A word in defense of Rivers Cuomo

DackAttacDackAttac Road Warrior
edited July 2011 in History of Rock
WARNING - INCOMING TEXT WALL.

As a relative neophyte here (especially having missed out on the ultimate litmus test of when the relevant packs were released), I don't know what the general Weezer consensus around these parts is. I'm willing to bet that it's like most places though: your milage may vary, wildly, but the slim-but-sure majority feels Blue Album was great, Pinkerton was an underrated gem and it was all downhill from there.

Now, I'm not here to say that every disc in that catalog is secretly amazing. I'm not here to stick up for Make Believe, Maladroit or Raditude. Christ, especially not Raditude. But with the way frontman Rivers Cuomo has become the butt of every punchline—it seems like every critic who writes a Weezer review feels the need to "get the obvious joke out of the way" early on—I'm gonna take issue with.

Let's start with the Blue Album (because there's really no other logical place to start from). We know the story. Quirky frontman introduces the fledgling 90's to garage-y rock that was catchy instead of grunge. Due to his very frank awkward nerdiness, both in his image and his lyrics, he strikes a chord with high school outcasts, becomes a folk hero of sorts. Rides high for a little while, then makes another record. Does not do so hot. Few are on board with how gritty and personal Pinkerton is, at least not initially. The band goes on hiatus for a chunk of years. During this hiatus, Pinkerton grows on people—I'm told that the 'emo' crowd really took to the personality of the lyrics.

When Weezer come back, it's a hit-and-miss affair. They can't win to lose. Everything is either not emotive enough (Green Album), emotive in bland ways (Make Believe) or just plumb unhip (smatterings throughout).

But I have to wonder what this whole whirlwind was like for Rivers. To be heralded for his uniqueness like a true ugly ducking, just to get lambasted for being too weird. Then for not being weird enough. Then for being weird in the wrong ways. That's gotta be confusing when you can't even know what your own fans think of you. The Green Album is so straight-laced, refusing to deviate from the norm, (and it's a shame it's got all this baggage attached, because you'd be hard-pressed to find a leaner powerpop record) but it was met with these cries of "Boo, this is cookie cutter, we want what made Weezer unique!" I'm sure it was tempting for Rivers to just snap and yell, "Well, where the f*** were you five years ago?!"

So I get the impression that during that hiatus, without being in a band courted by a press that celebrated his eccentricity, he did what most of us do when high school's over: grew up. Found a way to be himself in society, shed his weirder tendencies, and—keeping with the ugly duckling metaphor—came out of it a swan. Not a belle-of-the-ball swan, but an average-joe swan. Except he'd made such a name for himself being an ugly duckling, that it didn't stick. People wanted quirk.

And so, by God, he'd give it to them. He over-emoted

Comments

  • The_OreoThe_Oreo Opening Act
    edited July 2011
    I liked Maladroit...

    Good write up though, I'm in the grouplet that got through high school on Pinkerton and agree with most all your points. Not much more to add.
  • RHCPfan96RHCPfan96 Opening Act
    edited July 2011
    I totally agree. I thought Hurley felt like Rivers was trying to get back to the earlier days, but I still liked it. What people don't get is that BANDS CHANGE. Are you the same person now that you were in 1994? Then how can you expect a band to be?
  • CubecubedCubecubed Washed Up
    edited July 2011
    I've always been a fan of Weezer, but i never cared for Rivers' lyrics. They've always been kinda dumb. I always felt like his contemporaries, especially Billie Joe Armstrong, were much, much, better at writing lyrics.
  • GNFfhqwhgadsGNFfhqwhgads 99% Washed Up
    edited July 2011
    Cubecubed;4443141 said:
    I always felt like his contemporaries, especially Billie Joe Armstrong, were much, much, better at writing lyrics.
    I was actually gonna bring up Green Day. Everyone's crying over how they moved onto less punk(read; serious) work. But honestly, I really can do without the nearly-40 Billie Joe singing about getting bored of masturbation. Let him explore his writing abilities in a few rock operas as he ages. American Idiot really does stand up nicely, and 21st Century Breakdown may not be the most cohesive concept album, but it's certainly got some great writing with very few faults(isn't that right, Christian's Inferno?).


    But yeah, as for Weezer. I've never really been a huge fan of them, but I do have a solid chunk of their material, and I can recognize the shift. I'm just not too picky about it since I didn't care much to begin with.
  • Lameboy19Lameboy19 Headliner
    edited July 2011
    Cubecubed;4443141 said:
    I always felt like his contemporaries, especially Billie Joe Armstrong, were much, much, better at writing lyrics.
    not even in the same league.


    My problem with Rivers is that he gave in and tried to please everyone, when the "magic" that was in the first two albums was that he was doing what he wanted and everything was very personal, like reading a diary almost. Pinkerton is much more than "overemotion" it's the personal struggle that he writes about, and that it hits so close to home for most of the listeners (me included) in almost an eerie way, as if I wrote it, I'm sure I'm not the only one feels this way about it, but it's much more than just the "emotions" behind it all.

