Say it ain't so

James Brown, Elton John, Marvin Gaye, Howlin' Wolf, The Who, Bob Marley ... Weezer. Excuse me? Given the status of all the albums that Universal has seen fit to bestow "Deluxe Edition" status on, the self-titled "Blue Album" debut from Weezer seems an odd choice. Sure, it sold a few million copies and sure, it spawned one of the coolest videos in the history of MTV (more on that later), but to launch it into the rarefied air occupied by "Tommy" and "What's Going On" just seems silly. Donna Summer's "Bad Girls" and "Legacy" by Boyz II Men also got the treatment, so it's not like this is the first time the catalog folks have made an odd decision, but what seems to be going on with this Weezer album is less a case of honoring a great album than simply gouging the ultra-loyal fans of the band at the register.

Although the album itself is "remastered" (unnecessarily, I might add), the real selling point for this "Deluxe Edition" is the added disc of rare tracks and alternate versions entitled "Dusty Gems" and "Raw Nuggets." Would Weezer fans have shelled out 15 bucks for those tracks on a stand-alone album? Of course they would. But why do that when you can roll them into a "Deluxe Edition" and charge those same fans $30? Bingo! Commer-cialism rears its ugly head again.

The "Blue Album" is still a great album, and the whopping 10 years that have passed since its original release have done little to diminish it. But as a gap-filler between Maladroit and Weezer's upcoming Rick Rubin-produced album, it's a little disingenuous to give it the Classic Album treatment just to squeeze a few more ducats out of a bunch of rabid Weez-heads who want to hear live versions of "Surf Wax America" and tracks like "Mykel and Carli" and "Jamie" that haven't shown up on albums.

So yeah, the "Deluxe Edition" is a bit of a rip-off, especially when you can get the original album by itself for a list price of $12.98. But the label -- OK, the band -- really outdid themselves with "Video Capture Device," a DVD compilation of videos, live performances and other assorted visual effluvia from Weezer's past decade. In addition to still-amazing clips like "Buddy Holly" (the "Happy Days" one ... you know, the best video ever) and "Keep Fishin'" (with The Muppets ... you know, the best video ever), the DVD is beefed up with alternate versions, behind-the-scenes footage, audio commentary and other goodies. Oddly enough, it might be one of the most fan-friendly video collections ever released as there's pretty much nothing missing that anyone would want to see, save a full-length concert. And what's this? It only costs $16.98!

The world has turned

In related Weezer news, founding bassist Matt Sharp has finally completed his debut solo album, amid reports that he and Rivers Cuomo are writing music for a new album together. The self-titled album is the polar opposite of Weezer's ironic riffage, as it's bathed in a sort of pastoral melancholy that comes close to postmodern alt-folk, but is more like the sound of a Prozac withdrawal. Quite similar to his "Puckett's Versus the Country Boy" EP of last year, Sharp seems to have nailed the sonic counterpart to Cuomo's self-obsessed lyricism and it'll be interesting to see what the two come up with working together.


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