Prepare to open your wallets music lovers, ’cause there’s a new vinyl subscription service in town, and you’re gonna want to get your mitts on the waxy goodness they’re delivering. That service is called Bandbox, and it’s unlike any other vinyl subscription service out there.
Groove Is In The Box … The Bandbox
What’s the big deal, you ask? To begin with, the vinyl-loving crew behind Bandbox are delivering not just one album to your doorstep every month, but two! And not to overstate the obvious, but the only thing better than getting one new record in the mail every month, is getting double that number. With Bandbox focusing their box on a single artist/group every month, you can be assured they’ll be digging deep into the archives for those picks … which just makes the Bandbox experience all the more lust-worthy.
To keep things interesting, Bandbox is throwing a hitch into their album selection process. That means the first of the mystery discs subscribers receive will be a staple album from said artist’s slate of releases. However the second mystery disc will be an overlooked gem from the artist’s back catalogue, and it will not be the same album for every subscriber.
If that bold choice isn’t quite enticing enough, you should know that Bandbox is also stuffing every box with a track-by-track listening companion for the featured album – not to mention a stylish fanzine tracking the artist’s career and releases. And all that can be yours for the super reasonable price of just $49 a month.
Just FYI – if you sign up today using the code GEEK, you’ll get your first month of Bandbox madness at 50% off. And if you follow this little link here, you’ll get an extra $10 off that first month to boot. For the math-challenged among you, that means your first month of Bandbox will be a beyond reasonable $14.50. At that price, the only question is, “what the hell are you waiting for?”
Of course, if you’re waiting to find out what was in the box for August, I’d ask that you come sit next to me, pour yourself some tea, and get ready for a double dose of hot licks from the one and only Weezer.
Before we move ahead, we should let those of you who are wary of letting complete strangers “surprise” you with artist/album selections every month know that Team Bandbox has already setup an exchange program which allows you to swap out records you don’t want for ones you do, so long as they’re available in the Bandbox archives. If you’re really, really wary of surprises, you can even “pause” your subscription at any time.
That being said, it’s unlikely you’ll want to “pause” anything once you’ve signed up and experienced Bandbox for yourself. And for that modest amount of money, we’d advise you have a little fun and try to get down with whatever Bandbox is bringing.
Let The Great World Spin
Ah, the early ’90s. The clothes were baggy, the hair was shaggy, and flannel was the fabric of choice for kids across the land. From the sludge of “grunge” dispatching with the long in the tooth hair metal scene, to the indie sounds of the Elephant 6 collective taking shape, to the rebirth of the summer music festival (Lollapalooza, Horde, Lilith), the early days of the ’90s were quite a time to be alive indeed. They were quite a time to be a music fan too, with a seemingly game-changing new artist breaking almost every week.
May 10th, 1994 saw the arrival of a most unexpected band to the “alt-rock” music fray. Their name was Weezer, and their self-titled debut (since dubbed The Blue Album) was unlike anything on the scene when it came out, sporting a sound that wasn’t quite grunge enough to be filed under grunge, wasn’t quite metal enough to satisfy the metalheads, and wasn’t quite pop enough for pop scene. It was, however, a sound both hard-edged and infectious enough that – even if it couldn’t be wholly embraced by any of those musical factions – it also couldn’t be ignored by them either. Thus Weezer became that rarest of ’90s bands who racked up a few bona fide radio hits, and still managed to maintain their outsider edge.
Much of the band’s edge stemmed from the angsty antics of Weezer front man Rivers Cuomo, of course. Though times have not always been golden for his band in the 25 years since The Blue Album gave Weezer its first taste of “it band” status, Cuomo has always found a way to exploit the mystique surrounding him and maintain his “outsider” status … though he’s often done so at the expense of his equally fervid fanbase. Whether or not you count yourself among Cuomo’s longterm fans, Weezer is undoubtedly a band worth celebrating – even if you’re among the legion of fans who gave up on Weezer a couple decades ago. So it is that Bandbox is gleefully celebrating one of the more complicated legacies in rock history with a box packed full of “warts and all” Weezer goodness.
In case you hadn’t figured it out by now, this month’s featured album is, in fact, Weezer’s iconic self-titled debut, which we’ve come to know as The Blue Album.