    That's what made the recent albums terrible, there's no sense of personality, they feel like they were written by someone else, not Rivers. He distanced himself, and has kept his personal life out of the limelight which really wouldn't be a problem if his life wasn't entertaining or was really happy, but the stuff that he went through struck a chord with most of the fans and that's what make them so personal, and why people like me defend it, and hold it in such a high regard.
  • CubecubedCubecubed Washed Up
    edited July 2011
    I'm sorry,but even when Billie Joe was writing about masturbation he was a better lyricist. The more recent GD albums have just widened that to a ridiculous amount. Most of the stuff post Warning absolutely clowns Weezer's recent output in terms of lyrics.

    Lyrics clearly aren't rivers' strong point. There are some embarrassingly bad lyrics, even on the Blue album and Pinkerton,that keep me from calling him a good lyricist. I still love Weezer,but with the caveat that i cannot enjoy Rivers' lyrics all that much.

    I will admit he can write a catchy song like few can,though.
  • MrFruitLordMrFruitLord Headliner
    edited July 2011
    Change is fine. Bad music isn't.

    If you like their newer stuff, that's cool (actually, I liked Hurley), but a lot of people just don't like the actual sound.
  • DackAttacDackAttac Road Warrior
    edited July 2011
    Cubecubed;4443141 said:
    I've always been a fan of Weezer, but i never cared for Rivers' lyrics. They've always been kinda dumb. I always felt like his contemporaries, especially Billie Joe Armstrong, were much, much, better at writing lyrics.
    GNFfhqwhgads;4443159 said:
    I was actually gonna bring up Green Day. Everyone's crying over how they moved onto less punk(read; serious) work. But honestly, I really can do without the nearly-40 Billie Joe singing about getting bored of masturbation. Let him explore his writing abilities in a few rock operas as he ages. American Idiot really does stand up nicely, and 21st Century Breakdown may not be the most cohesive concept album, but it's certainly got some great writing with very few faults(isn't that right, Christian's Inferno?).
    Lameboy19;4443173 said:
    not even in the same league.
    Rivers shoots too straight to be in the same league. He treats his lyrics like journal entries (I'll get back to that thought when I respond to the remainder of Lameboy's post), BJ tries to construct something, weaving violent punk imagery into Kinks-esque pop songs (with just a shot of campy humor to sweeten the pot). And he doesn't do it to exaggerate his problems/feelings (a fast-ubiquitous emo trope), but because he knows there's a juxtaposition there.

    (Kinda off topic)

    And since Fhqwhgads brought up 21st Century Breakdown, and I was just talking about it with friends over lunch, my problem with the album is that it plays like a satire of Green Day. The blatant influence cribbing (Before the Lobotomy is pretty much cut from the same cloth as Behind Blue Eyes), the title track's sudden twists and turns between its wildly contrasting melody segments, the confusing us-vs-them political rhetoric (all while the candidate they backed is in office), the hilariously over-the-top contrast of a bile-drenched aggro verse and a sunny bubblegum chorus on Christian's Inferno (I really could have believed this was a Weird Al style parody), the "f***ing lies" prechorus in Modern World, and even throwing an N-word into Mass Hysteria just for shock value. But any good Green Day satire would have be damn well written melodies, and they certainly didn't disappoint. If I had to compile my Top 10 Green Day songs, Peacemaker would make the list, and it would make the top five. It's like they tried to top American Idiot by making everything about it bigger and catchier, and they succeeded. Only problem is they didn't count on the fact that when forced, albums can fast become so much less than the sum of their parts. I play individual songs from it frequently, but I hardly ever listen to it cover to cover.

    (Back on topic)
    Lameboy19;4443173 said:
    My problem with Rivers is that he gave in and tried to please everyone, when the "magic" that was in the first two albums was that he was doing what he wanted and everything was very personal, like reading a diary almost. Pinkerton is much more than "overemotion" it's the personal struggle that he writes about, and that it hits so close to home for most of the listeners (me included) in almost an eerie way, as if I wrote it, I'm sure I'm not the only one feels this way about it, but it's much more than just the "emotions" behind it all.
    I didn't mean to insinuate it was "over-the-top" by the word "overemotion". I just meant that the album had no filter. He didn't exclude everything. If someone was telling you the things he met, you would have to either be really intimate BFF's or a diary page in order for it not to be socially awkward. And from what I've read, during the period he wrote it, he was having lots and lots of groupie hookups, but the touring lifestyle has an adverse effect on any sort of romantic monogamous ventures. Really nothing surprising after hearing "Tired of Sex", but it does really put the entire album into a context of a twenty-something terrified of dying alone. It works really well in that regard...
    Lameboy19;4443173 said:
    That's what made the recent albums terrible, there's no sense of personality, they feel like they were written by someone else, not Rivers. He distanced himself, and has kept his personal life out of the limelight which really wouldn't be a problem if his life wasn't entertaining or was really happy, but the stuff that he went through struck a chord with most of the fans and that's what make them so personal, and why people like me defend it, and hold it in such a high regard.
    ...But maybe the problem is that Rivers' life isn't interesting anymore. He took a break from his band, he centered himself, now he's married with a kid... for all intents and purposes, he may have emerged from it as a different person altogether. I'm sure that in fifteen years, the same could be said for all of us between then and now. I mean, I'm sure that he's tried to tap that well that he got Pinkerton from, but cream rises to the top, so he'd exhausted his adolescence's material on those first two records, and if he's fishing for young, heartbroken angst, that has a habit of drying up by the time you're thirty.
  • CubecubedCubecubed Washed Up
    edited July 2011
    DackAttac;4443199 said:


