The Unfortunate Weezer Project

In 2012 I wrote an article about Weezer for Riot Radio, a music site published by my mate Mike. Sadly Riot, Radio is offline now so I’ve re-published the post here for posterity.

Remember last year when Mike placed Weezer’s Make Believe on the list of Worst Albums of All Time? He was right then and he’s right now. As Mike says, the Weezer all right thinking people know and love died that day.

Why is it that whenever Weezer put out a new album we all clamour to find out if it’s a return to form? Why do we give Rivers Cuomo another chance when he’s proven time and again he’s Lucy Van Pelt to our Charlie Brown, forever taking away the football at the last second. I think it’s because Weezer’s first two albums are so good that we still think of them as a class band lacking a bit of form.

Chatting with Mike and a few others over the years I’ve wondered if it’d be possible to scour the post 2000 Weezer catalog and make an album that’s as good as the first two. Can you make a set of songs that fits as well together like The Blue Album? Is there a unifying theme that works as well as Pinkerton? Earlier this year I decided to find out.

So how do you construct a new album worthy of Pinkerton? I came up with a few rules and you may or may not agree with them but this is how I decided:

  • There must be at least ten tracks.
  • There must be at least two deep cuts–it can’t be all singles.
  • A majority of the albums must be represented–picking songs from just Maladroit is not allowed.
  • B-sides, extra/exclusive/deluxe tracks, and holiday album tracks don’t count. Those songs should have been on the albums in the first place if they were truly worthy.

Next I dove into the Weezer catalogue and chronological order, taking notes and rating songs from zero to five as I went. Christ, it was hard going. I listened to every tune at least once. Many twice or three times. I reviewed and revised my scores and and pretty much left it at that for six months.

Last month I had another look at the list. There were eleven tunes that rated 4 or higher so I arbitrarily cut it off there. Then I made a playlist in iTunes and Spotify and I’ve listened to it dozens times in different orders and situations since then. I’m finally ready to call it.

You can make a pretty fantastic pop-rock album out of Weezer albums starting with The Green Album but it’s still not as good as the first two. There are some very catchy singles, ambitious anthems, and a more than a few big riffs, but the quality of lyrics has deteriorated so much that most of the songs just don’t have the depth of any random track from the first two albums. Comparing Tired of Sex with Where’s My Sex is just sad. It’s like Rivers just hopes that the songs rhyme. The kids will sing along anyway.

So Mike is still right. The Weezer we know is dead and gone–at least with regard to new recordings. Their current trend of playing The Blue Album or Pinkerton in their entirety gives the hope that Weezer the live act are still awesome, but that’s the best we can hope for.

Here’s the tracks in relatively chronological order with a few of my notes.

Hash Pipe

This was the first “new” Weezer track I heard. I was blown away by the riff and I still love it to this day. I can’t really make out the lyrics particularly well but who cares? That riff is good enough to get the Hash Pipe on the list.

Island In The Sun

Who doesn’t like the Spike Jonze video with all the animals? Nobody with a soul. Island In The Sun is nice a change of pace from a lot of the samey pop-rock that makes up The Green Album. The loud chorus might have found a home on The Blue Album.

Here’s the other version of the video. Not so good.

Dope Nose

“Cheese smells so good on a burnt piece of lamb.” Complete gibberish from Rivers Cuomo and typical of post Y2K Weezer. None of these tracks come close to the honesty of Across the sea from Pinkerton or Say it ain’t so on The Blue Album.

Keep Fishin’

This is pretty much a perfect pop-rock and the fucking Muppets guarantee a video hit. But I am fucked if I know what the song is actually about.

Take Control

The first non-single on this list and it’s here courtesy of that big ol’ metal riff.

Death and Destruction

A variation on the classic quiet/loud formula, Death and Destruction is quite a bit different to the songs on this list and to the other tracks on Maladroit. Of all these tunes, I reckon this is one of only a couple that could find a place on Pinkerton, possibly just after Getchoo.

Perfect Situation

This is the video that turned me back on to the song–Jorge Garcia in full Hurley character rocking out to what has to be the only song he likes on Make Believe.

Perfect Situation is classic Weezer and sounds like a b-side or alternate track from Pinkerton era. A great track.

Troublemaker

OK. Is this a prequel to The Good Life? I’m working from the idea that Rivers is not being serious with this song. Because, jeebus.

The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)

The wikipedia entry for The Greatest Man That Ever Lived is a fascinating read. The song is made up of eleven different styles and themes and is fucking hard to play on Rock Band.

The lyrics are atrocious. Imagine if the worst of the worst commenters from Reddit and Hacker News collaborated on a song. This is their love child. Just terrible. Great, yes, but terrible.

And yet I can’t help but love it.

Here’s a video of the band playing the song live and pulling it off.

Pork and Beans

Possibly the most honest Rivers has been since the close of Pinkerton. Weezer is now as musically nutritious as a can of Watties beans and they are absolutely fine with that.

