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Often described as the PIXIES, PAVEMENT or NIRVANA meeting The BEACH BOYS, their blaring “nerdy” collegiate grunge/power-pop has seen WEEZER riding the crest of an American nu-new wave triggered by the likes of punk-rock cousins GREEN DAY and The OFFSPRING. Memorable songs probably at a premium, witty video promos seemed equally important to their global impact, as `Buddy Holly’ (complete with “Happy Days” pastiche) and `Undone – The Sweater Song’ suggested, way back in the mid-90s.
Formed February 1992, in Los Angeles, California, frontman Rivers Cuomo (vocals, lead/rhythm guitar) had been raised in an ashram in Pomfret, Connecticut (son of jazz saxophonist Frank Cuomo), while others such as Matt Sharp (bass, vocals), Patrick Wilson (drums) and Jason Cropper (guitar, vocals), had led a relatively “normal” life – up to joining the band, that is. Their Hollywood sheen impressed upon them through their initial live outings supporting Keanu Reeves’ DOGSTAR, it wasn’t long before Geffen/DGC Records knocked on their garage door.
Recordings at Electric Lady Studios got underway with RIC OCASEK at the decks. Cropper duly bailed out (reasons undisclosed) and was almost immediately superseded by guitarist Brian Bell (ex-Carnival Art), just in time to add backing vocals to their eponymous debut album, WEEZER {*8}. Released in May 1994, “The Blue Album” – as it became known to fans – steadily climbed the charts, peaking at No.16 on the back of US Modern Rock Top 10 entries for the aforementioned radio-play singles, `Undone – The Sweater Song’, `Buddy Holly’ and `Say It Ain’t So’; all three, even bigger triumphs in Britain where the album registered a Top 30 slot. Full of dirty killer hooks and vulnerable vocals by pop-culture Cuomo, the happy head-bopping `My Name Is Jonas’, `Holiday’ (later covered by Alvin & The Chipmunks) and the 8-minute finale, `Only In Dreams’, were strictly for their teenage fanclub.
Meanwhile, Matt Sharp was also busy with a side-project, The RENTALS (also featuring Cherielynn Westrich, Rod Cervera, Petra Haden, Tom Grimley and Pat Wilson), who released an album of poppy new wave-esque songs in `Return of The Rentals’ (1995).
A second, marmite-effect WEEZER album, PINKERTON (1996) {*9}, was a darker, different kettle of fish, although it brought the Top 20 band a bit of grief when the seasoned security firm of the same name brought a legal action. Based loosely on the Madame Butterfly opera opus, Cuomo had derived his version while attending Harvard College; its off-beat and sunshine-saturated songs stretching their geek cause on `El Scorcho’ (a UK Top 50 breaker), `The Good Life’ and `Tired Of Sex’.
Now without Sharp (who was replaced in 1998 by Mikey Welsh), the quirky quartet released their third, long-awaited Top 5 set, WEEZER (2001) {*7} – “The Green Album” bringing back geek-rock to the masses. Produced by a re-instated RIC OCASEK, Cuomo and Co constructed an emo-styled pop album that was met with cynical “crass commercialism” by its critics. Sure, on initial sing-a-long hook-lines of `Hash Pipe’, `Photograph’ and `Island In The Sun’, the saccharine surf was sickly sticky, only for further inspections to reveal the harder rock centres within `Crab’, `Knockdown Dragout’ and `Simple Pages’.
After a year of touring, the self-produced MALADROIT (2002) {*7} – a sort of companion piece to its predecessor – was unleashed into the Top 5. Short, sweet and very melodic (as always), Cuomo and crew (Wilson, Bell and new bassist Scott Shriner) had created another half-an-hour blast of guitar pop that was impossible not to like. The reasons why? Well, from the faux-thrash metal piss-take `Death And Destruction’, or grunge-y opener `American Gigolo’, or the catchy head-bopping single `Keep Fishin’’ (which featured the entire cast of the Muppets in its video) were reasons enough to bring about a spirited cheer.
Older, wiser and, dare one say it, a little less angst-ridden with their lot, the kings of geek-pop returned in May 2005 with MAKE BELIEVE {*5}, a Rick Rubin-produced new “tidal” wave of an album whose No.2 (UK No.11) chart position spoke fondly of how much folks had missed them. Transatlantic Top 10 opener, `Beverly Hills’, welded a Hollywood Babylon lyric and STEVE MILLER-time charm on to an “I Love Rock’n’Roll”-esque stomp, while `This Is Such A Pity’ bemoaned its failings with quintessentially – and fortunately fashionable – 80s pop-histrionica.
On another note entirely, RIVERS CUOMO diverted traffic into his own backyard, kicking off with the first of three volumes a la `Alone: The Home Recordings Of…’ (2007).
That colour-coded 7-year-itch raised its head again with WEEZER (2008) {*7} – “The Red Album”, another purposeful retro-grade rock set, this time produced by Midas touch man Rick Rubin. Their fuzzy formula intact without much of a radical makeover, the goofball geeks reached an impasse on punk-pop for `Troublemaker’, `The Greatest Man That Ever Lived’ and `Pork And Beans’, although the buck was passed to (“Space Twins”) Bell and (“Special Goodness”) Wilson for respective tracks, `Thought I Knew’ and `Automatic’.
