I am currently listening to a song by a band that I first listened to in my teens. They released their debut album in 1994, and the accompanying video for one of their singles went as close to viral as a thing could go in the pre-social media days we bafflingly inhabited back then. The video was for a song called “Buddy Holly”, and the band – like a number of their albums – was called Weezer.
The album was huge, and surprisingly so. Its success took a lot of people by surprise, because a new album achieving massive popularity is always a shock; one does not simply plan for stratospheric success. The band went from a rehearsal space to some of the biggest stages in the world in quite a short space of time, and that was a very good thing. Their songs were the reason for their success.
In my bedroom I listened to the album on repeat. I had spotted the first video, and loved the song. I listened to the now-familiar paeans to lost loves and social awkwardness and felt that somebody out there – Rivers Cuomo, it turned out – either really got me (nope) or had experienced some of the same emotions that I was so familiar with (yup). I can hear the songs without playing the album still.
The problem is that success does not always sit well with normal people and their normally sized egos. Adulation is an odd thing, and it can be difficult to deal with, if you haven’t been carefully prepared for it, over the course of many years, by a Korean pop music factory. Weezer were not prepared by a Korean pop music factory; they formed organically, and had human sized egos.
Consequently, after the success of their first album, some of Weezer chose to walk away from the limelight, and focus on more human pursuits. Rivers went to university. I find this an understandable path to take, and I feel that any number of bands in history could have been spared the disastrous fates which befell them if only they had had the opportunity to take some much needed time off.
The result of this stepping away was the second album, Pinkerton, released in 1996. This was an album that I fell headlong in to. I loved it from the get-go, and wore the tape bare over many years of happy listening. However, it failed to meet the expectations of the critics tasked with reviewing it, and so it was erroneously branded as a flop. Weezer’s third album would take five years to arrive.
And that gap is the heart of this story. While I followed Weezer’s fortunes over the years, that long gap between the second and third album allowed me to drift off and disconnect somewhat. I am not the only one: in 2010 a petition was founded to raise $10 million in order to pay Weezer to split up. The petitioners cited that Weezer had failed to better Pinkerton, and should call it a day. How kind.
When I saw the news surrounding this silly story I assumed that it was real, and that it had some weight. I assumed that my general disinterest was shared by fellow Weezer fans worldwide, and that the albums were indeed just twee and boring. In retrospect, I had just moved on to different styles of music, and that is very much my issue, rather than that of the band. I’m sorry Weezer; I failed you.
Album after album was written, recorded and released; some of them I bought, many of them I did not; I listened out for a tune to connect with, but found none: my brain was set firmly to the harsher end of the rock music world, and finely crafted pop music was never going to cut it. I mean, he never even swears in his songs, let along screams his lungs out. I wasn’t in the right musical head space.
Until I was. In 2017 a campaign was started on Twitter by a 14 year old girl, not from a small city in Japan, but from the USA, to get Weezer to cover the classic song Africa, by Toto. I was aware of the song, and that was about it. It was familiar to me. And then Weezer did cover it. It seemed like a very unlikely event at the time, and it raised a few eyebrows. I did not buy the cover or listen to it at all.
And then Toto retorted. In an act of unlikely musical resiprocity Toto covered Hash Pipe by Weezer; one of the few songs which I still loved from their third album. That was enough for me, and I had to get them both; get them both I did, and I listened to both songs on repeat for many days. Each song fed in to the other; both of them gave me deeper and deeper appreciation of the band I now missed.
It was probably during this time that I clicked like on Weezer’s Facebook page; I cannot imagine why I would have clicked it before then, but it is always possible. A few weeks ago a post popped up that would put a smile on my face: Weezer had done a covers album, and it was available now. I have always loved covers, and I know not why. They feel slightly transgressive to me in some odd way.
Transgressive like naming six out of your first thirteen albums after yourselves. It has always been put down as “one of those things” that a lot of Weezer’s albums are called Weezer; it has always drawn me in that these albums exist: they are the ones I pick up first (except for Pinkerton; I got in to that long before the subsequent pattern emerged). The covers album was called Weezer, and it was teal.
The first self-titled album was blue, the second green, the third red. They are now known as “Blue Album”, “Green Album” and “Red Album” respectively. I bought them all when they came out. The Teal album would be my first in years: I had skipped the White Album (dangerous name) as I was unaware of its existence. It is my most listened to album of the year so far, and quite a gateway.
My Amazon Prime membership gave me the chance to dive in to the albums I had missed while I was charting new waters, and I was over the moon that they resonated with me. So much so that I have preordered their new album – called Weezer, and with a black cover; also a dangerous name for those of us with a love of metal. Let’s hope I don’t drift off from them again after this one.