Oh Weezer, Where Did It All Go So Wrong?
Photo courtesy of Press Here Publicity
Stockholm Syndrome is a traumatic bonding experience of sorts, one in which a kidnapping victim begins to feel sympathy for his or her captor. Weezer fans identify with this phenomenon all too well.
Among the most faithful, adoring fans in rock – slightly above Dave Matthews defenders, slightly below Tool fans, not even close to Radiohead apologists – Weezer fans saw a little of themselves in the quartet when it exploded on the scene with 1994's self-titled “Blue Album.” Like members of the band, many Weezer fans weren’t the popular types. They didn’t get the girl in high school. In fact, many were outcasts who identified with the band’s disaffected take on nerd life.
Essentially, Weezer – who plays Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on Friday night, along with Panic! At the Disco – was a badass rock band for people who, in the traditional sense, weren’t badass at all.
This created a social scene of sorts among Weezer fans. Weezer was their band, their representative in the musical landscape, one dominated in the mid-'90s by the ashes of the grunge movement, East Coast/West Coast gangster rap and Hootie & the Blowfish.
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Front man Rivers Cuomo was the mouthpiece of this tight-knit unit, a Brian Wilson type of songwriter who masked pain and angst with happy-go-lucky delivery. A musical dawn was on the horizon in the mid-'90s, and Weezer was poised to take the mantle as the most unlikely kings of rock and roll.
And then Cuomo went and fucked it all up.
Anyone with a taste for pop-rock music in the mid to late '90s knows the story of Weezer. The aforementioned “Blue Album” gave rise to a trio of hit singles – “Undone (The Sweater Song),” “Buddy Holly” and “Say It Ain’t So.” The album, despite never entering the Billboard Top 10, went triple platinum in the U.S. and sold nearly 7 million copies worldwide.
Then came Pinkerton.
Follow-ups to musical breakthroughs are never easy, and Weezer’s 1996 sophomore effort – at least initially – was considered a failure. Singles failed to stick on rock radio, sales were sluggish and reviews were mixed. Many regarded Weezer as a flash in the pan; their Revenge of the Rock Nerds reign was over before it ever really began.
Cuomo took this failure hard, as he considered Pinkerton among his more personal songwriting efforts. He even went so far as to call the album “a source of pain.” In short, Cuomo – post “Blue Album” – had the capital to pour his heart into Weezer’s sophomore effort. He went for it, and the reaction was a collective yawn.
The band’s relationship with its fans has never recovered.
Sure, after a five-year sabbatical, Weezer returned with the self-titled “Green Album,” which featured hits like “Island in the Sun” and “Hash Pipe.” The album went platinum, and for a spell, Weezer were again the darlings of nerd-rock.
But herein lies the issue – Pinkerton is a fantastic album that meant something to Cuomo, one that was dismissed upon its release but has since come to be regarded by many as the highlight of Weezer’s catalog. The "Green Album,” meanwhile, is a formulaic, bland effort, one penned by a man frustrated with a musical landscape that spurned Pinkerton, but one who still needed to make a living churning out pop-rock hits.
Pinkerton couldn’t be more personal; the “Green Album” couldn’t have been any less so.
Ever the misanthropic one, Cuomo seems to have made it his mission over the past 15 years to troll and torture Weezer fans for turning their backs on his sophomore opus. For 2002’s Maladroit, Cuomo and company went with the experimental approach of having fans help select which songs make the album; members later acknowledged this approach as a failure.
The war was on.
Following Maladroit, a critical and commercial disappointment, Cuomo and crew followed up in 2005 with Make Believe. Yes, it’s the one that features “Beverly Hills,” one of the worst songs Weezer ever produced. From there it was on to 2008’s self-titled “Red Album,” featuring two more of the worst tracks the band ever recorded – “Heart Songs” and “Pork & Beans.” The worst part about these tunes? It appears that Cuomo was almost intentionally producing bad music just to antagonize listeners.
Raditude and Hurley barely deserve acknowledgement, and while 2014’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End seemed to thaw the ice a bit between Cuomo and his legion of fans (“Back to the Shack” is essentially an apology set to music), the damage was done. The album debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard charts, but has since barely cracked 100,000 units sold; Weezer’s latest, the self-titled “White Album" — while a fairly solid effort, in Cuomo's defense — came and went as well, a textbook case of too little, too late.
As Cuomo has continued to sabotage what was once a promising band, each of Weezer’s last five albums has sold less than its predecessor. Silly singles and trolling of a loyal-to-a-fault fan base inevitably run their course.
Apparently, even Stockholm Syndrome has an expiration date.
Weezer and special guests Panic! at the Disco perform Friday, June 10 at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands.
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