Weezer: Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Nov 14th, 2007 // 48 Comments

weezer.jpgMTV writer wants to know why he’s no longer moved by the (new) work of one Rivers Q. Cuomo, Esq. Idolator writer occasionally finds himself wondering same thing. “It is because both of you are no longer 20-years-old,” you say. Perhaps. But is that it entirely?

I remember working at the offices of my college newspaper when Green came out. I ran down to the record store, paid like $12.99 for it, brought it back and threw it in the CD player. Thirty-odd minutes later, it was over, and that’s about the best thing I can say about it. It was underwhelming in every possible way (though it has slightly improved with age; “Island in the Sun” is a karaoke fave) and right then, I should’ve known. Weezer and I were done.

But I did not know how to quit them. They got another, even more “rock”-looking bassist, made another album I didn’t like (Maladroit, which, to be fair, almost no one liked) and started to resemble Weezer in name only. They took another break, announced that they were working with Rick Rubin,, and pulled me back in once again. “Surely,” I thought, “this album will be great.”

Only it wasn’t. It was Make Believe, a record that only pushed Cuomo’s arena-rock aspirations further into the spotlight. When I spoke to Weezer at the kickoff of their tour with the Foo Fighters (held, somewhat fittingly, in an arena in suburban Georgia), they are strangely standoffish when I mention the good old days, and Cuomo gives me just 13 minutes — total — for a sit-down interview, because he must go meditate before the concert begins. And I began to think that maybe Weezer weren’t the problem — perhaps it was me.

Actually maybe the “meditate before the concert” was the red flag and the real problem is that flotation tank jerk Rick Rubin clearly flooded Cuomo’s brain with a steady diet of mumbo babble and crystals and chakras and herbs and spices. Have you listened to the excruciatingly vacuous “vulnerable” lyrics on most of Make Believe lately? (It’s okay if you haven’t.) Forget the suddenly-no-longer-faux headbanger riffs because the slippery slope here was actually self-actualization on wax. Dude needs to relearn the value of shame and/or heavily coded metaphor and/or non-personal bubblegum tunes. At least the “it’s all Rubin’s fault” theory is the one I’m sticking with so as to not to be bummed every time I’m forced to compare a new Weezer album (coming soon!) with Pinkerton. (For the record, I do not share this guy’s middling opinion of the Green Album [yay] and Maladroit [sure, why not].)

Why Can’t Fans Quit Weezer? [MTV]

  1. King of Pants

    Matt Sharp. Matt Sharp. MATT FUCKING SHARP. He may have been a smarmy lunatic, but MATT GODDAMNED TO HELL WHY AM I PARTYING WITH DAMON ALBARN SHARP.

  2. NickEddy

    I think Pinkerton was a fluke, self-excoriating-wise. Reading up on these guys, Rivers was a dumb Firehouse-style metal dork until about a week and half before Weezer coalesced. He heard “Velouria” or some shit and said “Wait! Whitfield Crane and Duff broke up…maybe I need to move in another direction.”
    Make Believe is vacuous as all hell, sure, but there actual tunes. I think the error some make is believing RC was ever some font on sincerity in the first place. Taken as pop trash, they’re still great tunes. That Pfork 0.0 was retarded.

  3. How do I say this ... THROWDINI!

    I will happily buy every Weezer album released as my thank you to Rivers, etc. for Pinkerton. That album is so f-ing great that I feel like I owe it to them.

  4. Bazooka Tooth

    It was not all Rubin’s fault at all! These dudes were done when they started pushing the Green album as: ‘Look were dorks, and that is so cool! As for anything else interesting…um, hey did I mention we’re dorks?!’. They have not had anything interesting to say, or even played fresh music since Pinkerton. I’ll take the blue album and Pinkerton as desert island Top 100, sure, but after that, who cares? I didn’t even know they were still a band, nor where my copy of the green album even is.

  5. The Van Buren Boys

    @sjc: Thank you, this really isn’t complicated whatsoever. Rivers was always a metal geek to an extent and it was Matt Sharp who was able to make the band actually good. Just listen to Maladroit and it’s pretty obvious. Their first two albums are classics but it’s been steadily downhill since then.

