Weezer? I Hardly Know Her!

Here's an advantage I have over the rest of you: I've never heard Weezer. Apart from knowing that they were wildly popular in the '90s, I couldn't tell you a thing about them.

This fact made me the target of relentless hazing by the other music producers here at NPR earlier this year, when Stephen Thompson made some reference to Weezer that I didn't catch. This was immediately followed by a chorus of incredulous jabs over how, exactly, I could have possibly avoided hearing this band.

Here's how: I never listened to the radio, I didn't own a TV and none of my friends listened to Weezer. I also spent a good chunk of the '90s living abroad, so I was completely detached from American pop culture for several years.

weezer

After everyone at work jumped on me for being so clueless, my girlfriend took pity and loaned me her essential collection of Weezer CDs to study, including the Blue and Green albums, Pinkerton and Maladroit.

I'm embarrassed to say they've been sitting here on my desk for several months now and I still haven't listened.

Now Weezer has a new CD — their first in three years. From what I've been reading, a lot of long-time fans of the band think it's "a huge disappointment" or "the worst Weezer album ever." (Check out Amazon customer reviews or Metacritic.com). Of course, this happens all the time with bands that have been around a while. How many times have you heard someone say "I love (band name), but only their early stuff"?

It occurred to me that this was the perfect time to discover Weezer. Having no context at all for hearing the new album, I could listen as though they were some completely new band I was just discovering for the first time. I'm like that guy who emerges from a forest after hiding out for 60 years because he thinks there's still a war going on and he doesn't recognize anything in the modern world.

Okay, maybe not quite like that. But I've spent the past couple of days listening to Weezer's Red Album over and over and have come to one immutable conclusion: it's really good! Seriously, people. This is a great album. From the opening notes to the opening track, to the last note of the last track, I just loved it. Every song on the album is ridiculously infectious. The opener, "Troublemaker" has been banging around in my head all week and I seem powerless to stop it.

I was particularly surprised by how... surprising The Red Album is, from the deftly orchestrated choral part on "The Greatest Man that Ever Lived," to the "Sympathy-for-the-Devil" hoots on "Everybody Get Dangerous" and all the intermittent synth flourishes and crunchy guitar hooks. It really left me wanting more.

If I had one criticism of the Red Album, it'd be that it's all a little too perfect. It's so perfectly produced and so perfectly performed and polished that it felt, at times, a little soulless.

Anyway, it all makes me want to go back and hear the older Weezer albums. It also makes me wonder how many late-in-their-career albums I've dismissed by my favorite bands. Maybe I should give them a second chance, too.

Here's an interview NPR's Weekend Edition did with Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo.

Comments

 

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I'm voting for McCain because I didn't really pay attention to anything that Bush guy did.

Ignorance is fun.

Sent by Peter | 9:42 PM | 6-13-2008

Ha! What a great post. As a long-time Weezer fan (insert story here about first seeing the band play "Sweater Song" on Conan, falling in love and then meeting them several times on the Blue and Pinkerton tours), I can actually say that I think that this album is a nice change and step in the right direction. It isn't that Green, Maladroit and Make Believe didn't have some good songs on them--they did. It's only that we knew after the break following Pinkerton that Weezer became the very essence of a corporate rock band--exactly what us Gen Xers (chiming in here on the most recent podcast's topic) had been trained to despise.

With the release of Green, Rivers Cuomo became a businessman and we could hear it. And you can't blame him, really. That's what a lot successful bands do--i suppose.

But in the process, the music had its, as you say, soul sucked out of it. We fell in love with Weezer listening to the tender opus of "Only In Dreams", and getting hit with "Tired of Sex"'s maniac guitar solo. We waited for more of that emotion, or even a little bit of El Scorcho-like fun ("Watching Grunge leg-drop New Jack through a press table"), and all we got was an Island in the Sun, some burndt up hash, and another song about Beverly Hills.

So, on Red, some of that playfulness is back. And it is sooo welcomed! Now, we just need to convince Rivers to get his old heart back out on his sleeve--that's where we like it best.

Rivers made his fortune on an insatiable ability to write a hook, but But what followed in Green, Maladroit and Make Believe wasn't just a lack of

Sent by Jon | 10:23 PM | 6-13-2008

Of all the drivel on the Internet, nothing has managed to get under my skin quite enough for me to post a comment until now. So congratulations on that, first of all.

Weezer was one of my favorite bands in high school. I went to see them a couple times, and I still remember the release date of the green album: March 15, 2001--the same date R.E.M. released Reveal, coincidentally. I wanted to like it so much, but after listening to it for a couple weeks I had to accept that Weezer had lost it. The lovable Brian Bell was gone, and it seemed the rest of the band couldn't quite balance out Rivers' horrible pretentiousness.

