The Wallflowers - How Good It Can Get
Weeks on Chart: 13 Peak: # 33 (March 2003) buy it!
I enjoyed When You're On Top, the first chart hit from the Red Letter Days CD, and its icy, synth dominated atmosphere and self loathing lyrics. How Good It Can Get is more standard Wallflowers fare. It's got a smooth, pleasant sound but it's nothing new. The lyrics are a nice message to a friend that things will get better. But How Good It Can Get is pretty insubstantial.
The Wallflowers - Letters From The Wasteland
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 30 (April 2001) buy it!
Breach, the Wallflowers third CD, is a tastefully made and quite boring set of songs. Letters From The Wasteland is another restrained adult rocker that sounds like Sleepwalker or One Headlight but has a gloomier mood. It has decent energy with good guitar and drums but doesn't really go anywhere. Letters From The Wasteland employs dark imagery to describe getting dumped. In a typically uninflected vocal, Jakob Dylan sings, "I wake up sick as you abandon me into these fields of rank and file" and of being "in this smoke filled waiting room with incarcerated love sick fools."
The Wallflowers - Sleepwalker
Weeks on Chart: 16 Peak: # 1 (Oct. 2000) buy it!
Jakob Dylan inherited his dad's cynicism but presents it in a less distinctive way. It was no surprise that the band's Bringing Down The Horse CD went multiplatinum. The Wallflowers' music is smart, melodic, well played and familiar, without anything too unusual that would disturb the yuppies. Sleepwalker, from the Breach CD, is more safe, likable easy rock. Dylan has a reticent, unshowy persona but his band is polished and keeps things moving with solid drumming and Michael Ward's guitar. Dylan sings about being in a dreamlike state where he can't even consider the possibility of love. He shifts Sam Cooke's sentiment, asking Cupid not to draw back his bow.
The Wallflowers - When Youre On Top
Weeks on Chart: 11 Peak: # 33 (Dec. 2002) buy it!
Jakob Dylans bands Bringing Down The Horse CD, which had the hit One Headlight, went multiplatinum. The Wallflowers success proved short lived. The Breach CD died after getting early radio interest, falling far short of its predecessors sales. When Youre On Top, off the Red Letter Days CD, is largely about wanting to get back with an ex but its also informed by Dylans new commercial reality. Dylans more modest expectations suit him on When Youre On Top. Jakob cant avoid that genetics and upbringing gave him a similar voice to dads. On When Youre On Top the resemblance in Dylans deliberate phrasing and nasal, slightly angry delivery suits him. Jakobs writing will never have the power of Bob Dylans best work but When Youre On Top is dense, rich and good. When Youre On Top is about being jaded and depressed. Bored by a life where hes making new friends but none of them matter, Dylan is looking for new experiences and a thought that I can believe in. Musically, When Youre On Top is a step in the right direction. In the past, The Wallflowers music has often been overly slick and shallow. When Youre On Top strips down the sound and finds a more interesting edge. The verses evoke disconnection, starting with no beat and a cold, throbbing synth then adding a stiff drum machine beat. The chorus is brighter and catchier but its restraint underlines Dylans theme that he feels fine and is doing better but not doing as well as when he was with the one he needs now more than ever.
Warren Zevon - I Was In the House When it Burned Down
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: # 49 (Feb. 2000) buy it!
Life'll Kill Ya is Warren Zevon's first studio album since 1995's downbeat Mutineer CD. I Was In The House is a good sign that Zevon is returning to the great rock music and Zevonesqe bad attitude of his very good 1991 Mr. Bad Example CD.
Wayne Wonder - No Letting Go
Weeks on Chart: 8 Peak: # 31 (June 2003) buy it!
