Wednesday, June 30, 2010

14. System of a Down vs. Pearl Jam vs. Weezer

vs. vs.
by System of a Down
from Toxicity
  "In Hiding"
by Pearl Jam
from Yield
  "Only in Dreams"
by Weezer
from Weezer

"Aerials" (7 plays at, unranked): There's so much to hear in this tune it's hard to know where to start analyzing it. You can find Alice in Chains, you can find Metallica, you can find Soundgarden, not to mention the band's eastern European influences and unique showmanship. As the best song on an album the band didn't know how to follow up, it has the bitter flavor of impending doom to it, but also has come to signify for me the final end of the 90s hard rock era. The rest of the field was in transition, with nu metal and the point-missers of nu grunge coming on. Hard to believe it's been almost ten years.

"In Hiding" (5 plays, unranked): It's amazing how hopeful so much of this album is, in the context of PJ's first three albums and the false start of No Code. Landing near the record's end, it caps the set with lyrics that aren't so much positive as they are looking toward positivity: "It's funny when things change so much/It's all state of mind." It's also a great and subtle showcase for the band's musicianship. Eddie Vedder gets some terrific Cornellian crooning opportunities in the chorus, while the variations within the tune provide ample room for different guitar approaches. By 1998 they had become a careerist band, and this is a careerist song, but it's one that should be among their best-loved mid-period album cuts.

"Only in Dreams" (5 plays, unranked): At the time I was simply amazed. The blue album was astonishing. Now it's diminished in some ways and grown in others. Opinions on the exact date differ, but there is a broad consensus that Weezer began to suck hard sometime from 2001 to 2005, and it's difficult not to let that suckage impact the older, brilliant material. At the same time, as an older, wiser music fan, I'm now able to hear more in a song like this. I can imagine this being a local band's first incredible song, the one that everybody shows up early to hear, that sells hundreds of copies of their EP. It's such a raw and unassuming song -- even more so than the rest of the album, and that's saying something. The combination of teenage uncertainty and garage-based guitar fantasy could never be made this organically on anything but a first record, and the way it bookends the opening cacophony of "My Name Is Jonas" is a feat unmatched in the modern era. An absolute classic; just writing about it is almost enough to make me forget "Beverly Hills."

VERDICT: "Only in Dreams" in a landslide.

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