Weezer was at one point an extremely important band to me. It was through them, and the extended musical community surrounding them, that I made some dear friends. They were never my favorite band, but they were as important to me as any. That has made the trajectory of their career all the more sad to have experienced, as not only has time made me drift away from the people I shared them with, but it has made me grow apart from, sick up, and angry at, what Weezer has become. Let's look through their career, to find out what went wrong.
The Blue Album:
There was a time when I was convinced this was their best work, but that opinion has much to do with age. I understand why awkward teenagers would see genius in these songs, but they aren't as good as the reputation would lead you to believe. "Say It Ain't So" is still brilliant, but through much of the record the lyrics trade insight for nerdy detail, making the record a time capsule of images, instead of feelings. It's a good album, but one that is so tied up with being young in a certain era that it doesn't translate beyond those means.
"Pinkerton" suffers from the same problems, namely that many of the lyrics are so ramshackle and pedantic, but the difference here is that Rivers' emotions cut through the poor writing. While the first album was a shiny, soulless expression of Rivers as a pathetic figure, this time we can feel it. The messy sound, the sloppy playing, and the raw notes in Rivers' voice combine to make an album that is visceral in a palpable way. It is a massively flawed record, but its flaws work to its advantage, making something truly unique.
The Green Album:
After the failure of "Pinkerton", it made perfect sense to go in the opposite direction and make an album that didn't have a shred of personality. In doing so, Rivers actually gave himself the right canvas for his particular songwriting skills. Yes, these songs are robotic, simple, and don't have a shred of personality in them, but they're some of the best pure pop songs Rivers ever wrote.
This time, we saw Rivers grow a beard, pick up an Explorer, and opine on his 'metal' days. We wind up with an album with heavier guitar tones, more flashy solos, and a few songs that are obviously half-written sketches that shouldn't have been committed to tape yet. But, there is charm in Rivers letting loose, and it's hard to deny that the band was having more fun making this record than the last one. It seemed to be setting the stage for a strong second act.
The album most Weezer fans hate with a burning passion is one that I will actually defend. "Beverly Hills" is still among the absolute worst trash to ever be associated with Weezer, but the rest of the album is wonderfully melodic pop that combines the catchiness of "Green" with a more sophisticated production palate. If you strip the dirt off "Maladroit", you get this album, which is one that I would rank nearer the top of their output than most anyone else ever will. It's the only time post-"Pinkerton" that Rivers sounded truly engaged in his material.
The Red Album:
And now we get to the embarrassment. Rivers at this point had taken to being a cowboy, and unlike Bernie Taupin, it was all schtick. Rivers has tried many times to be a comedian, but he is one of the least funny people on the planet, so this album hit an iceberg. Rivers still had hints of great songwriting, but he obviously didn't care enough to focus on what he was doing, and the result was an album that signaled that Weezer was about to take a long trip down a black hole.
The nadir of Weezer's existence. From the guest appearances and co-writes by people who had no business near a Weezer record, to the horrible insistence on focusing on Weezer's 'humor', this is among the worst albums I've ever heard from a band that should know better. They became a parody of the very thing they made fun of years before. Rivers was a self-absorbed rock star who thought he could get away with anything, only to show that he is clueless when he doesn't have a strong hand slapping some sense into him. A truly awful record with no redeeming qualities.
I like to think Rivers realized the error of his ways, because this was a step in the right direction. There were still embarassing songs, and plenty of lyrics that make you cover your ears so they don't rot your intelligence, but there were also a handful of songs that recalled the better days. Weezer had bottomed out, and this started the climb back towards recpectability.
Everything Will Be Alright In The End:
And here is where Weezer came close to redeeming themselves. This is clearly the best album they had made in many years, but even while the world was falling over themselves to heap praise on the first good Weezer album in a long time, the old problems were still present. Rivers wrote some of his best material in ages, but also couldn't help but write inanities that reveal he still thinks of himself as a teenager. Considering he is in his forties, it's sad.
The White Album:
I'll be honest here. After hearing "Thank God For Girls", I officially gave up on Weezer. When I have two decades of maturity on Rivers, despite being younger than him, I can't put myself through the pain anymore of trying to excuse his shortcomings. I heard enough of the record to know that it's more of the same, but at this point, that just means a frustrating mix of solid pop songwriting and lyrics that never should have been written. Wake me up when Weezer gets a ghost-writer to feed Rivers some decent words to sing.