Time Flies

A rough and ready track from Hurley and the only song from the last couple of albums to make it on the list. I particularly liked this lyric:

Some sad day, they’ll be taking me away
But I won’t be dead
Cause even when I’m gone, this stupid dance song
Will be in your head

Too fucking true.

If you’ve got Spotify you can listen to all the songs in chronological order in this playlist.

2019 Joe again. Weezer have continued to pump out albums since 2012. All bar Everything Will Be Alright In The End have been garbage. EWBAITA is a keeper, though.

Friday Music: Wilco Live from the Palace Theatre, St Paul, MN

Two hours of live Wilco covering the every album in the discography. It’s great.

Track listing
1. Cry All Day
2. I am Trying to Break Your Heart 9:13
3. Art of Almost 14:15
4. Pickled Ginger 21:44
5. Side With The Seeds 24:40
6. If I Ever Was a Child 29:50
7. Misunderstood 33:30
8. Someone To Lose 37:45
9. Handshake Drugs 41:40
10. Hotel Arizona 47:45
11. Via Chicago 52:00
12. Candy Floss 57:30
13. Bull Black Nova 1:00:48
14. Reservations 1:06:40
15. Impossible Germany 1:10:20
16. New Madrid 1:20:30
17. California Stars 1:27:30
18. Theologians 1:33:30
19. Box Full of Letters 1:37:30
20. Heavy Metal Drummer 1:40:40
21. I’m The Man Who Loves You 1:45:00
22. Hummingbird 1:49:00
23. Random Name Generator 1:55:00
24. Passenger Side 2:00:00
25. Locator 2:04:00 26. Spiders 2:10:00
27. Monday 2:21:00
28. Outta Site (Outta Mind) 2:25:00

1. Cry All Day
2. I am Trying to Break Your Heart 9:13
3. Art of Almost 14:15
4. Pickled Ginger 21:44
5. Side With The Seeds 24:40
6. If I Ever Was a Child 29:50
7. Misunderstood 33:30
8. Someone To Lose 37:45
9. Handshake Drugs 41:40
10. Hotel Arizona 47:45
11. Via Chicago 52:00
12. Candy Floss 57:30
13. Bull Black Nova 1:00:48
14. Reservations 1:06:40
15. Impossible Germany 1:10:20
16. New Madrid 1:20:30
17. California Stars 1:27:30
18. Theologians 1:33:30
19. Box Full of Letters 1:37:30
20. Heavy Metal Drummer 1:40:40
21. I’m The Man Who Loves You 1:45:00
22. Hummingbird 1:49:00
23. Random Name Generator 1:55:00
24. Passenger Side 2:00:00
25. Locator 2:04:00 26. Spiders 2:10:00
27. Monday 2:21:00
28. Outta Site (Outta Mind) 2:25:00

Friday Music: Natalie Prass – Lost

I have a Spotify playlist of high-rotation songs called “Current.” Songs tend to stay on there for a few weeks and then get removed when I’m not feeling it any more. Current is the playlist that goes on in the car or headphones on the way to the gym.

The oldest track on there is LOST by Natalie Prass. I still very much enjoy the tune but I think the reason I’ve kept playing it the way Prass pronounces “lost.” It’s an intriguing accent.

Prass’s Tiny Desk Concert is well worth a watch, too.

The current Current (which probably won’t have LOST on it by the time you read this.)

Dungeons and Dragons and John Darnielle

Once a week a I join a few people at work for a very important meeting: a Dungeons and Dragons session. It’s been going for almost two years now and for most of us it’s our first regular group.

We have an excellent Dungeon Master who’s excellent at creating a fun world. He’s also very patient. We’ve experimented with a few different campaigns and play styles. Our characters have died a lot. Our current band of adventurers has survived one campaign sucessfully and is in the thick of a new adventure. My Fighter, Sargeant Will Sargeant, is Level Four. That’s the highest I’ve gotten.

I would have loved to play D&D in my teenage years but I suspect I would have been laughed at by my friends. I was too chicken to bring it up, in any case. Instead I played few a few Fighting Fantasy books and the like. I read Dragon magazine, borrowed from the local library. Eventually I put it aside and really got into Star Trek. I think 16 year old me would be stoked to hear I’d started playing D&D in his forties.

Late last year I plowed the first season of I Only Listen To The Mountain Goats, a track by track discussion of All Hail West Texas, an album recorded entirely on a boombox. Until this podcast I’d been an occasional listener to John Darnielle’s music. I liked the album with This Year and Up The Wolves on it. I really liked the song Autoclave. The one about the death metal kids was cool.

The idea of a podcast discussing one album track by track sounded right up my alley. And, of course, it was. Like John Roderick, John Darnielle is a perfect podcast host: interesting, funny, educated, full of opinions. So you can imagine my delight when the news of a new D&D themed Mountain Goats album dropped recently.

In League with Dragons drops in April and the first track, Younger, is out now. If you’ve not heard the Mountain Goats before it’s a good place to start. If you’ve not played D&D before it’s not too late!