Newsweek article - June 4, 2001

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Trying on a New 'Sweater'

By Bret Begun

Weezer came undone. Now it's dressed for success.

It's late on a Friday in April when Rivers Cuomo calls. His band, Weezer, is about to put out a much-anticipated new album—its first in five years—and so this seems like the natural thing to discuss. But Cuomo's got a different agenda. He needs some tech support. See, he says, he had these binders--the three-ring kind, filled with song notes. They became unwieldy. So Cuomo entered the notes into Access, a database program that lets him organize his writings and engage in "very philosophical, scientific periods of musical study." "You know Access?" he asks. Uh, does it work like Excel? "I don't know Excel. I'm weird. But now I'm having second thoughts. Maybe it should all be in Excel?"

Is this guy weird? Oh, yeah. Happy? Ask Cuomo if he feels that way about the release this month of Weezer's third effort, The Green Album. "I don't like the word happy," he says. Okey-doke! But it's the band's quirks that make them so beloved. After all, Weezer shouted "Woo-ee-oo I look just like Buddy Holly" when everyone wanted to look just like Kurt Cobain. The band's 1994 debut sold 2 million copies, fueled by gems like "Undone (The Sweater Song)." But "Buddy Holly" made the CD. In the video the band goes back to the "Happy Days" set for a gig--a performance that made it OK to take off your flannel and put on a cardigan. Says a 16-year-old fan, "No one else really reached out to the geeks and dorks."

Geeks and dorks (dweebs, too) reached back, embracing Cuomo's wear-it-on-your-sleeve lyrics. Which is why Green falters a bit. We want Cuomo to open up after going AWOL. Instead, he turns a cold shoulder, offering melodies that lack his deeply personal edge. Still, the songs sound pop perfect. But who cares what's on the new CD? Just be happy that there is a new CD. In 1996, Weezer's second collection, Pinkerton, fizzled. So did the band. Guitarist Brian Bell and drummer Pat Wilson worked on side projects; bassist Matt Sharp quit. Cuomo... well, where exactly was Cuomo? He fled to Harvard, dropped out, then to L.A. where he lived with new bassist Mikey Welsh. "We had a phone," says Welsh. After he moved out, "the phone might have gone away."

But as the band withered, its following grew online. Fans swapped bootlegs and buzz. When Weezer emerged to play 2000's Warped Tour, new tunes went right to Napster. "People knew the words the next day," says Welsh. They're still singing. Green debuted at No. 4 on the charts, helped by slots on "SNL," and, soon, Conan and MTV's Movie Awards. Sounds like Weezer's fans can go "Woo-ee-oo" once again.