    And since Fhqwhgads brought up 21st Century Breakdown, and I was just talking about it with friends over lunch, my problem with the album is that it plays like a satire of Green Day. The blatant influence cribbing (Before the Lobotomy is pretty much cut from the same cloth as Behind Blue Eyes), the title track's sudden twists and turns between its wildly contrasting melody segments, the confusing us-vs-them political rhetoric (all while the candidate they backed is in office), the hilariously over-the-top contrast of a bile-drenched aggro verse and a sunny bubblegum chorus on Christian's Inferno (I really could have believed this was a Weird Al style parody), the "f***ing lies" prechorus in Modern World, and even throwing an N-word into Mass Hysteria just for shock value. But any good Green Day satire would have be damn well written melodies, and they certainly didn't disappoint. If I had to compile my Top 10 Green Day songs, Peacemaker would make the list, and it would make the top five. It's like they tried to top American Idiot by making everything about it bigger and catchier, and they succeeded. Only problem is they didn't count on the fact that when forced, albums can fast become so much less than the sum of their parts. I play individual songs from it frequently, but I hardly ever listen to it cover to cover.

    (Back on topic)

    21CB might not be Green Day's best album,but it certainly is better than the recent Weezer output,and two songs from it ( Peacemaker and Viva La gloria (Little Girl)) find their way into my top ten Green Day songs. I will argue up and down that Warning is Green Day's most complete record,and an absolutely brilliant power-pop record to boot.

    Lyrically, I feel that American Idiot and Warning are the high points of Green Day's Career.
  • GNFfhqwhgadsGNFfhqwhgads 99% Washed Up
    edited July 2011
    21st Century Breakdown is not a best album of ANYTHING(artist, year, genre) by ANY means, but it does earn massive points for the near flawless Act III. I'm gonna have to agree with Warning being an amazing album, though. It's probably the Green Day album I listen to mostly in one sitting.
  • Lameboy19Lameboy19 Headliner
    edited July 2011
    Cubecubed;4443271 said:
    21CB might not be Green Day's best album,but it certainly is better than the recent Weezer output,and two songs from it ( Peacemaker and Viva La gloria (Little Girl)) find their way into my top ten Green Day songs. I will argue up and down that Warning is Green Day's most complete record,and an absolutely brilliant power-pop record to boot.

    Lyrically, I feel that American Idiot and Warning are the high points of Green Day's Career.

    I'll give you American Idiot being good lyrically, as much as I hate everything that they do, I can't ignore St. Jimmy or Jesus of Suburbia as being great political pop songs.

    and really it's not fair comparing anything to Weezer's newer stuff, Lady Gaga writes better than the stuff off of Raditude but saying the stuff from the first two albums is dumb, well that's just heresy my dear boy, and I'll have to put you in the dungeon for that one
  • CubecubedCubecubed Washed Up
    edited July 2011
    Well not all of lyrics are dumb,there are just a few lines of the first two that make me cringe. Like the "My name is Wepeel!" line in "My name is Jonas". What the hell does that even mean? Also, "Dreamin" from the Red album is lyrically,one of the worst songs I have ever heard.
  • DackAttacDackAttac Road Warrior
    edited July 2011
    I think it means the motherf***er's name is Wepeel.
  • killer_roachkiller_roach Washed Up
    edited July 2011
    GNFfhqwhgads;4443276 said:
    21st Century Breakdown is not a best album of ANYTHING(artist, year, genre) by ANY means, but it does earn massive points for the near flawless Act III. I'm gonna have to agree with Warning being an amazing album, though. It's probably the Green Day album I listen to mostly in one sitting.

    Act III was the only thing that saved 21CB from being an absolute disaster.

    That being said, yes, Warning is incredibly strong.

    Back to Weezer, they're a band that's still trying to chase their glory years, and not succeeding by most any metric. Being mostly a prog fan I see this all the time lately with bands trying to chase their 1970s and early 80s peak, only to have it not only elude them, but basically mock the pale imitations that have followed. It's not that albums like Hurley or The Red Album are really that bad (they aren't), it's just that you can tell that they are attempts at trying to hit a target that exists somewhere in the mid 1990s.
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