Not quite Top 5 next time around with the JACKNIFE LEE-produced RADITUDE (2009) {*6}, the “wired” and wonderful WEEZER stepped back apace to the doo-wop or glam days, albeit with a modicum of rap with LIL WAYNE on `Can’t Stop Partying’. If Cuomo and Co had been listening to BILLY JOEL or his yoga mum’s music since their previous episode, it showed up on such hook-line cuts as `(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To’, `The Girl Got Hot’ and the exotic `Love Is The Answer’.
Their third album in only a few years, HURLEY (2010) {*6} – puzzlingly named after the “Lost” TV series character portrayed by actor/comedian Jorge Garcia – had 40-something Cuomo in collaborative mood, co-penning several cuts with the likes of:- RYAN ADAMS (on `Run Away’), DAN WILSON (`Ruling Me’), NO DOUBT’s Tony Kanal (`Smart Girls’), LINDA PERRY (`Brave New World’), DESMOND CHILD (`Trainwrecks’), Rick Nowels (`Hang On’) and the seasoned MAC DAVIS (`Time Flies’); the penultimate track standing the tallest among the fanciful punk-pop on this one-off Top 10-er for the Epitaph independent.
Republic Records were on board for 2014’s EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT IN THE END {*7}, and WEEZER were crunching the numbers again with the aforementioned CARS driver OCASEK. Stylish and succinct with that formulaic schizoid flick of the wrist between new wave pop and gargantuan garage-rock, the slick set had unearthed their best 3-minutes in years, `Back To The Shack’. Throwing in riffs by the barrel-load, Rivers detoured off the beaten track with the prog-ish `The Futurescope Trilogy’, while a song penned with Justin Hawkins (`I’ve Had It Up To Here’) was equally earworm-persistent as `Go Away’, the duet with BEST COAST’s Bethany Cosentino.
A nod to The BEATLES’ “White Album”, by definition that it was another colour-coded eponymous record – their fourth! – WEEZER (2016) {*7} roped in young-ish producer Jake Sinclair (who’d worked with FALL OUT BOY). In the spirit of the swinging 60s, although somewhat closer to The BEACH BOYS than the Fab Four (`Endless Bummer’ an amalgamation of both parties!), their 9th consecutive Top 10 set was aimed strictly for anthem-addled teens. Pleasing to the ear rather than the mind, one could hear SUPERGRASS-versus-ASH in `Wind In Our Sail’, JIMMY EAT WORLD in `Thank God For Girls’ and BEN FOLDS-meets-CHEAP TRICK for `(Girl We Got A) Good Thing’. In a word: full-on geekdom.
2017’s adulterated PACIFIC DAYDREAM {*5} was another album by middle-aged men hoping to cash-in on the emo-pop teen market; the once-revered WEEZER were duly reprimanded from a plethora of unimpressed fans when it only reached #23. Despite the crunching road trip of opening salvo, `Mexican Fender’, the cosmic Cuomo took the retro-pop BECK byway into cyberspace. To be pacific, songs that neither linked with, nor sounded like, the eponymous subject matter were vague and vexatious: we’re talking about the `Beach Boys’ track and follow-on `Feels Like Summer’; `QB Blitz’ was much more akin to BRIAN WILSON. The whole package was decidedly disappointing and left little room for improvement by way of repeated plays; all ‘n’ all, chip-shop-paper pop destined for landfill via the bargain bins.
Whilst 2018 was WEEZER’s year at finding minor chart solace a la TOTO cover, `Africa’ (the similarly-sourced `Rosanna’ had flopped), 2019 was the year that the band bounced back into contention – twice! As download singles continued to litter the streaming playlists, January spawned yet another eponymous WEEZER {*4} album – subtitled the “Teal Album”.
Arguably their worst and most sprawling set since the previous one (how it reached Top 5 status was a conundrum), Cuomo and Co karaoke’d their way through nine further carbon-copy electro-poppers plucked from the past: namely `Everybody Wants To Rule The World’, `Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ and `Take On Me’; and then there were complete disarray in `Happy Together’ (The TURTLES), `Paranoid’ (BLACK SABBATH), `Mr. Blue Sky’ (ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA), `No Scrubs’ (TLC), `Billie Jean’ (MICHAEL JACKSON) and `Stand By Me’ (BEN E. KING).
As a way to compensate for their previous slacker, accelerated supplement, WEEZER (2019) {*7}, was much more stylish; and definitely creative and clever. However, the “Black Album” – produced by TV ON THE RADIO’s Dave Sitek – only scraped up a Top 20 slot; “coming back to bite you on the bum” was the phrase that came to mind. Okay, there was a tendency to pigeonhole the record as “power-pop-punk”, but there was no denying the merits of the ROBBIE WILLIAMS-esque `Can’t Knock The Hustle’, the BADFINGER-ish `High As A Kite’ and the co-penned LAURA JANE GRACE anchor, `California Snow’.
© MC Strong 1996-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Apr2016-Jun2019

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