A piece of Weezer news excited me recently.
I read the band will soon re-release its masterwork, 1996’s Pinkerton — an album that I consider the modern-day equivalent of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. When I first bought it as a heartbroken, earnest 15-year-old, it was magnetic to me: an energetic burst of heartbroken, earnest alt-pop-rock. Now, with years of musical and emotional maturity behind me, it sounds like even more: a record bristling with adrenaline, disappointment, random humor and shards of jagged-yet-gorgeous melody.
In other words, a lot of things Weezer has completely discarded.
I can’t think of another band that has so thoroughly saddened me. A decade ago, Rivers Cuomo & Co. were sweater-wearing, horn-rimmed semi-punk gods who yearned for girlfriends and shunned sex. Who watched wrestling and sang of butterflies. And most importantly, who melded catchy pop with crunchy guitars — and did so with perfect pinches of irony and seriousness.
But over the last few years, Cuomo has been a perpetually perplexing figure. He’s told us that Beverly Hills is the place to be. He’s replaced gritty guitars with stadium sheen. He’s written songs with Katy Perry collaborators. He’s called a record Raditude. And he seems to be sincere.
Now comes Hurley, a record named after a character on Lost — with said character’s face plastered awkwardly on the cover. And to add insult to injury, the album’s lead-off single, ‘Memories,’ has Cuomo pining for his ’90s glory days — over a faux party-punk vibe. That’s just mean.
Of course, it’s not fair to fault a band for changing courses. If The Beatles remained mop-tops, we’d never have ‘I Am The Walrus.’ But it’s not wrong to be disappointed if a band’s change in direction is utterly insipid — and stupid.
Whereas Rivers Cuomo was once his era’s Brian Wilson — tortured, kinda crazy, but incredibly gifted — he’s now become his era’s Neil Diamond: a once gifted popsmith who vies for stardom and kitsch, seemingly oblivious to how far he’s fallen.
Or maybe Rivers knows exactly what he’s doing. Maybe we’re not in on the joke. Maybe he actually enjoys singing happily about the ’90s to an fist-pumping audience not old enough to remember Semisonic. Maybe he’s laughing the whole time.
Whatever the reason, I haven’t bought either of Weezer’s last two albums. I’ll just put on Pinkerton again.