Oooh yes, you’d better believe this is the 2016 pressing cut at Abbey Road Studios using direct metal mastering. That means it sounds extra crunchy. Also, you do know Abbey Road is where The Beatles used to hang, right?
Alright, I’m not going to waste a bunch of words telling you what a crunchy good time Weezer’s Blue Album is. If you’ve read this far into an article about Weezer, there’s more than a good chance you’re already very well acquainted with this early ’90s classic. And even if you haven’t heard the album in its entirety, you’ve almost certainly heard the likes of “Undone – The Sweater Song,” “Buddy Holly,” and “Say It Ain’t So” on the radio sometime in the past quarter century. So you sort of get the idea.
What I will tell you is that I hadn’t actually listened to The Blue Album in its entirety myself in who knows how long. I’m happy to report that yes, those well-trod tracks still bring the heat throughout The Blue Album. I’m also delighted to report that The Blue Album still very much delivers in the context of being a complete album, with the likes of “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here,” “Surf Wax America,” and “Only In Dreams” playing less as album filler and more as cleverly crafted standouts that really should’ve gotten a lot more love than they did by the masses back in ’94.
Just so you know – there’s no time like a 25th anniversary (aka the present) to revisit those classic tracks, and to re-discover the diamonds amongst the ruff of one of the ’90s best rock albums. Trust me.
Some folks will tell you that there isn’t much need for an album to include a free MP3 download in the streaming age. Those people are wrong. And free downloads are awesome. That is all.
Ok, it’s confession time. I touched on the legion of Weezer fans who might’ve given up on Rivers and the gang many years ago. I am admittedly one of those fans. But unlike most, I actually stuck around until 2005 when Weezer released the bloated snoozer of an album Make Believe. That album (released after the occasionally brilliant but frustratingly uneven Maladroit) left such foul taste in my mouth that I haven’t listened to a single Weezer album since. Which means, of course, that – in spite of its surprising status as NPR’s Album of the year – I’d never heard a single track off of the band’s widely lauded 2014 release Everything Will Be Alright In The End.
Now, before I fall on my sword and admit that skipping Everything Will Be Alright In The End was an egregious oversight on my part, I’ll just put it out there that, while I hadn’t listened to a Weezer album since Make Believe, I had heard a couple of random tracks off the two albums that preceded Everything Will Be Alright. Just as a reminder, those two albums – Raditude and Hurley restively – were, shall we say, not good. Ok, they were terrible. So one might understand my hesitance to jump aboard any Weezer record that followed … and also why I was a bit nervous when I pulled Everything Will Be Alright from this month’s Bandbox.
Anyway, the splat you just heard was indeed the sound of me falling on said sword. And yes, I’m more than happy to admit that sleeping on Everything Will Be Alright In The End was a big time oversight on my part. I’m also guessing most of you out there in Weezerland might’ve slept on it too, though. In the spirit of that possibility of discovery, I’m gonna duck out on a full album breakdown and simply tell you this record is rife with the sort of heavy riffs, introspective themes, and power pop regalia that made Weezer such a unique voice in the doom and gloom of the early ’90s. All of which marks Everything Will Be Alright In The End as a legit welcome return to form for Cuomo and band.
Said return is due, in large part, to the fact that Everything Will Be Alright In The End re-teamed the band with Blue Album and Green Album producer Ric Ocasek, who’s always had a preternatural sense for how Weezer songs (and especially albums) should sound. It’s no mistake then that Ocasek is listed as producer on three of Weezer’s best. And make no mistake, Everything Will Be Alright In The End easily earns a spot near the top of any such Weezer ranking. If you don’t believe me, then I’d encourage you to discover (or re-discover) this absolute banger of a record for yourself.
A Cardboard Box For Sharing Music
Bandbox is chiefly concerned with living up to that, “cardboard box for sharing music” definition, not to mention a rep as the deep dive record club. With two full length albums inside, it absolutely lives up to both of those concepts. What’s so cool about Bandbox is that the founders fully understand that part of “sharing” music means talking about it. And the two magazines included in every month’s box are all about sharing thoughts and insights not just into the songs that permeate the selected records, but the artists who recorded them.
