Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

New Music Tuesday

By Tim McCall, Collegian Staff

Blink 182

“Greatest Hits”

Geffen Records


Just because a band breaks up does not mean they aren’t going to release any new albums anymore. Or in the case of Blink 182, just because they go on an indefinite hiatus does not mean they won’t release any new albums.

Although they will have very little new material to release, they will release it all slowly so fans will want more and more until the vault is empty.

To start this wanting process off, Blink 182 has released a greatest hits album. This album is full of the band’s singles from their previous albums. It even includes “Carousel” and “M’Ms” from their independent label days.

While it may have all the singles, the album itself is lacking in quality even though Blink 182 was never a band for high-quality work. The singles are nice here in retrospect, but some of them, like “All The Small Things,” would be better off not on the album and replaced by fan favorites from live shows.

No, not the songs that were full of curse words and immature tales about each others’ moms. Gems that weren’t singles, but still good and important, like “Pathetic” from 1997’s “Dude Ranch.” This song is equally as important as any of the singles and always got a huge reaction from the crowd whenever they played it live, which was almost every live show since the song’s incarnation.

Another thing the album lacks is quality artwork. An album cover of just the band’s logo? Come on, that’s just lame. Even Beatles greatest hits albums have their images on them. It didn’t even have to be a new picture; it could be old ones that were never used.

Quality liner notes would have been nice too. They had them in their last album, 2003’s “Blink 182.” So why not again as part of the goodbye to the fans that loved them until this day?

Overall, the album isn’t bad. In retrospect, it is fun to hear all of the singles again together as if the radio was having a Blink 182 special. It’s also good to hear the two new songs on the album, “Not Now” and the cover of Only One’s “Another Girl, Another Planet.” Both new songs really showcase the new side Blink 182 was taking before they decided to go on hiatus.

John Mayer Trio

“Try! John Mayer Trio Live in Concert”



Attention: An Amber Alert has been set up for a man in his late 20s, shaggy dark hair, typically sarcastic and often plays guitar. Yes, that’s right. John Mayer is missing – or at least the pop star John Mayer. A new John Mayer has been found in a new band with a new sound. This could possibly lead to a new age “John is dead” ordeal similar to the “Paul is dead” conspiracy theory of the 1960s.

With this new act, John Mayer has an entirely new approach to music. Long gone is the pop style he first established himself with songs such as “No Such Thing” and “Your Body is a Wonderland.”

Mayer lately has been trying and successfully proving to rock ‘n’ roll and blues elders such as Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton that he can rock out like the rest of them. Then Mayer went to Esquire Magazine to prove it to the rest of the world.

At first, there was disbelief that he could live up to all the hype he had been creating, but with one listen to “Try! John Mayer Trio Live in Concert,” it is obvious something got into Mayer and whatever it was should stay a long, long time.

The trio consists of Mayer with musicians Steve Jordan and Pino Palladino. Their sound comes across as if they have been playing together for years, but in reality it’s been barely a year. They even go into above-average jamming during songs, creating a great rock ‘n’ roll with a twist of funk sound.

Even during the slower songs on the album, the new funk sound can be heard in the background. The fans’ reaction to these songs is almost dead silence except for the approval yell every now and again.

Another improvement on this album is Mayer’s songwriting ability. The lyrics to the song have so much more to them then just a potential Top 40 radio hit. They carry much more weight and could possibly be too much to be a hit, but after two different wins at the Grammys, Mayer doesn’t need any more breakout hits. He is already one of the best singer-songwriters out there today.

By Nick Romanow

Nada Surf – The Weight is a Gift – Barsuk Records


After a band strikes with a huge hit song and then disappears from the mainstream radar, they are quickly forgotten by the so-called fans that embraced them so briefly. The one-hit-wonder factory is crammed with bands that valiantly tried to recreate the magic before disbanding or spiraled out of control due to their newfound success. However, what is far more interesting is the group of bands that quietly continued making great music. There are the bands like The Flaming Lips and Local H that were always making, and continue to make, excellent records but only happened to strike radio gold once. Then there are bands like Nada Surf, who emerged in the mid-’90s with a Weezer-esque geeky pop/punk sound and a novelty hit with “Popular,” a tongue-in-cheek spoken-word guide to being cool in high school. The band was quickly forgotten and went unheard of for four years following their sophomore effort, which came and went without anyone taking note.