  6. Bob Loblaw

    Nice to see some decent writing on MTV.com. “Lorenzo Lamas in
    spectacles” will snake its way into my nightmares tonight. People don’t
    like Maladroit because it’s nothing like Pinkerton. It’s a strong
    record. Strings of single-clause sentences are insufferable. Me go now.

  7. enriquez the water bottle

    I actually still stick up for the Green album a little bit more than other people do, but, yeah, they’re dead to me after that.

    I’ve seen interviews where Rivers has stated something to the effect of how he’s happiest with this current music, and that this is how he really feels. And I get the same vibe I got from George Lucas when he announced that the re-worked original trilogy is how he had always envisioned it, and that we should accept that.

    Really, George? With Greedo shooting first, and Han stepping on Jabba’s tail, and the sunset sky backgrounds in Cloud City? That’s what we’re supposed to like?

    Same with Weezer. It’s like Rivers went back in time, found me in 11th grade, and kicked me in the testicles. “You like Pinkerton? Too fuckin’ bad. Here’s ‘Beverly Hills.’”

  8. bcapirigi

    i’ve always thought that weezer fans (at least the ones in my immediate vicinity) were the most annoying people on earth. like, when pinkerton came out and everybody hated it, and then the green album came out and everybody said it was awful and pinkerton was way better, and then maladroit came out and everybody hated it and said it was a major step down from the green album. like, fine if you odn’t like something, but stop saying you liked things i had to listen to you complain about for three years. god!

    also, i think the green album is the best. o girlfriend kinda brings a tear to my eye still.

  9. Al Shipley

    @Aquemini: Hold on, wasn’t ‘Look were dorks, and that is so cool! As for anything else interesting…um, hey did I mention we’re dorks?!’ the angle for every Weezer album?
    I’ve never understood why Weezer fans think a band having new albums that aren’t as good as their earlier ones is some unique and unforgivable experience that only they understand.

  10. Mick Kraut

    I for one have loved GREEN from the day it was released…to this day it still is a fun poppy record…I think it is a strong record…but it seems I am in the minority…

  11. SuperUnison

    Rivers quit making things personal. As a result, they got shitty. Blue has a genuine ache to it without getting too intense. However, “Pinkerton” is a brutally hermetic open wound of an album. Rivers wrote it with a metal contraption on one leg, high on painkillers, and laying down (supposedly, it was written in first position on the guitar since that made it all easier to play without having to sit up all the way). Its best songs are about seizing on any bit of human contact like a starved animal. Even the poppiest songs are written from a position of alienation. Compare that to everything this decade, which seems to consist of some mix-and-match clusterfuck of meditation, asian hookers, and an encyclopediac deconstructions of fucking Oasis, aided and abetted by this terrible, post-ironic re-appropriation of cheeze metal that appears to be here to stay. Was there any way for these records to be good? If there was, it sure as fuck wasn’t pushing aggressiveley soulless music with a contrived “nerd” image as the only indication of vulnerability.

  12. nat lyon

    I think they started to lose a lot of people when Cuomo went on his experimental celibacy jag at Harvard. That shit will fuck you up…

  13. Marth

    Matt Sharp is absolutely the reason why Weezer isn’t what they used to be.

    Sit down and listen to the blue album and Pinkerton. Then put on the first Rentals album and Maladroit. Everything on that Rentals album is EXACTLY what’s been missing from all the Weezer albums since Pinkerton. To the T.

    (That said, I have to say that I actually like the Green Album quite a bit. But Maladroit is boring, and Make Believe is quite possibly the worst album I’ve ever bought. No exaggeration.)

  14. Marth

    Also… does anyone remember when Weezer put up all those demos on their website a few years back (before Maladroit), of songs they recorded with a keyboard player? I remember some pretty good songs in that bunch, yet they were all scrapped entirely for the more mediocre (and keyboard-less) Maladroit. Shame.

