Monday, 21 June 2010

Weezer: Happy 18 Year and 4 Month Anniversary!

On June 11 2010 Weezer released their self-proclaimed 'unofficial US anthem' to the World Cup entitled 'Represent'. This marks the latest track from a band which formed over 18 years ago, so join Denial as he casts a critical ear over the last decade and a half of this most unique of bands.

Let me take you back to 1992, Valentine's Day to be precise and the band now known as Weezer had their first practice together. This was to be the early seeds of a long and eventful career which continues to this day. Coming off the back of the Grunge movement, Weezer, and Rivers Cuomo specifically, made no secret of a love for bands such as Nirvana, Pixies and Sonic Youth and the early demos are a testament to this. However when it came to the recording of their first album, the first of three self-titled releases since nicknamed 'The Blue Album', the sound had changed somewhat and the signature tones of Weezer had begun to be established

The Blue Album (1994) was incredibly well received and has achieved triple platinum status in the USA, many of the bands now legendary tracks feature on this recording including "Buddy Holly", "Undone - The Sweater Song" and the near-perfect 'Say It Ain't So". The album was clearly written from a lot of personal experience and saw Cuomo exercising many demons in the recording process. Weezer had solidified their image as rock geeks and this has, in one way or another, endured to this day.

The bands second album was a complete segway both musically and commercially. A significant legal battle just prior to release about the album's title, Pinkerton, almost completely destroyed any pre-release publicity and the album's somewhat quirky, more leftfield sound put off a lot of fans of the debut. I personally rate this as one of the best records the band has produced, many did, and do, disagree. At the time of it's release Rolling Stone proclaimed it the second worst album of 1996. Despite the early setbacks, Pinkerton has garnered a fair amount of retrospective approval and even Cuomo himself has apparently changed his opinion of it.

It was five years before another Weezer album would be heard by fans and the hiatus was filled with the band members pursuing other projects and Cuomo's own depression and self-seclusion. Creative differences forced the members apart and all seemed lost until the offer of a large gig in Japan brought them back together. Soon afterwards, in 2001, the second self-titled album was released (the green album) and with it the latecomers' favourites "Hash Pipe" and "Island In The Sun". The album saw a rejuvenation in the bands creativity as well as their popularity and the songs began to flow again.

The follow-up 'Maladroit' further served to reinforce Cuomo's songwriting prowess and the band's status within the music community (despite the title's meaning). The singles 'Dope Nose' and 'Keep Fishin'' again saw Weezer attaining a large amount of mainstream coverage and playtime on MTV and radio.

Weezer have, since released a further three albums: 'Make Believe', 'The Red Album' (the third self-titled release) and Raditude are all somewhat interchangeable. They have all garnered a significant amount of criticism for being 'insincere' or 'disposable' and to some extent there is truth in this. The albums all feature some seemingly arrogant and shallow lyrics about drinking, women and parties. Which all seem somewhat out of place coming from a man who has settled down with his wife and daughter. However, there has always been a definite degree of irony in Weezer's music and maybe people, myself included, are trying to take the albums too seriously. Weezer did get somewhat experimental with The Red Album which saw the other band member taking on more of a front seat with songwriting and singing roles and trying out different instruments. This yields some interesting results and of the three, this record is undoubtedly the best.

Weezer still maintains a significant loyal fanbase most of which will undoubtedly be with them until the end. But I cannot shake the feeling that the band may be running out of steam. Certainly not with regards to their commitment and productivity as they continue to be an incredibly hard-working band, but it looks doubtful they will ever quite reach the peaks they did with their very first release all that time ago. Perhaps the bar was set too high, the stratospheric popularity of the debut album combined with the media attention, Spike Jonze directed video spots and simply having something significant to write about, it was kind of inevitable that the releases which followed would not be up to this high standard. In all honesty, I still love Weezer, I still buy all their albums but to any newcomers wondering where to start with this band, there is only one clear answer.......the beginning.

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