However, in 2002 something funny happened; Nada Surf, the fun, quirky novelty band from the ’90s, came back with “Let Go,” a dark, introspective pop record that appropriately cited Bob Dylan’s “Blonde On Blonde” in one of its songs. What was more shocking than this change in sound was how good Nada Surf was, winning over indie-rock fans across the world and building up great anticipation for the band’s next move. “The Weight is a Gift” is the best follow-up that Nada Surf could’ve hoped to make, taking the best elements of “Let Go’s” intelligent pop but never repeating a move from that breakthrough record.

“The Weight is a Gift” does have the same getting-older, semi-depressed mood but the songs and the hooks themselves are more energetic. Songs like “Concrete Bed” and “All is a Game” have some beat-down lyrics but the songs are alive and kicking. “Always Love” isn’t nearly as cheesy as the title might indicate and “Blankest Year” is a rocking song that features some extremely fuzzed-out guitar and ends with singer/guitarist Matthew Caws singing, “Fuck it, I’m gonna have a party.” When melancholy, wistful songs – which are all spectacular – like “Your Legs Grow” and “Comes A Time” come on and slow the pace of the record down, Nada Surf immediately picks it back up, rather then sinking deeper and deeper into a depressive shell. Where as “Let Go” feels a long, cold winter, “The Weight is a Gift” feels like an older, wiser, retrospective look on a deep freeze that finds some good in it. It is the type of aging that results in more vibrancy, a realization that getting older doesn’t mean slowing down and hibernating forever. Nada Surf earned this second chance for themselves with nothing but their own talents and “The Weight is a Gift” takes the opportunity and runs with it. “The Weight is a Gift” is an original and impressive slice of indie-pop that is sure to make even bigger waves for Nada Surf.

By Nick Romanow

Radiohead – 27 5 94 The Astoria London Live – Capitol Records


Radiohead is known as one of the most original, creative, talented and generally brilliant bands around. It seems that with each release the acclaimed band gets bigger and bigger and seems to be pushing the limits – and themselves – further and further. As a result, many listeners today are only strong followers of a certain period of Radiohead. 1997’s “OK Computer” often ranks in the top 10 of best albums of all time list and everything after it has found the band becoming more adored by a larger population of listeners.

Broach the subject of early Radiohead to casual fans and the ex
pected response would be to shrug it off, citing the big hits and nothing more. Even many who list Radiohead among their favorite bands and rank 1995’s “The Bends” alongside the rest of the band’s catalogue will quickly dismiss the band’s 1993 debut “Pablo Honey,” an unfortunate move that even Radiohead often falls pray to.

Sadly, the fact that the band has quietly slipped out this live DVD of a 1994 performance in London shows that they still look down upon their early output. While it’s understandable that most people would be a little bit reluctant to air young videos of themselves, from years before they are fully grown and matured, it is a real shame as this material is just as good as anything Radiohead has ever released. The tracks featured (eight from “Pablo Honey” plus the UK-only single “Pop is Dead” and six that would end up on the then-unreleased “The Bends” along with the future b-side “Maquiladora”) show Radiohead as a vibrant, loud, noisy, guitar-based band that was years ahead of their time.

