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My bouts with Weezer

July 30, 2008

If you’ve been 16 at any point in the last fifteen years, you’ve undoubtedly had a favorite Weezer album (or at least a favorite single). As a result, Weezer is both one of my most hated and most loved bands. They were exactly what I needed when I was 16, and they’re exactly what 16 year olds are looking for today. It’s not that the demographic hasn’t changed at all (look at awkward geeky fans of the early career and the teenie-bopper fans of their later career), but they’re still playing music for the youth. They’re no longer playing music for me. In fact, they stopped a long time ago. However, I’m just now coming to terms with this.

I’d like to take you through a musical journey here: album-by-album, stage-by-stage.

The early years: Blue & Pinkerton

I’ll be honest–during this period of time I was still going through my ska/punk phase so I didn’t give Weezer much more than a glance–it’s only once I started highschool that I realized exactly how incredible these albums were. This is the stage of Weezer’s career that we all like to believe they still embody: the geeky high school kids playing dungeons & dragons, then taking a break to write awkwardly catchy power-pop songs about goofing off, vulnerability, girls, and pop culture. They had a sound that was incredibly tight musically yet it had a rough feel to it as if the guys had just picked up their instruments and immediately were bestowed the talent with which to play them–they merely had to write the songs. They can match pitch (sometimes), the rhythms have a simplistic yet unconventional 4/4 chugging feel and the solos often sound a little chaotic (as if they were just messing around and said “hey, that sounds pretty cool… do that again”). It sounded like Pixies mixed with Green Day (and a little bit of Violent Femmes thrown in for good measure).

Once Pinkerton was recorded, the band had adopted a more mature sound (well, they were sounding 18 instead of 16) and the songs had a much more conceptual feel to them. Oh, it was still awkwardly catchy power-pop, don’t get me wrong, but there seemed to be more purpose and truth in the songs than in Blue’s feel-good aesthetic. It seemed like there was much more emotional investment in this record. It bombed. Today it’s considered their masterpiece.

The second coming: Green, Maladroit, & Make Believe

Weezer took 5 years before releasing another album after Matt Sharp left to pursue The Rentals full-time. When Green was finally released, it had so much hype behind it that it was immediately picked up by mainstream culture. Not only that, but Weezer had learned how to harmonize. Their instrumentals were tighter and there seemed to be more method to their songs (verse-chorus-verse, solos that echo the verse structure). Basically, they didn’t sound like Weezer anymore. Fans lauded it as a more accessible (although Weezer was always accessible IMO), less awkward, and even more catchy pop record. Critics and former-fans claimed it sounded like it was shat out of a factory that churned out mediocre pop records with mass appeal. Where was the geeky awkwardness and the rough-around-the-edges sound that they had adored so much when they were 16?!

Maladroit was then released with a bit more sensitivity to the old Weezer fans and was as close as they’ve come to their old-style since the release of Green. It had longer solos that didn’t merely sound like the verse on guitar and it had hooks that had less of a mass-produced sound to them. However, it had almost completely foregone its pop-punk roots and had matured incredibly in its musical style (more complex rhythms that no longer focused on power chords). Unfortunately, this is not what the old fans were looking for either.

Make Believe was just garbage. It was eaten up by 2005’s MTV demographic. It sounded like they had given up on integrity.

“We’re Weezer, what do you want?!”: The Red Album

After the amazing sales of Make Believe yet the loss of whatever dignity their music had left, Weezer was left with one option: to say “Fuck it. Let’s write some pop songs.” The Red Album was released in 2008. All that needs to be said can be said in their near-six-minute anthem, ‘The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn).’ It’s obvious that Weezer doesn’t want to be the Weezer that we loved when we were 16, they want to be Weezer for the 16 year-olds in today’s world… and they don’t give a shit what you think.

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