Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Great Weezer Shift

Warning: this is a long post about a discovery/realization I had this morning and may drag on. Reader beware!

I began this post with the idea of writing a massive analysis of Weezer's music/albums and especially why I felt they had "dropped off" so to speak after Pinkerton. In doing so I realized a few things:

1. First, the Blue Album and Pinkerton are as perfect as any albums could ever be. They are without flaw and lacking no thing that would improve them. I'm still just blown away by these albums (I listened to the Blue album about 5 times over the past 24 hours, and Pinkerton a few times as well).

2. Second, for the life of me I can not define what it is that has changed. The easy answers are: they sold out by going to a new record label (as was suggested by someone I spoke to), Matt Sharp left and he brought a great deal to the fun feel of Weezer that was irreplaceable, Rivers clammed up after Pinkerton and now writes songs methodically like it is a science project, etc. However, the truth is, I don't know that any of those answers (while all being valid and plausible) really explain it. As I listened to Blue and Pink, I noticed tons of little nuances and subtleties that made the albums so enjoyable. I paid attention to everything from rhythms in chord strumming; silliness in the lyrics and their confusion/make sense factor; types of chords used; speeds of the songs; vocal melodies, harmonies, and fun-ities (thank you Matt Sharp); lyrical content/themes, cohesion from song to song in the album as a whole; etc. There are so many things I thought about while listening that I began to feel like I was getting a clearer picture of what is missing from later albums. The problem is: the later albums all incorporate these elements in their own way. As I dissected the songs and albums into little categories and what not, I began to remember and notice moments from the later albums where Rivers and the band WOULD channel these elements into the songs. In fact, every single item on my list of what made Blue and Pink so great can be found in the later works.

Which brings us to today. As I drove to work, I was listening to the and of the Red Album, and I had an epiphone of sorts: I have been asking the wrong questions. I have grown more and more frustrated over the years, because I have been trying to solve Weezer's "problem." I remember when they first got back together (and we Weezer fans knew all about Rivers depression and why he had given up songwriting and all of that stuff), and they released the Green Album, I was so bloody excited to have my Weezer back. It was obvious that the Green Album wasn't as great as Blue or Pink, but it was Weezer and they were back. I didn't care. Plus, I figured that Rivers just needed time to find his place in music again. Give him some time to trust us again and he'll get back to writing songs like he did for Pinkerton. Maladroit felt like he was headed back in that direction a little bit to me. After Green's generic song vibe (and for the record I really like the Green Album, but the songs have a very tame and safe quality to them), Maladroit was like a breath of fresh air. I started to get my hope back that Rivers was getting to that place of honesty in his musical creativity again. Instead, they released Make Believe which started off with Beverly Hills. Man, what a disappointment. I pretended to like the album for a time (and it does have some great songs), but deep down I felt like Weezer had just lost a step in their recovery process. Now, the Red Album similarly combines some excellent moments with other less spectacular ones.

So, what is the point? I keep thinking of Weezer as a band that is recovering froma traumatic experience and that eventually--if I hold out hope long enough and can figure out what they are missing--they will get back to what I had originally loved so much about them. The truth is, that is neither the case nor a fair expectation. Seven years passed between the releases of the Blue and Green Albums. Seven more years have passed between Green and Red. These are musicians that have grown and changed and they are not the same people they were when they released Blue and Pink. Not only have thier experiences changed, but so have their tastes (and to be fair, the same has happened to me as a fan). So, instead of expecting some return to form from Weezer, what I need to do is learn to approach each album as its own creature and let it get out of its forefathers' shadows.

This realization has somewhat shifted my perception of Weezer and thier music. It is allowing me to bring them back down off of the pedestal on which I had placed them and learn to see them as they really are. I may not always like it, but that is ok; I don't have to love everything they do for me to be a fan and appreciate what they bring to the music world.

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