly,” “Hash Pipe,” “Beverly Hills,” “We Are All on Drugs” or any of the other playfully glib hits in the quartet’s canon. But we’ve never had more fun with Weezer than on “Raditude,” the group’s seventh studio album and fifth of the decade. Inspired by the spirited Hootenanny-style concerts of its 2008 tour, Weezer is looser and more adventurous than ever on this 10-song set, filling its 33 minutes with devilmay-care abandon that commands a quick press of the replay button the second the gentle and airy “I Don’t Want to Let You Go” finishes fading out. Most of “Raditude” brings the noise in a big way, however, from the buoyant shuffle of “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” to the king-sized bounce of “The Girl is Hot” and “Trippin’ Down the Freeway” and the power chord dynamics of “I’m Your Daddy” and “In the Mall.” Lil Wayne drops in for a rap on the dance club-friendly “Can’t Stop Partyin’” — one of two tracks frontman Rivers Cuomo co-wrote with urban impresario Jermaine Dupri — while “Love is the Answer,” a collaboration with Irish producer Jacknife Lee (U2, R.E.M., Snow Patrol), mashes Weezer with a group of Indian musicians. All American Rejects Tyson Ritter and Nick Wheeler, meanwhile, co-wrote the earnest — and angsty — love song “Put Me Back Together.” Cuomo concludes “Raditude” by pronouncing that “I have lost all hope of being normal once again.” Well, the dude’s always been a little off center, and “Raditude” reminds us how good Weezer can be when he stays there.


Julian Casablancas. “Phrazes For the Young” (Cult/RCA) ***

Julian Casablancas isn’t the last member of the Strokes out of the solo gate; guitarist Nick Valensi still has yet to be heard from. But as frontman and acknowledged band leader, Casablancas’ relative silence has been somewhat curious during a group hiatus that began in 2006.

“Phrazes For the Young” was worth waiting for, however, with only eight tracks but a wide stylistic reach that starts with the staccato shuffle and shimmer guitars of the strokes on “Out of the Blue” but quickly turns into the electro-pop terrain of Human League (“11th Dimension”) and Depeche Mode (“Tourist,” “Glass”), the torchy R&B of “4 Chords of the Apocalypse” and the warped, boozy, country ambience of “Ludlow St.” It’s satisfying and occasionally confounding, but in the best way possible, and it also finds Casablancas in fine, emotive vocal form, particularly on the buoyant chorus of “Left & Right in the Dark.”

New & Noteworthy:

The Almost, “Monster Monster” (Tooth & Nail/ Virgin): The sophomore album from the upbeat, rocking group formed by Underoath drummer Aaron Gillespie.

Amerie, “In Love & War” (Def Jam): The R&B singer delivers her third album after a label switch and a four-year wait, featuring production by hitmakers such as Teddy Riley, Sean Garrett and Eric Hudson, Brian Michael Cox and the Buchanans.

The Canadian Tenors, “The Canadian Tenors” (Decca): The latest classically trained vocal group flits between opera and pop on its debut album.

Foo Fighters, “Greatest Hits” (RCA): The Dave Grohlled group surveys its career, with two new tracks added for good measure.

“Glee: The Music, Volume 1” (Columbia): TV’s McKinley High Glee Club gets happy on this set of 17 firstseason favorites, including version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”

Grandpa Elliott, “Sugar Sweet” (Playing For Change/Concord): The New Orleans street singer and harmonica player hits the studio after 60 years of entertaining in the French Quarter.

Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard, “One Fast Move or I’m Gone” (F-Stop/ Atlantic): Farrar (Son Volt, Uncle Tupelo) teams with Death Cab For Cutie’s Gibbard on this 12-track companion piece to the documentary about author Jack Kerouac’s time in Big Sur.

Michael Feinstein and Cheyenne Jackson, “The Power of Two” (Harbinger):

The two New York-based singers team up on a set of American Songbook standards and Broadway favorites.

Taylor Hollingsworth, “Life With a Slow Ear” (Team Love): The sophomore solo album from the member of Conor Oberst’s Mystic Valley Band.

Rickie Lee Jones, “Balm in the Gilead” (Fantasy):

The song stylist and writer celebrates the 30th anniversary of her debut album with a set of material she’s been composing and compiling for the past two decades.

Ryan Leslie, “Transition” (NextSelection/Casablanca/ Universal): The Washington, D.C., writer and producer’s second artist album follows his debut by less than nine months.

Los Centzontles with Taj Mahal and David Hidalgo, “American Horizon” (ADA):

A potent collaboration is the foundation for a bilingual release that celebrates the Mexican-American experience.

Rolling Stones, “Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert — 40th Anniversary Deluxe Box Set” (ABKCO): The group fills out one of rock’s great live albums with more songs from its vaults as well as performances by opening acts B.B. King and Ike & Tina Turner.

Say Anything, “Say Anything” (RCA): The emo rockers’ third album finds frontman Max Bemis happily married and in a far more positive frame of mind than on its two predecessors.

Slayer, “World Painted Blood” (American Recordings/Columbia): The extreme rockers’ 10th studio album marks the first time the quartet came into the studio with every bloody song already written and ready to record.

Carrie Underwood, “Play On” (19/Arista Nashville):

The “American Idol” champ’s third studio album is still under the country umbrella, though a wealth of pop songwriters (“Idol” judge Kara DioGuardi, Max Martin, Marti Frederiksen, Raine Maida, Chantal Kreviazuk) are found in the credits.

Various Artists, “The Village: A Celebration of the Music of Greenwich Village” (429): An all-star cast — John Oats, Bruce Hornsby, Los Lobos, Mary Chapin Carpenter and more — pays homage to the folk and pop music capital of the ‘60s.

Shwayze, “Let It Beat” (SureTone/Interscope):

The hip-hop/pop duo collaborated with an eclectic crew — Snoop Dogg, Cars founder Ric Ocasek, Bad Brains bassist Darryl Jennifer, the Knux and E Street Band keyboardist Roy Bittan — on its sophomore album.

From The Vaults: The Bee Gees, “The Ultimate Bee Gees” (Reprise); Creedence Clearwater Revival, “The Singles Collection” (Fantasy); Devo, “Q: Are We Not Men? A: We are Devo! (Deluxe Edition)” (Warner Bros.) and “Freedom of Choice (Deluxe Edition)” (Warner Bros.); The Grateful Dead, “Winterland, June 1977: The Complete Recordings” (Rhino/ Dead.net); Isaaac Hayes, “Shaft (Deluxe Edition)” (Stax); The Jimmies, “Make Your Own Someday” (Pluckypea); Frank Sinatra, “Sinatra: New York” (Reprise)

Holiday Albums: Kathy Griffin, “Suckin’ It For the Holidays” (Music With a Twist); The Glenn Mohr Chorale, “A Star Still Shines” (Spencertown)

New Music DVDs: ABBA, “In Japan” (Polar/ Polydor/UMe); John Fogerty, “Comin’ Down the Road: The Concert at Royal Albert Hall (Verve Forecast); The Jimmies, “Trying Funny

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