Kicking off with an explosive version of “You,” the DVD immediately gets to the point – Radiohead has been amazing since they emerged in 1993. The whole band looks remarkably young and while bassist Colin Greenwood seems content to lurk in the shadows next to Phil Selway’s drum kit, guitarists Ed O’Brien and Jonny Greenwood are going nuts, jumping into the air and attacking their instruments with the type of ferocity that is normally seen in punk bands. The whole time, singer/guitarist Thom Yorke comes off as lighthearted, mock-bowing when he apologizes for playing so many new songs. Songs like “Ripcord,” “Prove Yourself” and “Maquiladora” should be ranked among Radiohead’s best and the live versions included here confirm that. Thom Yorke’s voice is not as fully trained as it would become but he still was one of the more talented vocalists in the pop-music world and Jonny Greenwood seals his place as one of the best noise-guitarists of all time – bending notes, tearing up and down the fret board and creating amazing and imaginative sounds out of his massive pedal board – turning already-great songs into monuments of excellence.

Perhaps Radiohead has shied away from this material not because they are ashamed but because they don’t feel the need to defend it. “Pablo Honey” is an album that is consistently bashed for no apparent reason – aside from the fact that perhaps the listener just doesn’t get it. If “The Astoria” proves anything, it’s that Radiohead has always been ahead of their time and innovative, which makes this DVD a must-have even for those who aren’t as into the earlier stuff – in fact, it could convert a large hoard of those people. Anyone interested in seeing one of the very best guitar-rock bands of the ’90s, and arguably one of the best bands of all time, needs to pick up this disc immediately.

By Nick Romanow

Little Brother – The Minstrel Show – Atlantic Records


Spike Lee’s 2000 film “Bamboozled” was a dark, controversial, and above-all raw satire of race relations – specifically in the media – where a black television executive, disgusted with the way he sees black people portrayed on TV, tries to get fired from his post by putting on the most racist, stereotype-filled program he can think of – an old fashioned minstrel show. North Carolina rappers Little Brother have apparently noticed the same thing when they flip through the radio and MTV. There has been a large subculture of rappers that care more about real issues, art and being honest than they do about getting rich (or dying in the process) and playing the Video Music Awards but they have mostly been suppressed in favor of the next big thing and MCs in metaphorical blackface, happily playing the fool to executives who are only interested in the almighty dollar.

“The Minstrel Show” is a thoroughly entertaining, consistently engaging, and, above all, brilliant slap in the face to the real minstrel show that keeps the best and brightest – those with something serious or “dangerous” to say – suppressed and lifts up those willing to sell themselves out for pennies. Little Brother has been fortunate enough to have producer 9th Wonder amongst their ranks and thanks to his recent work with heavy-hitters like Jay-Z, Little Brother has scored a major-label record deal, effectively infiltrating the minstrel show. Luckily, they haven’t compromised at all; in fact they have gotten stronger and far more eager to challenge the status quo. Rappers Phonte and Big Pooh have top-notch flows but it is their lyrics that make Little Brother one of the best rap groups out today.

“The Minstrel Show” has songs like “Beautiful Morning” and “Say It Again” that are instantly ear-grabbing with line after line of tight rhymes and smart messages. 9th Wonder’s production consists of the same soft synths and soul-samples that have become his trademark, and while he isn’t as challenging as the lyrics, he fits perfectly. Little Brother works in skits that serve as part of the “UBN” network – the broadcaster of the minstrel show – and unlike the skits on most rap albums, they serve an important role on the record, fleshing out the parody.

And parody it is. Little Brother approaches arguably the biggest, most serious issue facing hip-hop culture today with a level of lightheartedness that makes them more accessible than their message is. Little Brother’s approach is part dry-sarcasm, part exaggerated-parody, part jovial boasting and part straightforward sharp shooting that adds up to a uniquely intelligent but instantly enjoyable concoction. People look to Kanye West or Outkast as the new saviors of rap, and while they arguably avoid the minstrel show, they simply have nothing on Little Brother.

Little Brother should easily join the company of revered intelligent rappers like Dead Prez that are rarely seen on the mainstream radar – in-touch enough to attract hip-hop heads that are looking to explore the real issues of the day and smart enough to reel in the harshest critics of mainstream, thug-life rap. For those that have seen the minstrel show in action, Little Brother arrives as a breath of fresh air, and for those that are caught up in it, “The Minstrel Show” serves as a warning shot and a war cry that simply cannot be ignored.

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