Saturday, April 10, 2010

Weezy, We're Movin On Up

Now for a post that's been months in the making, my overview of the career to Weezer. This was a tough one for me because although I like Weezer a lot, I really don't know their music that well. I usually liked certain songs, well, just about every single or video they release, so when I bought their music I would buy the whole album just cuz it was only a few dollars more than the songs I was gonna buy anyway. I've done minimal research in this post, mainly because I enjoy being ignorant of the minutiae about Weezer so I can react just to the music the way I perceive it. I just got Rivers Cuomo's Alone: The Home Recordings and am listening to it right now. What a talented song writer this dude is! Anyway, on with the show this is it.

Weezer (blue album) - 1994

What's the big deal?

Lots of music for slackers, but what about the Nerds? A passing of the torch from 80s nerd rocker Ric Ocasek (The Cars) producing for the Weeze. Hello, hello again.

What were the hits / videos?

Aayyy! Everyone who saw MTV in the mid 90s remembers "Buddy Holly" with its Arnold lovin' Fonzie dancin' awesomeness. And thanks to the liner notes to the Rivers Cuomo cd I now know what it's about, the other band members making fun of his then girl friend. Their breakout hit was the disjointed "Undone (The Sweater Song)" with a clever video featuring unravelling fabric during band performance. The chunky "Say It Ain't So" was alt rock magic as well.

What about the rest of the album?

Last year I played this album for a month straight in my car to get better acquainted with this disc. And my findings are this is practically a flawless album from start to finish. Too bad I was burnt out on "new" bands by '94 (little did I know of the rap rock apocalypse that would soon begin), even though I liked "Buddy Holly" I wrote Weezer off as a flash in the pan. So I missed out on a band whose grungy guitars, hooky pop melodies and geek loser lyrics communicated some real angst. I found it easy to relate to jams like the obsessive/possessive "No One Else", the alienation of 'The World Has Turned And Left Me Here" or the silliness of "Surf Wax America". And after Guitar Hero how could I not enjoy "My Name Is Jonas", I can practically see those red and yellow discs flying at my plastic guitar now.

Pinkerton - 1997

What's the big deal?

It's not Pinkerton. Oh, wait it is Pinkerton. The birth of emo, let the whining begin.

What's the hits/videos?

"The Good Life" has a good beat and you can dance to it, amid an album of dreary toned musings it was the happiest track they could find. The video about a pizza delivery girl reeked of slacker baiting.

What about the emo?

This album is easily the most worshipped of the band's catalog. Weezer can't so much as blink at the internet without comments piling in about how "It's not Pinkerton". To me, Pinkerton is good but not as enjoyable as their debut. It is interesting, lots of introspective lyrics about a loneliness that fame, random sex and Asian girl fantasies can't fulfill. This album more than any other in their pantheon makes me feel like I'm meeting a person through music. The band does a good job of keeping the energy up despite the downer mood of these songs. As good as it is, I prefer Weezer when their happier and daffier as opposed to sad. My memory remembers this album as being a dud commercially, so at the time I felt like my assessment that they were a flash in the pan was correct.

Weezer (green album) - 2001

What's the big deal?

Weezy returns armed with a new attitude...

What were the hits/videos?

Doop doop, "Island In The Sun" was a big mellow hit with radio listeners everywhere. But the comeback song with the killer video was the Sumo throwin' "Hash Pipe", even if it did start an annoying trend of blatant drug songs in the group's song book. My personal favorite was the catchy "Photograph" and I wasn't the only one liking it, the song was later adapted for a series of camera commercials.

What about the rest of this thang?

And here is the point where I started to get into Weezer. Maybe it was out of desperation, rock music was really sucking at this point. I would see Korn and Limp Bizkit all over the charts and just feel old, unable to relate to the non melodic repetitiveness of rap / rock. In flew Weezer with a batch of fresh, peppy pop rock backed by tight production. The hits are what sold me on it, the rest of the album isn't quite as strong but is carried by the momentum of quality tunes at the beginning. I think at this point Matt Sharp wasn't in the band, I have no idea what his artistic contribution was to Weezer it just seemed like the press made it a big deal that he wasn't there. Think he had another band called The Rentals? Anyway, while not their greatest effort the green album came across as relaxed and happy, a real pleasure to listen to.

Maladroit - 2002

What's the big deal?