  15. TheDTrain

    I consider myself one of the biggest Weezer fans I know (or at lest it used to be that way), and my take on it is this:

    #1) I loved Weezer primarily in my formative years of High School. Reading those lyrics and stories now, I can defimately see how my emotional, high strung high-school self would have fallen deeply in love with that stuff.

    #2) Matt Sharp. Matt’s far from the best musician I’ve ever witnessed, but his personality clearly had an impact on the band and Rivers in particular. It gave the Blue album a sort of sarcasm and approachability that, say, Green didn’t have. If anyone has listened to the Rentals, you know that Sharp’s still got it going on.

    Disclaimer: I still love my =w=. I will agree that recent offerings have been weaker, but all you have to do is let go a little and treat it as what it is: the cotton candy of music – colorful, sweet, but it loses its appeal after seconds.

  16. King of Pants

    @The Van Buren Boys: I don’t quite get how such a glaring and obvious fact gets glossed over. It’s this obsessive focus on Rivers Cuomo as Sole Creative Force behind the band, when the evidence is there, on the fucking records, that Weezer with Matt Sharp was a much better and more interesting band than Weezer without Matt Sharp.

    Even if he was just an influence and not a cowriter (which I don’t think so, since from Green on they’ve abandoned any sort of drop-down tuning or playing a song in a sharped key or anything that’s evident on, er, the Rentals albums), he was obviously vital. Because Rivers without Matt is lazy, unfocused and generally dull.

    @GovernmentNames: Because the kinds of kids who would respond most to Pinkerton are the sorts who would take any departure from that extremely personally? Making “The First Emo Album” (yeah, yeah, I know) means that you bring in, er, the emo kids.

  17. Chris Molanphy

    Weezer were the first band that made me feel old. That five-year gap between Pinkerton and Green remains the most critic-confounding, line-in-the-sand change-up in a band’s reputation I’ve ever personally witnessed as a rock critic.

    (I’m 36 now; Green came out when I was 29 going on 30. Interestingly, I reviewed Blue for CMJ at age 22.)

    I mean, to kind of echo what bcapirigi is saying, seriously: In 1996, Pinkerton was not only a total chart flop (and that matters, because Blue in ’94-’95 was huge and spun off all those rock-radio hits), not just really poorly reviewed, but almost a punchline. No kidding — about a year later, I was reviewing some other twee/geeky band for CMJ and felt free to compare them to Weezer scornfully, because I knew the reference would make sense to a 1997 crowd. At that time, Weezer were already widely perceived as a cautionary tale.

    Then in 2001, I saw the line around the block for a Weezer in-store at a Tower Records, and you practically had to pick me up off the floor.

    My wife, six years younger than me and a diehard Weezer-of-yore fan, subsequently made me actually, y’know, listen to Pinkerton, and it’s now a minor favorite of mine. Which makes it like loads of underappreciated-in-its day records, and good on ‘em. But the idea that Weezer were these, like, ever-appreciated geniuses who people are only now realizing might not be infallibale is sort of laughable to me. If we were having this conversation 10 years ago on this very day, I guarantee we’d be putting Rivers et al. in a category populated by the likes of Presidents of the United States of America.

  18. Anonymous

    Is the Rivers solo release going to included any of the recordings he did with Drew Parsons of American Hi-Fi?

  19. loudersoft

    I think I only liked Weezer ever because I hoped that, by extension of liking them, people would flock to the pop band I actually liked, The Posies.

    This, of course, happened to a certain degree but never as fully as I would have wanted.

  20. Julio Allison

    Perhaps I just need to be reminded of this elusive point in time when Weezer apparently didn’t totally suck balls…

  21. Anonymous

    I like Weezer, but I always thought they were just a poor man’s Pavement.

  22. Sasquatch

    @TheDTrain: I’d agree if the Rentals had only released one album. Everything after their debut was pretty weak, IMO.

  23. jackiekennedy

    wasn’t weezer’s final crash/burn when they decided to put fake picture-taking-noises in Beverly Hills?

  24. Cam/ron

    To me, the blue album was always about being 15 years old and pretending to be a “dweeb” to attract girls. Their subsequent records were meh, but I appreciate the strong cult following the grew and kept the band alive.

