Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Take Two: Weezer

There are a lot of people who don't like Rivers Cuomo and his band Weezer. Some don't like his style altogether, others don't like the directions he's taken the band in the years since their resurgance with The Green Album. I don't really care, because I am a huge Weezer fan. Always have been, always will be. There are a few bands that I will follow in whatever musical direction they wander, and Wezer is one of those bands. Here's my take on their albums:

Weezer (Blue Album)

"Say It Ain't So" - It's a wonderfully vivid story told through the lyrics, and the chorus roars through as Rivers rises to a scream. The most powerful point may be when he suddenly crescendos during the second verse, ending on "be cool." The guitar intro is great as well.

"Only In Dreams" - My personal favorite Weezer song of all time. Its an epic track that builds through its immense bridge slowly but surely, rising to a climactic finale. It starts off blissfully, and its transformation into a slow burner is fantastic.


"Across The Sea" - Rivers plagarized a letter from a Japanese girl so badly in this song that he actually gave her a minor songwriting credit. It's the apex of sexual frustration that inhabits the album, without a doubt their best in my mind. The lewd fantasies of the narrator give way to youthful lonliness, and the emotional and generation shift in the tone of the lyrics is a reason why I believe Cuomo is such a gifted songwriter.

"The Good Life" - After the frustration that haunts the entire first half of the record, this track begins side two by shoving off the complacency and vowing to get back to partying and getting out there. I love the transitions on this record, and the sequencing is excellent, especially with these two songs right after one another, then "El Scorcho" and "Pink Triangle" in succession. It plays through like a great sexually frustrated narrative.

Weezer (Green Album)

"Photograph" - Returning with a new record after 5 years, The Green Album was full of short, punchy, almost teaser songs for the new incarnation of the band. "Photograph" is my favorite of the short, sweet, simple songs on this record.

"Island In The Sun" - Yeah its cheesy, and now its overplayed and used in commertials, but its still a wonderfully relaxing and happy song, great to listen to in the summertime. I'd gladly put a couple more songs from Pinkerton in place of these two, as I find the album to be too short to really offer great songs, but these are some of the best on the record.


"Keep Fishin'" - Any music video that features the Muppets is okay in my book. I love the riff, the chorus, the lyrics, the rocking, everything about this song is what I like about Weezer...except for maybe a little turned down relaxed vibe.

"Burndt Jamb" - Speaking of a great relaxed vibe, this is the buried gem on Maladroit, perfect for sitting back and chilling, with a little guitar solo chucked in for kicks. I like the balance between virtuosic solos and chilled-out verses on this album a lot.

Make Believe

"Perfect Situation" - Almost ten years down the road, and Rivers is still as frustrated as he was on Pinkerton. Much like with Dashboard Confessional, it may be odd to hear the romantic frustrations of a thirty-something, but Rivers makes it work most of the time. The chorus might be a bit weak, but the verses are another great dose of his romance storytelling.

"This Is Such A Pity" - A welcome change of pace and stylistic exploration for the band, I really like the 80s feel and straight-ahead, no stopping sensability of the track. It's another reconciliation track with romance breaking down, but it wouldn't be a Weezer song if there wasn't at least a little of that.

Weezer (Red Album)

"Troublemaker" - Originally intended to be the first single from the record (until the record label-dissing "Pork and Beans" came along in the final sessions for the album with Jacknife Lee), I really like the simplicity of the song. It's no nonsense, simple progression, and really catchy.

"The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations On A Shaker Hymn)" - A great epic track that changes styles about every 30 seconds, adding a choir here, a power ballad guitar there, and everything between. It goes on for a long time, but I enjoy hearing the quick changes and the myriad of styles the band molds to each time they switch. A lot of people have grown tired of how Cuomo does his songwriting, but he does take it seriously, and I think there are legitimately great songs on every Weezer album. You just have to give the stylistic change a chance, and it'll grow on you.

Non-Album Tracks
"Jamie" - From the Deluxe Edition of The Blue Album, another one of Rivers' perfect lyrical portraits. It's got romance, a tinge of humor in the heartbreak, and a great sound.

"I Just Threw Out The Love Of My Dreams" - The only surviving song from the aborted Songs From the Black Hole album/musical to have full female vocals. It shows off how that concept would've sounded when fully realized, and I have to say, it would've been awesome. People have compiled demos and unreleased tracks to form the unfinished album, and Songs From the Black Hole sits in Top 10 lists of best unreleased or unfinished albums all the time. The female vocals are from Rachel Haden of the band that dog, and now the reformed version of Weezer ex-bassist Matt Sharp's The Rentals. It's a shame the album never got finished, but this one suriving, essentially finished look makes me lament the loss of the fully realized album.

So there's another one of my favorite groups whittled down to just a few tracks per album. I'd love for them to return to the form of their first two albums, but they've gotten too old to express that kind of feel in an album. I just hope they find a groove as they grow older to make something that everyone can appreciate as much as their first forays.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Great call on the Pinkerton tracks. "Only in Dreams"? Possibly the best Weezer track of all time. The most recent albums have caused me to somewhat abandon the band, but I still have a mad soft spot in the ol' heart for Cuomo and Co.