With little warning, Diwali rhythm from Jamaica has become a presence on top 40 radio. Producer Steven "Lenky" Marsden first hit with Sean Paul's fun, brash Get Busy. Impressively, Marsden has another hit with a song that shares Get Busy's Diwali rhythm but is otherwise very different. Paul was in your face with his goofy, lecherous style. Wayne Wonder is laid back, apologizing for past "doings" with other women and declaring his devotion to a "very special" beauty . No Letting Go, from Wonder's No Holding Back CD, easily breezes by. Diwali's relaxed, varied handclaps are the key, making a joyful sound while inobtrusive synths underline Wonder's vocal and add a little flavor. Nothing amazing happens. The lyric is very simple and Wonder's voice is pleasant but unremarkable. But No Letting Go's cool, very positive sound make it a great summer single. Wonder, who's been making music since starting in Jamaica in the mid 80's, has his first American hit.
Weezer - Dope Nose
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 28 (May 2002) buy it!
Weezer took until last year to release a followup to their commercially disappointing second record, 1996's Pinkerton. Now that they're selling again, Weezer wasted little time coming back with their fourth release: Maladroit. From what I've heard of Maladroit the songs aren't as tight and don't have the same pop gloss as those on last year's green album but they do have that record's rock heft. With its loose sense of fun and chunky guitar chords, Dope Nose reminds me of the songs from Pinkerton, particularly The Good Life, perhaps my favorite Weezer song ever. Dope Nose has a goofy charm. The band sings their ho-oh-oh-ohs to a tune that sounds like The Flinstones' theme. Brian Bell and Rivers Cuomos's steadily driving guitar work, which includes Bell's exciting and characteristically short, unshowy solo, gives Dope Nose a high energy sense of fun. Rock radio is unlikely to be as receptive to Dope Nose's giddiness as it was to Hash Pipe's heavy metal rumble. But Dope Nose, which clocks in at less than two minutes and 15 seconds, is a simple, good time that extends Weezer's impressive streak of quality music. Dope Nose apparently tells us that dope helps Cuomo to "bust rhymes real slow." Cuomo also throws in the fact that "cheese smells so good on a burnt piece of lamb."
Weezer - Hash Pipe
Weeks on Chart: 21 Peak: # 17 (June 2001) buy it!
After their good but idiosyncratic 1996 Pinkerton CD sold disappointingly, Weezer took a break then tightened their sound. The payoff is their best and most successful CD: the very good, rocking green album. Hash Pipe was a good choice of a first single. The tough, rocking sound helps kill the band's image as video dependent jokesters. Brian Bell and Rivers Cuomo's guitars are as big and menacing as any hard rock band's. Cuomo sings without his earlier tentativeness. On Hash Pipe, about a transsexual prostitute smoking to relieve life's paranoia and anxiety, Cuomo moves assuredly in and out of a falsetto, always adding to the song's sense of urgency. As on Buddy Holly, power chords and catchy hooks create a great, exhilarating sound.
Weezer - Island In The Sun
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: # 14 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Island In The Sun is the second hit from Weezer's very good green album. Island In The Sun is the mellowest and poppiest song on a record that's otherwise straight forward rockers. It's a nice love song about how good it'll be to go away. Rivers Cuomo's sweet, idealistic lyrics("we'll never feel bad anymore) are well matched by the mood created by easy, strummed guitar and the band's hip hips. The band wisely mixes things up by adding harder rocking guitar on the bridge.
Weezer - Keep Fishin'
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 40 (Aug. 2002) buy it!
Weezer's self produced Maladroit CD doesn't always show Weezer at its best. Weezer's usual hooks are in fairly short supply, the sound could use a little polishing and too much time is wasted on pointless guitar rock. Still, it's a pretty good record with quite a few good songs. Musically, Keep Fishin' is so fun and buoyant that its goofy Muppet Show video is a great match. Brian Bell and Rivers Cuomo's good, chunky guitars are well supported by Pat Wilson's upbeat drumming. Loose backing vocals, including doo-wahs on the meter changing bridge, further enhance Keep Fishin's joyful mood. Not surprisingly, Cuomo's lyrics are not as happy as the music. He sings how not being with girl he loves and seeing how she's not getting her life together makes him sad.
Wheatus - Teenage Dirtbag
Weeks on Chart: 10 Peak: # 30 (Sept. 2000) buy it!