  25. HomefrontRadio

    The Weezer Hype always struck me in an ‘Anne from Arrested Development’ way: “Really? Her?”

    I spent a while trying to figure out why *this* band was considered the current ‘best new band’ ever, and put it down to flashy, expensive videos. (Kind of if Bon Jovi sold nerd fantasies instead of Fran Dreschers).

  26. Harvey Birdman

    @sjc: Yes, Matt Sharp. I love the Rentals and never understood why he didn’t rejoin the band for the green album. Hell, the best song on Seven More Minutes is the one he co-wrote with Cuomo, “My Head is in the Sun.” Damn, I just remembered how life-defining that song was.

  27. Paperboy 2000

    @HomefrontRadio: Anne = exactly my thoughts. The only thing I ever liked about Weezer was the lyric “…you’ve got those big jeans…”
    Funny observation at a time when every Weezer fan I knew had big jeans.

  28. The Notorious T

    @dennisobell: You pretty much nailed it. I think the knee-jerk response to Pinkerton was so severe because while Blue was awesome, Pinkerton was a HUGE change in sound and direction that caught lots of people off guard. I hate to call a record a “grower”, but you really needed to get your feet back under you before you got into it.

    That said, everything afterwards was lacking compared to either of their first two records. It was almost like Rivers was trying to get back to Blue, but couldn’t quite reach it. Green lacked the awesome crunch and if Maladroit had anything close to a pop hook in it, I never found it. But since Weezer made their triumphant comeback at a time when “rock” was kind of down, people who loved Blue and grew to appreciate Pinkerton had blinders on. I know I did.

  29. sparkletone

    @The Notorious T: I wouldn’t quite say it was that he was trying to get back to Blue and failing.

    Rivers, at least at the time as I recall it, pretty explicit about wanting to make everything really short and simple, ala an early Beatles record.

    That it’s solid-but-unexceptional at best is a whole other problem. But I don’t quite think he’s ever consciously tried to repeat himself quite like that.

    For the record: I adore Blue and Pinkerton, think Green is just-okay, think Maladroit is a bit cheesy, but basically serviceable.

    But Make Believe… Jesus christ. That album feels like a term paper that you’ve written at the last second without doing any research at all. And from what I’ve read about the recording process it kind of was. Everything about it is some combination of half-assed, and painfully bad.

  30. gorillavsmarykate

    Whoa, when did everyone get on Matt Sharp’s jock? Seriously, guys? I
    enjoyed moog and Maya Rudolph too, in 11th grade. But neither Rivers
    nor Matt have written anything relevant in 7 or 8 years. That being
    said, can anyone past 20 really like this type of music?

  31. The Notorious T

    @sparkletone: True — I didn’t mean to imply that Weezer was trying to redo Blue, just that they had gone back in the direction of the heavier, guitar-driven stuff that exemplified that record, at least more so than Pinkerton. Nothing after their first record ever came close to recapturing the anthemic quality of those songs, and everything after Pinkerton was trying (too hard) to be a single.

  32. TheMojoPin

    Yes, Matt Sharp deserves all the jock-jumping.

    The guy was clearly the only other person in the band who would stand up to Rivers’ mewling, passive-aggro dictatorship…like it’s been pointed out, listen to those first two Weezer albums and those two Rentals albums. Sharp obviously had a ton of input musically into Weezer and once he bailed, Rivers asserted his control. Problem is, I think he freaked when he realized how much he had actually leaned on Sharp’s contributions, hence why the “green album” isn’t completely terrible…the best stuff on there is trying to do it like they did back in the day. Everything since is just playing to Rivers’ pop-metal days of yore.

  33. lucasg

    these were the guys who made that ‘happy days’ video, right? were they supposed to be relevant somehow? i must have missed the memo.

  34. The Notorious T

    @lucasg: You don’t remember the hype campaign for The Green Album? “They went from has-beens to icons without actually doing anything” or something to that effect. It was better than the record.

