Monday, May 5, 2008

Rivers Cuomo and the Mysterious Devolution of Weezer

At one time I would have been proud to proclaim myself a Weezer fan.  In fact up until 2001, which saw the release of Weezer's green album, the musical landscape had seen only positive contributions from Weezer, specifically Rivers Cuomo who is frontman and songwriter for the group.  As the release of the group's six album, dubbed the red album due to its cover art, approaches this listener felt a sense of nostalgia and a desire to listen to the Weezer's past catalogue overcame me.  As I turned my ear to the hours of released music a curious thought struck me.  Weezer is devolving.

The blue album, first in the lineup, is a classic record.  I love every song and can listen through the album in its entirety without once feeling the need to skip over a track.  The lyrics, though not overly deep or profound, have a quaint and reassuring consistency to them.  At times Cuomo seems to poke fun at the over lyricism some groups are given to.  The guitars and drums set great pop rhythms and are not overbearing nor do they fade into obscurity.

Pinkerton, Weezer's second release, is a completely different record but at least shows growth.  The lyrics keep to the same simplistic form from the blue album but are overly specific, referring to girlfriends by name and are very literal.  There is no room for interpretation as Cuomo is telling you what is happening.  The guitars have a much grittier lo-fi feel to them but given the dark nature of the songs fit well with the lyrics.  Many proclaim the album shows growth but as you go back through and listen to Weezer's catalogue this is clearly identifiable as the cracking up stage.  It is not a record that one can listen to straight through.  The dark tone doesn't vary, the first four songs are essentially the same, and by the time the listener is half way through its about time for a break. 

Their third release, the green album, is an attempt to return to the pop ballads that created such a diehard fanbase with the blue album.  It falls flat on its face.  It is the first album that Cuomo openly acknowledges his use of marijuana in his songwriting process, a fact that will continue to be loudly proclaimed and seen as detrimental on later releases.  The album has only three unforgettable songs, regrettably Hash Pipe, Photograph, and Island in the Sun.  The rest can be disposed of as, similar to Pinkerton, all other songs on the album are essentially the same tune just timed differently.

Maladroit is even more deplorable.  The guitars are all overbearing, fast paced, and the guitar solos, so unique and beautiful on the blue album, all unimaginatively follow the vocal line on each song.  Its as though Cuomo wanted to add another verse but decided to play the guitar instead of sing.  There is only one truly great song on the entire album, Keep Fishin', and the music video featuring the Muppets is more memorable than the song itself.  

To even mention Make Believe as a Weezer release hurts.  I would still have called Weezer a great group, despite their inability to remain consistently good, had this record never been released.  There is not one redeemable song on the entire album.  The lyrics have devolved into childish rhymes such as "When you're out with your friends/in your new Mercedes Benz/ and you're/on drugs."  Are you kidding me?  That is the LAMEST line in almost all of musicdom.   I would rather listen to Biz Markee warbling "You, you got what I need" than subject myself to the idiocy expressed on this album.  It is quite obvious Weezer, or at least Cuomo, wanted merely to cash in on their once good name for something.  Gee, is now a good time to bring up Hash Pipe from the GREEN album?  Seriously, that can't be a coincidence.

With Weezer's latest single, Pork and Beans, from their upcoming sixth album the group seems to have, musically, gone back to the Maladroit era.  Cuomo, though, still displays his wretched inability to write coherent or meaningful lyrics (lay off the ganj man).  I now cringe when asked if I like Weezer and must qualify my answer by excluding most of the green album and Maladroit and all of Make Believe.  I had to ask several acquaintances to stop bringing up the group around me as I realized that when they did I began to grind my teeth.  

So we come to the conclusion.  While the sixth album may show an evening out of sorts for Weezer, fans may be better off tracking down Single b-sides and listening to those.  There are about 17 studio b-sides the group released on their export Singles and if Pork and Beans is any indicator they should be better than the upcoming album. In other words, don't waste your time on what was once a good group and, in the name of good dental hygiene, don't talk about them around me.


britt said...

Whoa. Very well said. I really enjoy reading your blogs, especially your description of the events of 1992.

See you in a little bit!

Anonymous said...

Rivers Cuomo is one of the best songwriters ever. Pinkerton happens to be my favorite album of all time, and I can easily listen to it in its entirety. It sounds like you are a fan of the "mainstream" weezer music, which I in turn dislike the most; (with the exception of 'perfect situation'). Try graduating from Harvard while basically crippled and producing an album at the same time. Let me know how that goes for you.