By: Eric Greenwood
I had always hated Weezer until a friend of mine gave me a mix tape with "Pink Triangle" off Pinkerton on it. The band that I had once pegged as hammy and slick throwaway pop punk now sounded self-effacing and intelligent and catchy all at the same time. I bought Pinkerton and became a full-fledged Weezer fan, despite the stigma (I even went back and bought the first album and learned to appreciate its sunny harmonies and rocking yet glazed over riffs). Apparently, I was not alone in my discovery that there was more to Weezer than what its debut album had imbibed into the public's consciousness.
Pinkerton was a raw and rocking album that abandoned the slick, smarty-pants image for embarrassingly honest yet clever lyrical hooks that showed a darker side to leader Rivers Cuomo. The album flopped commercially, and I remember being totally puzzled as to why. It wasn't for lack of catchy songs- that's for sure. "The Good Life" is, perhaps, still the band's most infectious pop song to date. Maybe it was the raw production that turned off fans in droves. Was the public so lame as to want just a batch of "Buddy Holly" remakes? I was glad Pinkerton flopped. Idiot masses don't know what's good anyway, right?
Apparently, Cuomo didn't take too well to failure. The huge chink in the armor around his ego was more than he could handle, so he went to Harvard. Poor fellow. Frustrated by the lack of adoring fans begging for his autograph, he dropped out two months shy of graduation and holed himself up in an apartment in LA and didn't speak to people for months. He hates Pinkerton – not because it's a bad album – but because it failed. This despite the fact that Pinkerton ignited some kind of underground cult that longed for Weezer's return. The irony is that all the hoopla around the release of Weezer’s long-awaited third album is in large part due to the loyalty of the fans that absolutely worship Pinkerton.
Weezer's third album sounds more like a prequel to its debut than any kind of advancement from Pinkerton. Cuomo's songwriting completely ignores the complexity and blunt emotions of Pinkerton in favor of the same slick production and syrupy harmonies of its debut, save for the rocking first single "Hash Pipe." Apparently, Cuomo wants the world to forget that Pinkerton exists, and he's gone to great lengths to recapture the momentum of the "Blue Album" right down to mimicking the artwork to a "t." Evidently, fame and chart success outweigh musical credibility and a loyal fan-base.
Don't get me wrong. Weezer's new album is good. Cuomo hasn't lost his penchant for irresistible hooks and harmonies. The crunch of his guitar may be softened by Ric Ocasek's production (another holdover from the "Blue Album"), but the riffs are there. "Don't Let Go" is fun, fluffy pop, and so is "Photograph" and so is "Crab", and so on. The thing is, after Pinkerton, I expect more. These songs are too impersonal- too typically Weezer. "Hash Pipe" defies the squeaky clean trend of the new album, though. It's a raunchy rocker with crazy lyrics, kick ass hooks, and bratty yet effective falsetto singing. MTV even bleeps the words "Hash Pipe" in the video, ensuring bad boy press. But don't expect anything else like it here.
"Island In The Sun" is such an obvious single. Cuomo gets to play an innocent dreamer, hamming up his choirboy vocals over the clean guitar riff. Success guaranteed. Call Spike Jonze for the video. Cuomo can churn out these ditties in his sleep, and he has a backlog of songs under his belt that would comprise a decade's worth of albums. For a guy that went through such a dark period in his life this album sure doesn't reflect it. Maybe, it's just his way of coping. Ignore the problem, blah, blah. I guarantee that Pinkerton won't just go away, though. Fans will demand it. He'll have to swallow his pride and face it.
In the meantime, though, this album is a worthy placeholder if not a slight cop-out. It grows on you with every listen. Songs like "Glorious Day" get stuck in your head and you're glad to have it there. What separates Weezer from the minions like Eve 6 and Marvelous 3 is the overwhelming personality inherent to every song- even the standoffish that comprise this third album. Once Cuomo gets over himself and realizes that good music is the bottom line- not buzz bins, and airplay, and screaming teenage girls- Weezer can reclaim its place on the throne it created with Pinkerton.