Of course out of context, the red album is perfectly catchy and listenable; Rivers certainly has a talent for calculated poppiness. But compare the videos for Buddy Holly and Pork and Beans to see the difference. In Buddy Holly, the guitar riffs are freer, the lyrics are cleverer, and the song is as classic as Happy Days. By comparison, Pork and Beans is as disposable as every Internet meme the video spoofs.

So, no, not having ever heard Weezer before is not an advantage over the rest of us. And it isn't just a band that people claim to only like the early stuff because it makes them sound hip. Weezer has exactly two essential albums: their original self-titled one and Pinkerton. Since then, they've just been another pop band. Let me know if you're still listening to that red album ten years from now.

Sent by Katie | 9:57 AM | 6-14-2008

Uhm, Brian Bell's been in the band since the Blue album..

Sent by John | 5:34 PM | 6-14-2008

"The lovable Brian Bell was gone, and it seemed the rest of the band couldn't quite balance out Rivers' horrible pretentiousness."

No, Ms. Superfan. Matt Sharp left the band. Brian Bell is still in Weezer, as evidenced by his song, "Thought I Knew," on the red album.

Sent by Jason | 6:02 PM | 6-14-2008

um they lost matt sharp for the green album. not brian bell. although he is loveable.

Sent by Blake | 6:09 PM | 6-14-2008

Very well written, I have always wondered how someone would feel about new weezer with no preconceived notions or knowledge of their old stuff. You should write reviews on the Weezer albums in REVERSE order (so Make Believe next, Maladroit, Green, Pinkerton, then Blue last). I would LOVE to read those.

Sent by Nick | 8:00 PM | 6-14-2008

What we have here is generic rock. I don't know who is the most same-sounding group in history. It's someone somewhere in the 2 inches difference between Jonas Brothers and Cold Play. My choice is Counting Crows, but Weezer works too.
Listen closely - same generic electric guitar sound, same generic base sound, same generic drumming, same generic voice sound, same generic productions, same generic - can mean anything - meaningless lyrics, same lack of background vocal quality in the arrangement, same lack of songwriting skills. Wow they've managed to stand out in no way whatsoever.!!!
Now that's the true genius of generic rock - perfect for background music for car ads.
Generic rock rules - rules this blog and all last century bad clone music.
Why not do a post of what band sounds most generic?

Sent by Tom Hendricks | 10:16 PM | 6-14-2008

I need to respond to Katie's post, from above:

1. Brian Bell is still in the band. He's been there since '94.
2. It's not called "Sweater Song."

I have a feeling you're not really a "long-time Weezer fan."

Sent by Gimme Some Love | 10:41 PM | 6-14-2008

The loveable Brian MIGHT AS WELL have left for Green, he is nowhere to be heard! Its all Rivers singing in harmony with Rivers, pfft... Nice review of Red by the way!

Sent by R | 7:06 AM | 6-15-2008

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnYD-_8uUpA-brilliant cure tune from one of their newer albums. Like a grown-up Friday, shows that Robert smith's still got it in him to craft brilliant tunes, along with a lot of their other post-millennial output.

Sent by Nich S. Brook-Hart | 12:41 PM | 6-15-2008

Ooh--"longest-time" fan pissing contests are so useful and constructive!

Point is Weezer is a great band and we're starting to be reminded how much we love them on this new album. The song "Miss Sweeny" on the deluxe version of the album blows my little mind!

Sent by Jon | 5:17 PM | 6-15-2008

I don't care - I love the Green album. And, I love Monster (maybe not as much as the IRS catalog, but still) and Style Council. Life is too short and music too beautiful to spend time looking for reasons to hate something. Bands change, we change, life goes on.

Sent by Ann V. | 12:24 PM | 6-16-2008

Yes, I agree. Weezer is still dope, just not in the way they were when they were a little bit agnsty. Which is fine really. Who needs all that stress?

Sent by Tim | 5:08 PM | 6-16-2008

Most Weezer fans are just obsessive and overly critical. Weezer has reinvented itself six times in the last 14 years; that alone should earn them some credit. This new album is yet another milestone for an amazing American rock band. It's time to stop waiting for Pinkerton 2 and embrace new material!