The teens were bound to love this story of a school kid who gets pushed around. Teenage Dirtbag is on the soundtrack of the movie Loser as well as Wheatus' self titled CD. The song and the movie have similar plots. Brendan Brown sings that the girls don't know who he is and the guys in the school give him a hard time. Like the movie, the song has a happy ending. The song's ending is probably supposed to be a fantasy as the girl of his dreams likes him after all and shares his love for Iron Maiden. Wheatus resemble Weezer in combining power chords and a nerdy persona. But Brown, with his twerpy, high pitched voice which he doesn't have to change much to play the song's female, is a little more of a smart ass and doesn't seem to sincerely feel his character's pain like Weezer's Rivers Cuomo does.
White Stripes - Fell In Love With A Girl
Weeks on Chart: 9 Peak: # 36 (May 2002) buy it!
White Stripes are either a brother and sister(if you believe them) or a current or former couple(if you believe the rock press) from Detroit. Fell In Love With A Girl is from White Stripes' eclectic and quite wonderful 2001 CD White Blood Cells. I sometimes find Jack White's weird, confident persona a little hard to take but I can't resist Fell In Love With A Girl's simple burst of joy. Fell In Love With A Girl is easily the shortest song to make the All-Reviews top 50. But even at 1:45, Fell In Love With A Girl is a complete rock experience. Just banging away on his guitar fast and loud and screaming about a girl with "red hair with a curl", Jack White recalls the spirit of early rock and roll by stripping away any excess to find a pure rock essence. Meg White's drumming is basic but effectively matches the buoyant mood. White Stripes very impressively create a big sound with just a guitarist and drummer. They bring to mind Local H's similar ability to make a huge noise with two players. White Stripes' tale of the thrill of ignoring the "left brain"'s message that love is fleeting is one of the most fun songs around.
The White Stripes - The Hardest Button To Button
Weeks on Chart: 12 Peak: # 25 (Oct. 2003) buy it!
The Hardest Button To Button, the second hit from The White Stripes' Elephant CD, is another hard to resist mix of Jack White's weird personality and his minimal, driving rock music. The Hardest Button shows White's gift for finding a great hook. The Hardest Button is held together by a steady supply of throbbing and pounding sounds. Like Seven Nation Army(which has been in the top 50 for more than eight months), The Hardest Button prominently features a bass sound that, because of Jack White's odd rules, is played by a processed guitar rather than a bass. The Hardest Button gets off to a great start with that Psycho Killer style bass sound joined by the raw guitar sound of White playing notes of chords then by Meg White's bass drum. Jack's voice has its typical slightly demented but committed tone. Meg's simple drumming style is perfect for Hardest Button and the songs that Jack makes in general. Hardest Button climaxes on the chorus with an emphatic guitar sound crashing in unison with the drums. Hardest Button is rock music as Jack White envisions it. It's focused, exciting and lacking in excess. White's strangeness can sometimes be distracting but songs like Hardest Button To Button show how White can create the thrill of a pure rock sound. Hardest Botton is apparently about growing up with a close but troubled family, curing his baby brother's tooth ache with a voodoo doll and feeling "like you're the hardest button to button."
White Stripes - Seven Nation Army
Weeks on Chart: 36 Peak: # 10 (Sept. 2003) buy it!
White Stripes have followed the surprise million selling White Blood Cells CD with the even more successful Elephant. Seven Nation Army is their biggest radio hit so far. Like White Blood Cells, Elephant is a very good record that throws all sorts of ideas together. Singer/songwriter Jack White alternates(sometimes in the same song) between sincere and cynical and between goofy pop and serious, intense power chord laden hard rock. White's songs are unified by a seemingly natural weirdness and a good sense of a hook. White Stripes are still just guitar player Jack and drummer Meg White but Jack varies the sound and keeps it interesting. Unlike most of White Stripes' music, Seven Nation Army has a bass line(apparently played on a processed guitar). The verses, with Meg banging and Jack playing the big, basic bass line, give Jack space for his odd, strangely compelling vocal. Instead of shifting to a chorus, Seven Nation Army adds an electric guitar that basically tracks the bass line but creates a squealing intensity as the song dissolves into a fun jam before returning to another verse. Seven Nation Army is great, partly because its recurring riff is so good and memorable. Seven Nation Army has the kind of weird lyric that adds to White Stripes' charm. Sounding crazy and paranoid but also like he might have a point, Jack alternately promises to fight and ignore an unnamed enemy. He finally decides to avoid the struggle, go to Wichita and "work the straw." On Seven Nation Army, White Stripes music is again unpolished, odd and powerful.
