Indie rock, alternative groups return with tepid releases
The Good, the Bad and the Queen — ‘Merrie Land’
THE GOOD: Indie rock supergroup the Good, the Bad and the Queen wasn’t a one-off after all.
THE BAD: “Merrie Land” won’t win you over after one listen. This record requires some effort.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Consisting of Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz), Paul Simonon (the Clash), Simon Tong (the Verve) and percussionist Tony Allen, GBQ has returned after a 12-year hiatus to comment on a confused Brexit-era England. Switching superstar producers — Danger Mouse has been replaced by elder statesman Tony Visconti (David Bowie, T. Rex, Morrissey) — the band dishes out an amalgam of prog-rock and modern folk.
It’s an ambitious mix, very moody and atmospheric. At different points, these tracks echo, bang and clatter, resembling everything from psychedelic country to demonic carousels. Darkness permeates the music. Despite danceable rhythms and some fierce guitar work, an eerie sense of foreboding reigns supreme. Then there are the somewhat complex arrangements. It takes a few spins to fully embrace this “Merrie Land.”
BUY IT?: Sure.
The Dandy Warhols — ‘Why You So Crazy?’
THE GOOD: Portland, Oregon, alternative mainstay the Dandy Warhols returns with its 10th.
THE BAD: Flawed? Of course!
THE NITTY GRITTY: Even the band’s most rabid fans would probably agree that once you get past the first four albums, the Warhols’ catalog is extremely uneven and scattershot. Each record has its great alt-rock songs sequenced among long fits of uninspired experimentation and inexcusable self-indulgence.
“Crazy” starts out strong but eventually slips into this usual trend. We have a genuinely good time with the groove-laden “Terraform,” folksy “Sins Are Forgiven,” swaggering “Small Town Girls” and ironic “Motor City Steel.” You’d be advised to STOP LISTENING after that though, for the record soon succumbs to loose jamming and an extended improvisational (I hope) piano piece that seems to serve no purpose other than to bring the collection up to a 40-minite running time.
“Crazy” still ends up better than most of this band’s recent efforts, but its glory days remain at the turn of our century.
BUY IT? Your call.
Weezer — ‘Weezer (The Black Album)’
THE GOOD: California alt-rock group Weezer returns with a tepid 13th.
THE BAD: After the first four records in the catalog, there are no guarantees. Sometimes you get something really good (2014’s “Everything Will Be All Right in the End”). Sometimes you get, “What the hell was Rivers thinking?” (Looking at you “Raditude.”) Thankfully, “Black” falls somewhere in the middle.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The new record is a cross between the recent crunchy goodness of 2016’s “White Album” and the far-too-slick pandering muck of 2017’s “Pacific Daydream.” So it’s a definite improvement over the last effort.
Better bits include chugging lead single “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” bleak but melodic “Piece of Cake” and the super sarcastic and catchy “I’m Just Being Honest.” Too bad much of “Black” feels ultimately forgettable. Sure, the album is a step in the right direction, but the band still has a long way to go before creating something GREAT again. Never mind the genius of “Pinkerton” (1996). At this point, I’d settle for another “Maladroit” (2002).
BUY IT?: Maybe.