Sent by Dan | 7:26 PM | 6-16-2008

Maybe it's because I'm more of a tune guy than I am a lyrics guy that I fail to understand why people feel personally slighted that Weezer didn't choose to regurgitate the mopey, emo vibe of the Blue Album and Pinkerton on their subsequent albums. The only thing that bothered me (slightly) about the Green Album was the fact that all the guitar solos were just mimics of the vocal melodies. Come on, "O, Girlfriend" wasn't mopey enough? And "Smile" isn't exactly bubblegum, either. I think they've shown tremendous versatility and musical growth throughout all of their albums, even though Make Believe was a huge disappointment to me. I think if you're a fan of well crafted music, whatever the genre, it's easy to follow Weezer from album to album. If you're more interested in how the music affects your emotions, then I guess it makes sense that the Red Album wouldn't sound very appealing upon first listen. But when you get tired of listening to all your Cure, Dashboard, and Deathcab albums, you might give the new album a second chance. There's a lot of great self-deprecating humor in there, and the last track should be a highlight for fans of old school Weezer. It's as beautifully melancholy as "Only in Dreams", only with more affective use of dynamics.

Sent by Andrew | 10:35 PM | 6-16-2008

My thing with Weezer is that I thought the Blue Album was great and a lot of fun. With Pinkerton, they took a step forward both musically and lyrically. Then with Green and those that followed, I felt that they took a step backward in an effort to avoid being disappointed by low numbers and iffy reviews like they had with Pinkerton. Rivers really put himself out there on Pinkerton, and it was almost like he took it as a personal affront that the album didn't perform well.

After Pinkerton it seemed liked they sacrificed personality and soul for good reviews and sales.

They still write their brand of pop better than anyone out there, and I do enjoy the latter albums, but I haven't had the connection that I did with Blue and Pinkerton, and that is why I'll always come back to those two albums over any of the others.

Sent by Brian | 10:33 AM | 6-17-2008

The lack of soul is exactly why early Weezer fans have abandoned the new stuff. I embraced the Green Album as a middle finger to all those who critiqued Pinkerton for being too emotional. But at this point it seems to be formulaic, too thought out, and purposeful.

Sent by Dave | 8:36 PM | 6-17-2008

That was a great blog post but don't you think it would have all been a better song idea than a blog post?

Well I'm gonna write that song about someone who's never heard Weezer.

And from this point forward if anyone else decides to do the same then you're stealing my idea!

Sent by Schnitzel | 1:43 AM | 6-18-2008

Weezer already wrote a song about a girl who'd never heard Green Day.

I love the idea of a record review from someone who has no context with which to judge the record. How can you possibly get a more honest reaction? I haven't listened to Weezer since I was disappointed by the Green Album but maybe I'll give this one a listen. Might go back and listen to the last few as well.

Sent by John McAteer | 2:38 PM | 6-18-2008

I've never been a big Weezer fan and I can understand how you never listened to them 'til now (I don't listen to much radio or watch TV either), but I AM a total internet addict so I will say that the music video for "Pork and Beans" is great. I've never been a big Weezer fan but a friend forced me to watch the video and I think my life is better for it, hahaha.

Sent by Tamara Vallejos | 1:00 AM | 6-19-2008

I'm going to admit it. I was sort of like you. I hadn't heard Weezer until last year when all my friends hounded me. Also, references continually came up. I decided that this band must be absolutely amazing for how often they appear on top lists.

I listened to all the albums on and off for months. I just couldn't get into them. I honestly cannot figure out what made everyone love them. In fact, recently I deleted them off my ipod. It is the only band to EVER receive that honor from me.

Maybe I need to listen to their new one. It might change my opinion...

Sent by Matt | 5:44 PM | 6-19-2008

"Weezer has exactly two essential albums: their original self-titled one and Pinkerton. Since then, they've just been another pop band. Let me know if you're still listening to that red album ten years from now."

Sent by Katie | 9:57 AM ET | 06-14-2008

^^
This is what I came here to say.

Sent by Jeremy McBane | 12:56 PM | 6-20-2008

Bwaaaaah!

Sent by G.Wicks | 2:04 AM | 6-26-2008

"I asked you to go to the [Weezer] concert
You said you never heard of them
How cool is that?"

Sent by Brandon | 7:33 PM | 6-26-2008

Thanks you for writing this.

Sent by Emily | 9:34 PM | 6-29-2008

Was this not the band you boys liked?

Maria

Sent by Richard | 1:29 PM | 6-30-2008

"Weezer has exactly two essential albums: their original self-titled one and Pinkerton. Since then, they've just been another pop band. Let me know if you're still listening to that red album ten years from now."

Amen to that!

Sent by June | 6:37 PM | 7-1-2008

I was about 9 or 10 when I first heard the blue album. I used to sneak into my sister's room once a week or so to steal it and listen through it over and over.

Sent by Mike M | 12:22 AM | 7-8-2008