Photo Credit: Jessica Flynn
Generally speaking, being familiar with a band or artist can be quite handy when it comes to reviewing an album. Up until last week, I had no idea who The Weaks were. I hadn’t heard their EP (or EPs? who knows), didn’t know where they are from, or the early buzz they are seemingly generating. I didn’t even know what they looked like, even as superficial as that sounds. Reviewing an album at complete face value without any preconceptions can result in being accused of ‘not getting’ a band, or musical concept by an angry mob of YouTube commenters reminding me that I’m a clueless, grumpy, irrelevant, hipster wannabe, who hates anything that’s popular, was once popular, or may become popular one day, among other nasty things that involve various members of my family. With that said, here we are.
With a band name like The Weaks, their lead single titled “Nevermind” on a record label named Lame-O-Records one could take it as a hint that this should be something you should steer away from right? A quick look at their Facebook page introduces the band’s parody of Weezer’s Blue Album for a profile picture, leading me to believe that this was going to be a trip down THAT path: you know, the ‘Oh we’re soo self-aware, we make fun of the genre we’re desperately trying to appeal to …in an ironic way of course’ path that all the alternative rock kids are poised to take you on these days. Judge a book by it’s cover much? Apparently so.
Giving Bad Year a spin, I was legitimately shocked! Instead of blips and bleeps of a studio created sample, or a dubstep meets 90s dance music beat that seems to be oversaturating the market of rock music in recent years, I was greeted by amplifier feed back and a filthy bass groove, followed immediately by vitriolic vocal delivery and a power pop hook like I haven’t heard in at least ten years.
The Weaks aren’t hipsters, or ironic, or meta, or any other buzz word the youngsters are using now to describe themselves, they are an actual alternative rock band! Like for real, guitars, bass, drums, angsty vocals, pop hooks and attitude just like the bands I loved so much as a youngster. A proverbial breath of fresh air.
Early on with “Kick It” I was reminded of Local H and maybe even mid 2000s Superdrag, and on the following track “Nevermind” it sounds like The Offspring doing a cover of a Pinkerton era Weezer song. How could a band fit in so many influences of so many of my favorite bands in such a short window of two songs? It doesn’t stop there either. Later I hear influence of Mathew Sweet, Nada Surf, The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr, and maybe even a touch of Motion City Soundtrack and The Pink Spiders, all great bands and fantastic points of inspiration to make a record on.
That doesn’t mean Bad Year is a big ironic mess of a love letter to the power pop giants of the 1990s, all of these songs sound fresh and realistic. This is what alternative rock is all about: plugging in an electric guitar, shouting your feelings and not caring what anyone thinks. They might be playing a power pop style that reminds me of being fifteen years old in the late 90s, but it’s delivered in the most natural way possible. This is a band making the record they want to make, not hamfisting some sort of trend down our throats. The songs here are about failed romances, friendzones, heartbreak, and celebrating the very angst that fueled my youth. I DO ‘get’ this band despite probably being older than all of them.
The stand out track for on Bad Year me is “Welcome To Earth”. That song is everything this album and band represents, all wrapped up in one little song of sarcasm, harmonies, garage band drums, melodic acoustic guitar, growling bass and witty lyrics. Ingredients that have been missing in mainstream alternative rock for way too long. As much as I enjoy Bad Year it makes me sad that it didn’t come out in say, 1999 when all the bands I loved years before were breaking up, or churning out terrible music in a last ditch effort to stay relevant. The fifteen year old me would have loved this record just as much as the thirty two year old me does. Is that even a fair assessment?
Maybe I’ve been jaded by all of the pretentious trend followers in mainstream alternative rock? Maybe I’m too old, yearning for a time when my life was simpler, or perhaps I’m just surprised that The Weaks and Bad Year don’t suck, but either way, I have thoroughly enjoyed Bad Year and have become a fan of The Weaks. I really hope this album isn’t a fluke because I think power pop has been sleeping long enough and it’s about time a band comes along waking it up while giving me hope that we don’t need an alternative to alternative rock, but just care and individuality. I’m tired of complaining that today’s scene is dead, and trying to be content when only three or four bands are putting out music that I actually enjoy. I think The Weaks are just what doctor ordered.
Aaron (or Coop) is a freelance writer, multi-instrumentalist and overall lover of all things music. As an advocate for indie record labels and artists, he is passionate about local scenes and do-it-yourself artistry. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, he’s not afraid to explain why.