A Weezer Retrospective

A Weezer Retrospective

by Megan Maiden
07.02.2008

 

For fourteen years, Weezer has been cementing their rightful place in the history of rock and roll, bringing geek rock to the masses while remaining geeks themselves. With six albums, three bassists and squashed rumors of demise under their belts, the members of Weezer (Rivers Cuomo, Brian Bell, Pat Wilson and Scott Shriner) have experienced success, neglect, bitterness and enlightenment. As Weezer pushes forward with their latest effort, the Red Album, let’s take a look back at past glimpses of brilliance and missteps along the way:

Self Titled aka the Blue Album (1994)

Released in 1994, the success and influence that the Blue Album would have over the years could not have been predicted. Partly influenced by the grunge movement and produced by Cars frontman Rick Ocasek, Weezer managed to make preternaturally catchy pop songs out of grim subjects like alcoholism, discrimination, and depression. The Blue Album is full of songs that you can fall in love to, play in the background when you’re happy being alone, or trudging through a bout of bereavement and loss. Appealing, euphoric and timeless, the Blue Album continues to act as the measuring stick for what all ensuing Weezer albums are compared. With their Spike Jonze directed Buddy Holly, Weezer achieved massive video success due to their splicing of vintage Happy Days clips to coincide with their fictional concert at Arnold’s. Songs like My Name is Jonas, Say it Ain’t So, and Undone are as iconic as they are effervescent.

Pinkerton (1996)
Pinkerton never really had a chance to be the great, dark album it was meant to be. It is grittier, angrier and more aggressive then the Blue Album—and it freaked people out. If the Blue Album was euphoric, then Pinkerton was Cuomo’s Jagged Little Pill. Songs like Tired of Sex, Why Bother, No Other One and Pink Triangle weep with desperation, heartache, anger and bitterness. With a glimpse of hope shining across the sea, Good Life and El Scorcho feature a vulnerable yet tentatively optimistic Cuomo shirking off  his black troubles. Then Pink Triangle reveals that he’s fallen in love with a lesbian, so it’s back to square one. Pinkerton exemplifies sad, old bastard music when Weezer fans were hoping to bask in an extension of Blue Album’s adrenaline rush. Yet even though this album was a commercial failure, Pinkerton is full of dusty gems. Years later it would garner the critical acclaim and acknowledgement it deserved. With Matt Sharp’s departure and Cuomo deeply depressed, the future of the band was uncertain after Pinkerton.

Self Titled aka the Green Album (2001)
With friend and collaborator Mikey Welsh picking up the bass, the Green Album (aptly named for it’s neon green cover) marked the end to the five-year drought between albums. Weezer test-drove album material on the Van’s Warp Tour in addition to playing smaller gigs on the east coast. It’s hard not to compare the Green Album to the Blue; aside from being self titled, the Green Album was the band’s chance to return to their catchy pop roots. With almost formulaic precision, the Green Album showed a shiny, happy Weezer that longed to be embraced by the masses once again. Spawning the hook-riddled Island in the Sun, which promised “we’ll never feel bad anymore,” the Green Album assured wary listeners that Cuomo was over his depression. Meanwhile, the snazzy hand claps and optimistic lyrics of Photograph promised to rebuild the group’s soured reputation. Yet the Green Album’s first single, Hash Pipe, ostensibly focuses on a transvestite prostitute, proving that all was not sunshine and rainbows at the Cuomo household.

Maladroit (2002)
For Weezer to name their fourth album after a word that meaning “unskilled” and “bungling” was an unfortunately foreboding decision. Maladroit is an indulgent, awkward, trippy journey into the minds of a band in transition. Weezer strays from their standard 10 song track list and bloats the album with 13 songs, most of which were filler and remainders that did not make it to the Green Album. Cuomo had tried to give the fans a voice in choosing the track listing, but when he felt their picks were inadequate, he did it himself. Scott Shriner had joined the band as their bassist during the Green Tour and his rock-heavy influence is instantly evident on Maladroit. ‘Sad sack’ Rivers rears his head again on Death & Destruction, (“every time I call, you find some way to ditch me”) Slob and American Gigolo (“if you hate this, I can’t blame you”). Weezer’s second drug-related single, Dope Nose, along with Keep Fishin’, strike redeeming chords for Maladroit. Keep Fishin’ did float a fantastic music video featuring the Muppets, and really, everyone loves the Muppets, so that was bound to be a hit. Shortly after Maladroit wrapped, Cuomo embarked on a famous two and a half year journey into celibacy. In conjunction with his spiritual beliefs, he cited this self-abnegation as a feat that made him a better songwriter.
 
Make Believe (2005)
Make Believe did not receive overwhelming critical acclaim, but it did mark a turning point for Cuomo, who ended his celibacy, got married and had a baby after finishing the Red Album.  The Rick Rubin-produced Make Believe managed to sound like a typical Weezer record while permitting the band to shake off the cobwebs of previous albums and stand on its own when held up to the Blue Album. With Beverly Hills, Weezer secured their biggest hit yet, and the band partied at the Playboy Mansion with a few of their closest fans. The songs on Make Believe sound like something Cuomo would have listened to as a youth; the synth-heavy This is Such a Pity and piano intro to Haunt You Every Day have a distinct 80s feel to them, while We Are All on Drugs and Perfect Situation are among the best songs to hit 2005. When MTV refused to air We Are All on Drugs, Weezer kowtowed to record execs and changed the lyric to “We are all on love.”

Self Titled aka the Red Album (2008)
To the benefit of the band, the spirit of collaboration touched Weezer more on Red Album than on any previous efforts. Self-affirmed control-freak Cuomo included two fantastic tracks that were written and sung by Brian Bell (“Thought I Knew”) and Pat Wilson (“Automatic”). Scott Shriner leads “Cold, Dark World,” a creepy ode to obsession made dirtier Shriner’s chewed-up, spit-out vocals. “Troublemaker” could easily be the feverish confessions of a 13-year-old boy as that of a seasoned rock star. The honesty in which Cuomo writes about adolescence is magical; he mines the layers of complex, hormonal emotions that most of us want to leave in the past. “Pork and Beans” has become Weezer’s biggest single to date, no doubt boosted by the hits generated from its internet superstar inspired video. Weezer is not so much poking fun at these lovable crazies as applauding their unconventional swipes at notoriety (Im’ma do the things that I wan

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