Whitney Houston - My Love Is Your Love
Weeks on Chart: 7 Peak: # 37 (Jan. 2000) buy it!
At times on her My Love Is Your Love CD, Whitney Houston sadly tries to sound like today's hot hip hop artists. She shouldn't worry about sounding like anyone but herself. Houston doesn't seem totally comfortable on the CD's title track, but it does have a good, smooth groove and Houston has a great voice. The lyrics are sweet if unexciting, proclaiming that her love would survive World War III, judgement day or, God forbid, the loss of her fame and fortune.
Widespread Panic - Dyin' Man
Weeks on Chart: 5 Peak: # 33 (Sept. 1999) buy it!
Their biggest hit so far is from the record, Til the Medicine Takes. The music is Allman Brothers style 70s boogie with a little of Edgar Winter's Frankenstein thrown in. The words are about how sad he is"since you've been gone" but the exuberance of the music contradicts the lyrics. It's mindless, unoriginal fun.
Will Smith - Wild, Wild West
Weeks on Chart: 1 Peak: # 31 (Aug. 1999) buy it!
Smith has a clear pattern for his recent music. He picks a very popular 70's song for the backing track and doesn't mess with it too much. The goal is to appeal to hip hop fans and a broader pop audience. Smith is a very popular performer and has an appealing rap persona. He showed skills on Gettin Jiggy Wit It but generally he could be more adventuresome. The best thing about Wild, Wild West, from the soundtrack of his movie, is that it reminds you how great Stevie Wonder's I Wish is. But like other rap pop hits it makes you wonder, if he's not to going to add much to a classic, why not just do it as a straight remake or leave it alone.
Will Smith - Will2k
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 44 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
The first CD from his Willenium CD is more genial, mass appeal rap from Smith. Rock the Casbah was a good choice of a backing track and the rap and the music flow nicely. Smith is almost proudly edgeless. He avoids the misogyny or politics of other rappers. Will2k doesn't have any apocalyptic concerns, he mentions Y2K fears of chaos then says, who cares, he just want to have a fun New Year's eve party.
Willa Ford - I Wanna Be Bad
Weeks on Chart: 4 Peak: # 49 (Aug. 2001) buy it!
I Wanna Be Bad, from Ford's Willa Was Here CD, surpasses Christina and Britney at their worst in its desperate use of sexuality and mechanical music. The lyrics are silly comeons("boy, say the time and place, 'cause you make me wanna misbehave.") The music is empty, dopey disco. I prefer the dance remix, where you can concentrate on the synths and big, fast bass drum beats, rather than the lameness of the song.
The Wiseguys - Start The Commotion
Weeks on Chart: 6 Peak: # 28 (Oct. 2001) buy it!
Start The Commotion is one of the biggest fluke hits of 2001. Start The Commotion is from The Antidote, a CD originally released in 1998, but it got new life when it was used in a Mitsubishi commercial. Like the best creations of fellow Brit Fatboy Slim, DJ Touche's work on Start The Commotion is great because it's not just meant to work on a dance floor or show how inventive he is, it's a lot of fun. Touche mixes samples of vocals from tough R & B and innocent 60s pop, beats, fuzzy bass, horns and flute into a loose, enjoyable collage. I like it a lot more than the other instrumental MTV is playing these days, Crystal Method's showy, annoying Name Of The Game.
Wood - Stay You
Weeks on Chart: 2 Peak: # 49 (Dec. 1999) buy it!
Stay You is a very comforting song both musically and lyrically. The music is pleasant, with a nice piano on the choruses, appealing to baby boomers who want to think of themselves as hip. The lyrics are uplifting if a little banal, with James Maddock singing of the weird things about her he loves and urging her to stay the way she is instead of becoming more normal.