  35. dsven

    @the notorious t: Yeah, that comeback of 2001 was totally unexpected…still not sure how they pulled that off, especially given that Pinkerton was a major commercial dud, and the band had been written off by most casual listeners. After that comeback, I was anxiously awaiting the triumphant return of Tripping Daisy and The Refreshments….still waiting.

  36. jfury

    @Marth: I gave Maladroit a bad review and Weezer fans lampooned me. Told me to go fuck my mom and stuff. Weirdest zealot fans.

  37. Marth

    @TheMojoPin
    @disinterested 3rd party:

    In my mind, it’s not a matter of Matt Sharp jock-jumping as much as it is just realizing that the TEAM of Matt Sharp and Rivers Cuomo is far superior to Sharp on his own and Cuomo on his own. Sharp’s quirkiness fills in where Cuomo’s perfectionism gets dull, and Cuomo’s musical chops fill in when Sharp doesn’t want to be serious. Like I mentioned in a previous post, if you listen to the first Rentals album, and the Green Album, you can hear in each of them exactly what is missing from the other.

  38. disinterested 3rd party

    @Marth: Okay, so maybe they were a novelty band at first with the Buddy Holly video and all, but Pinkerton pretty much drove that image into the ground. The other thing that nobody’s mentioned about the success of the Blue album was that it was produced by Ric Ocasek. That might have had something to do with it too, eh?

  39. Plague

    The Rivers “solo’ record (it’s actually just demos)will leave even the most diehard fans wondering why he even bothered.
    No, there is no American HiFi stuff on it. But hey, if you want to hear him do a cover of Cube’s The Bomb, then it’s your lucky day!
    But you’ll get your moneys worth. It actually clocks in at 45 minutes!
    Of dreariness.

  40. disinterested 3rd party

    @dennisobell: Not sure I agree with the appraisal of them in 1997. For the people who liked Blue and Pinkerton at their release, the time between that album was more of a painful hiatus than the result of a misstep. If you didn’t give the album it’s proper due back then, that’s not their fault. And if people were likely to lump them in with TPOTUSA in 1997 they were idiots. Weezer was never a novelty band back then. They are now.

  41. disinterested 3rd party

    Sorry to double post and threadjack but this post raises a similar question about another artist I’m conflicted about.

    Is the disintegration of Cuomo’s skills more depressing than the discovery that Beck is a scientologist?

  42. DocNoodle

    @disinterested 3rd party:

    I don’t think ANYTHING is more depressing than that discovery. Paying to see Beck in concert, with that knowledge, was not easy.

  43. Michaelangelo Matos

    Weezer was never a novelty band back then.

    hahahahahahahahahahahaha!

  44. DJorn

    I still say without Spike Jonze no one would have ever noticed this mediocre band. What was that single off the first record where they’re all just playing hackysack? Man, talk about running out of single material while trying to milk a hit album – just awful.

    Oh, and dsven? Tripping Daisy = Polysonic Spree or whatever! They did come back!

  45. TheContrarian

    This is one of the best Idolator discussions ever. Superunison nailed it a dozen comments back, though. Now we’re just wheel-spinning. Kinda like Rivers himself!

  46. Anonymous

    TPOTUSA was definitely *not* a novelty band. Fuck Rivers Cuomo. Long live Chris Ballew.

  47. Anonymous

    All you people missing Matt Sharp: let me just throw out there that he plays bass on the new Tegan & Sara that all the commenters except Maura and Perpetua have been hating on. So eat it, jerks.

  48. MrStarhead

    I know I’m a week late coming to this discussion, but I wanted to throw out a Weezer memory of mine: Pinkerton tour, fall 1997, I could only find one other person in my dorm to go with me, club was maybe half-full (this is House of Blues New Orleans), and people at the front requested “Friends of P” six or seven times (Matt had to give a sheepish grin, and keep repeating “Didn’t bring my keyboards, guys.”). After the show, Rivers hopped into what was left of the crowd and signed autographs. They seemed done with a capital D. No wonder Matt Sharp quit. The next time I saw them was a radio-station festival in 2001, and not a single member of the band (except for the new bassist) appeared excited to be performing music again.

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