ORDINARY AVERAGE GUYS BECK — ‘Colors’
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist Beck releases his 10th official full-length album.
THE BAD: Usually a trailblazer (or at least very unpredictable), Beck gives us nothing but a decent pop/rock collection this time. But is it too normal?
THE NITTY GRITTY: Working with one of his ex-touring guitarists who just happens to be super-producer Greg Kurstin (Adele, Sia, Bird and the Bee), Beck painstakingly crafted 10 tracks that blur the line between retro and modern pop. All of it is very tight, rhythmic and catchy. One hears echoes of everyone from the Beatles to Bruno Mars.
“Colors” ends up sunny and satisfying. The burning question though is whether the album be as effective 10 or 15 years from now. We’re talking about the man who made “Odelay” (1996) and “Sea Change” (2002), both highly influential works whose reach is still being felt today. Even 2014’s “Morning Phase” was an unexpected triumph. “Colors” is simply a “lesser effort” from (this time) a follower, not a leader. Yet it still cooks.
BUY IT?: Sure.
WEEZER — ‘Pacific Daydream’
THE GOOD: Alt-rock mainstays Weezer come back with a sunny 11th.
THE BAD: I personally love Weezer, so it’s painful when I HATE one of their albums. Read on…
THE NITTY GRITTY: Rivers Cuomo and company have made some clunkers. 2008’s “Weezer (the Red Album)” saw Cuomo let OTHER members of the band write songs as well. Bad idea. 2009’s “Raditude” was a blatant play for mainstream success. Boring idea.
Thankfully, after those two dreadful misfires, the band recovered over its next three releases. None touched the glory days of “The Blue Album” (1994) or “Pinkerton” (1996), but at least the guys were getting back on track.
Now, regrettably, “Pacific Daydream” feels like another glossy attempt at courting the pop market. Those glorious Cuomo hooks remain intact (for the most part). However, the guitars are too tame, the backbeats too calculated. That grand emotional pull also is muted. You might somewhat enjoy this music, but you’ll never truly RELATE to it. Weezer usually isn’t this “average.”
BUY IT?: Your choice.
U2 — ‘Songs of Experience’
THE GOOD: Irish rock legends U2 give up their 14th.
THE BAD: Not “bad,” just “meh.”
THE NITTY GRITTY: Ask anybody what U2’s “golden age” was ,and you’ll get one of two answers: the rock-based, socially conscious ’80s or the more experimental and rhythmic ’90s. NOBODY ever says the 2000s. The last U2 album that could be considered an event was 2000’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.” Since then, it’s been a ho-hum fight for relevancy.
“Songs of Experience” is now the fourth album in a row that has some genuinely good moments but lacks staying power. You can groove to “You’re the Best Thing about Me,” and “13 (There Is a Light)” is low-key and very emotional. The Syrian refugee song “Red Flag Day” comes complete with a catchy melody and cloying lyrics.
The politically charged “American Soul,” however, is laughably bad. Bono decided to delay the album’s release so the band could comment on the world at large. Too bad they’re not angry young men anymore.
BUY IT?: Your call.