Kiss meets the Phantom Of The Park

What were the hits/videos?

The hits weren't that big from Maladroit, yet the videos were some of their best work. Lead single "Dope Nose" (again with the drug songs) showed the band shredding to a Japanese biker gang. "Keep Fishin" had Muppets. Can't go wrong there.

Was the rest of the album well adjusted?

Lots of buzz surrounded the release of Maladroit about how a 70s guitar rock influence would be heavily featured. And it was. Maladroit is probably the hardest, heaviest release they've had. Too bad the six string sting overtakes the songs, leaving a lot of good playing without solid songs to stick to. So a lot happens yet it leaves me cold. I put it on the CD player and spent the whole time leaving the room because I didn't care.

Make Believe - 2005

What's the big deal?

It's 2005, we all want to be Hugh Hefner.

What were the hits/videos?

No brainer, "Beverly Hills" was one of the biggest rock hits of the past decade. It was sort of a "We Will Rock You" for the 21st Century with its boom-boom-bap backbeat and Frampton Comes Alive worthy talk box guitar. And having a video with a bunch of Playboy Bunnies don't hurt either. Funner still was the clip for the excellent "Perfect Situation" with that girl from The Girl Next Door playing a Courtney Love type front woman for Weezer until sky lil Rivers Cuomo steps up and takes over. And of course there's "We Are All On Drugs" continuing Weezer's streak of dope driven numbers. Seem to remember some controversy over this song when it was released as a single.

Is the rest Make Believe?

Make Believe was produced by Rick Rubin who usually strips people's sound bare. Here he doesn't, Make Believe is the opposite in that it has a full sound with a smooth sheen. There's a workman like feel with songs that are consistently good and a conventional running time (45 minutes). Tunes like "This Is Such A Pity" and "The Damage In your Heart" stand out from the pack. I'd say this is the most mainstream they've sounded, but we're not up to Raditude yet. It is their most solid effort since their debut though.

Weezer (red album) - 2008

What's the big deal?

Why are the Village People on the cover? Why does the singer's voice keep changing?? What's going on???

What are the hits / videos?

First single "Pork and Beans" went viral by mashing in just about every viral You Tube clip in history into their video. At the same time, they were able to thumb their nose at DA MAN by writing about record company pressure to have a hit. Second single "Troublemaker" was fun pop rock even though it started to show Weezer's age. While it dudded on the charts, "The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived" was freakin' magnificent. Successfully combining rock, rap, choir, punk and a bunch of other styles into a cuisinarted blend made for a wild mix.

What about the rest?

Multiple producers, songwriters and lead singers make for the most schizoid outing in Weezer history. Other than the sappy "Heart Songs" it's not bad, just not great. I was hooked on the bonus track "Miss Sweeney" for a while which humorously juxtaposes a dictation type verse with a soaring chorus to illustrate a businessman's pathetic crush on his secretary. All in all, the red album comes across as one of those self indulgent things long running bands do to keep their mojo going. Interesting, but not essential.

Raditude - 2009

What's the big deal?

The older you are, the younger you feel.

What's the hits/videos?

The Butch Walker co-write "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To" was slick, snappy fun. The video about a bobble headed band members maiming themselves over a girl was OK.

Is there anything Rad about Raditude?

Sort of. The red album hinted at Weezer trying to reach for a fountain of youth on energetic tracks like "Everybody Get Dangerous" and "Troublemaker". That feeling takes hold on Raditude as the aging rockers aim for the tween set with polished empty cuts like "I'm Your Daddy" or "The Girl Got Hot". Worst of all, the band tries to go hip hop even roping in Lil Wayme (Weezer and Weezy!) for the ridiculous "Can't Stop Partying". Weezer is so hard up for exposure, they appeared in a commercial for the video game Rock Band as Taylor Swift's backing performers. There's a smell of desperation and flop sweat on Raditude, but taken in modest doses with lowered expectations tracks like the Thin Lizzy-ish "In The Mall" and the jaunty "Trippin On The Freeway" deliver fair entertainment.

Is That All?

Weezer is definitely one of my favorite geek rock bands and it's interesting to see how they bounce back and forth between what sells and what's arty. Though Raditude isn't my favorite disc, I hope one of those songs can catch on with the public anyway. If not, maybe it's time for a Snuggie!

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