“Buddy Holly,” “Say It Ain’t So,” “El Scorcho”
Who Are They?
Power pop geeks with enough successful singles to make blink-182 jealous.
Four geeks from Los Angeles played their first show in 1992 opening for Keanu Reeves’ band Dogstar (yes, that was a thing). A year later, Weezer recorded its debut album with producer and Cars frontman Ric Ocasek. The band’s first single, “Undone (The Sweater Song),” was an instant hit, but Weezer’s popularity really exploded with “Buddy Holly.”
The Spike Jonze-directed video for “Buddy Holly” featured Weezer spliced into an episode of Happy Days. If you’ve never seen this video, shame on you. It’s hands down one of the best music videos of the ‘90s (and perhaps of all time).
Fueled by the success of “Buddy Holly” (the four VMAs and two Billboard awards kind of success) and the fairly popular third single “Say It Ain’t So,” Weezer (or “The Blue Album”) went triple platinum.
After that whirlwind of fame and fortune, Weezer took a break from touring and frontman Rivers Cuomo began to piece together the next album with an eight-track recorder. The original concept was a space-themed rock opera called Songs from the Black Hole. Thankfully, that idea was dropped in favor of Pinkerton.
Though initially viewed as a commercial failure and labeled as “one of the worst albums of 1996” by a Rolling Stone readers’ poll, Pinkerton eventually achieved cult status and is considered one of the greatest albums of the ‘90s. (And if I can’t convince you, and Pitchfork’s perfect 10 rating can’t convince you, maybe you should just listen to it for yourself.)
(Fun fact: Rivers took college classes at Harvard and Berklee College of Music off and on between 1995 and 2006. He graduated from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in English.)
Following Pinkerton, Weezer decided to take a break. Due to frustration and creative disagreements, the break turned into a hiatus until 2000.
Where Are They Now?
Releasing mediocre albums and playing shows on cruise ships (this sounds worse than it really is).
Weezer reunited in 2000 for the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan and released Weezer (or “The Green Album”) in 2001. Thanks to heavy MTV rotation of “Hash Pipe” and “Island in the Sun,” Weezer was able to enjoy renewed success.
Meanwhile, bassist Mikey Welsh was checked into a psychiatric hospital. He mysteriously went missing after the filming for the “Island in the Sun” video.
The recording process for 2002’s Maladroit was a little different from previous albums. Weezer decided to download demos on to its official website in return for fan feedback. The fans weren’t exactly helpful. The band’s original A&R rep Todd Sullivan said Weezer fans chose the “wackest songs.”
So Maladroit was released without fan feedback and ended up receiving generally positive reviews from critics. (And can I just say that "Keep Fishin'" is one of the best Weezer videos? I mean, it features The Muppets! How can you not love that?)
Make Believe, Weezer (or “The Red Album”) and Raditude followed Maladroit. I group them together because they’re basically the same mediocre album released under different titles. “Beverly Hills” (off Make Believe) and “Pork and Beans” (off Weezer) did do very well on the charts, but that doesn’t really make up for all the other songs.
After the release of Hurley in 2010, the band was hit with devastating news. On October 8, 2011, former bassist Mikey Welsh was found dead in a Chicago hotel room. Weezer performed in Chicago the next day and dedicated the concert to Mikey.
But Why Weezer?
There’s supposedly a new album in the works, but we may not see that for a while. For now, the band is heading to Australia in early 2013 for its first Australian tour since 1996.
What Does Sam Think?
Weezer was heavily influenced by my favorite band (Green Day, if you’re new to this blog), so me liking this band is kind of a given. (Also, check out the cover of "Worry Rock.")
Weezer is a band that floats between power pop and pop punk. What’s the difference, you ask? Answer: the word “punk.” I’m not going to get into an argument with anyone about what punk really means, so let’s just keep it simple, stupid. Power pop = bands like The Kinks, The Knack and Cheap Trick. Pop punk = bands like Green Day, blink-182 and Hüsker Dü. Listen and learn.
Back to Weezer. This band’s first few albums are golden. The Blue Album is an almost flawless debut album and Pinkerton is just genius. Songs like “Buddy Holly” and “Say It Ain’t So” are poppy enough to be played on mainstream radio, but have an underlying abrasiveness to them that appeals to the underground kids.
And let’s not forget about the “geek sheik” image. Rivers Cuomo’s black-rimmed glasses make all the ladies swoon and gave all those nerdy guys in bands something to hope for. That image definitely gave the band a universal appeal, as everyone seems to like nerdy boys-next-door.
Before I leave you, we should probably talk about Pinkerton in detail. I do consider it to be Weezer’s best album to date (and I’m probably not alone on this). It’s a bit more abrasive than The Blue Album and feels a bit more personal, especially with songs like “Tired of Sex” and “Across the Sea.” Each track is virtually flawless (both musically and lyrically), and admit it, "El Scorcho" is the best drunk sing-a-long song. I know from firsthand experience.
-- Sam Boyer, reporting from the ‘90s.