Before we get into those zines and start waxing poetic about the genius (and anti-genius) of Rivers Cuomo, you might’ve noticed there was a non Weezer record packed in the August box. Seems Team Bandbox decided to “share” a little extra music this month by packing a shiny new pressing of the latest release from Seattle-based indie poppers Hey Marseilles in the box. Now, I’m certainly not going to claim the band’s self-titled fourth album is going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you have a soft spot for meticulously produced, hook-heavy indie pop of the unabashedly romantic persuasion, well, you’re gonna find a lot to love in this little jammer.
That extra disc also came with a lovely hand-written note from Bandbox founder Alex Rice. I believe I’ve made my stance on personal touches clear. In case I haven’t, I’ll remind you all that personal touches matter … especially in the context of sharing music.
Now let’s move along to those zines already, ’cause Alex and co. went all out in assembling some kick ass content for Weezer fans young and old to devour this month. First up, a wonderfully insightful, track by track breakdown of Weezer’s legendary debut via the “Fan Talks” zine – which also happens to feature another round of killer, Blue Album themed artwork from Bandbox’s own Cou Feis.
Once you’ve digested all the tasty Blue Album nuggets in the “Fan Talks,” you’ll find a more comprehensive look at Weezer in this month’s “Band Dox” zine, including an interview with O.G. Weezer guitarist Jason Cropper, behind the scenes pics, and Bandbox’s official ranking of every single Weezer album. Wanna take a guess at which album tops the list?
Not to argue with this ranking (as I understand it’s purely subjective), but I’d just like to say that The Green Album is an unheralded power-pop masterpiece that deserves a little more love than the five slot. Mental note – how the effing ef do I not have a copy of The Green Album in my collection?
Also, this hand-Weezer pic is truly gorgeous.
What about the vinyl, you say? The Blue Album comes sans any color, or bells, or whistles. Because it’s Weezer’s The Blue Album, and it needs nothing else but the music contained within those grooves, my friends.
Anyway, we should probably all go ahead and take a minute to giggle at The Blue Album‘s cover photo, ’cause it finds Rivers Cuomo and the boys looking like a bunch 15 year olds posing for pics at the DMV.
Again, nothing too fancy with this Blue Album reissue, but there is a snaazzy fold out poster of the garage that birthed the band inside.
Everything Will Be Alright In The End got a much fancier treatment than its iconic boxmate, however, with a sexy gatefold sleeve covered in the glorious artwork of Chris McMahon. There’s even a slick little lyric sheet tucked away inside.
As for the vinyl inside those sleeves, black, as they say, is indeed beautiful. Especially when it comes to fresh new wax.
Battle Of The Bandbox
Here’s the thing, there’s two new records in every single Bandbox. While it’s truly marvelous that the B-box team is doubling down on the wax every month, subscribers are certain to find themselves in the unique position of choosing a favorite from the two. Last month’s Neil Young box pulled a surprise on me for certain, but this month was sort of a no brainer. And with all due respect to Everything Will Be Alright In The End (an album I’m digging more and more with each new spin), it just doesn’t hold a candle to the album that gave us angst-fueled gems like “Undone – The Sweater Song,” “Buddy Holly,” “In The Garage,” and “Say It Ain’t So.” So lets all give a hearty congrats to The Blue Album, August’s official Battle of the Bandbox winner!
It’s the Bandbox You Want, And The Bandbox You Need
Look, the so-called “vinyl boom” is not gonna fade away anytime soon. If you’re one of the many who have found themselves giddily wrapped up in the madness, you already aware there are a million different options for getting your hands on some sweet, sweet wax. While I’d always encourage you to shop first at your local record store, I also understand that subscription vinyl clubs are an excellent way to help fill in/round out your growing collection.
If you’re looking to round out that collection a little sooner than later, a vinyl club that’s down to send you two worthy records every month is a pretty good way to go. With Bandbox delivering super high-quality pressings of albums by popular artists, they’re giving you a chance to both grow your collection with killer popular discs and discover something you might’ve overlooked (see comments on Everything Will Be Alright In The End). That savvy mix of quality and variety should make it easy for diehard vinyl fans and newbs alike to board the Bandbox bandwagon. Make sure you get on board today!