Press Enterprise article - August 9, 2002

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Weezer Inserts More Rock Into Its Music: Quirky: Turning Out A Rush Of New Music, The Band Is Enjoying A Creative Wave.

By Cathy Maestri

Less geek. More rock.

Weezer's reputation for sweet retro-pop and frequent hiatuses has been put to rest by a burst of buzzing guitars and a steady stream of new music. And just in time – the band's mini-festival of quirky indie rockers comes just as nu-metal has lost its stranglehold on alternative radio. You might even consider the Enlightenment Tour as the revenge of the nerds.

"I'm very aware of what's happening, and I'm very excited," said guitarist Brian Bell.

"We wanted the Strokes on the (East Coast) tour, and Dashboard Confessional," he said. "I want to remain current and contemporary."

Today's show also features Sparta, with Rooney, Home Town Hero, AM Radio and Third Grade Teacher on a side stage. "We're actually very boring people, and the more bands there are, the more fun it'll be," Bell said.

The tour is also giving Weezer a chance to engage in some serious Foosball matches with fans – the ups and downs of one can be heard in the background as Bell talks.

Weezer became geeky alternative heroes with 1994's self-titled paean to '70s power pop and catchy hooks, but a less-enthusiastic reception for the more complex Pinkerton two years later—coupled with several hiatuses as singer/lyricist Rivers Cuomo studied at Harvard—left even band members unsure of Weezer's status. Bassist Matt Sharp left to concentrate on The Rentals.

By 2000, Weezer felt fortunate to get a few dates on the 2000 Warped tour: "Wow, we're really lucky these guys are letting us on the bill," Bell recalled. But it seems many of the skate-punk kids, turned off by rap-rock, had discovered "Pinkerton," and the band was hailed as returning heroes. "Yeah, absolutely, we were surprised," Bell said. "It was very welcoming."

Momentum regained, the band quickly recorded a second Weezer—this one known as the "green album" for its pale lime cover—with the Cars' Ric Ocasek producing. It debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard charts last spring, and "Hash Pipe" and "Island in the Sun" became summer anthems. "We still kind of have songs from that period that we might include on the fifth album," Bell said.

The tour was problematic—Sharp's replacement, Mikey Welsh, checked into a psychiatric hospital and later quit—but the band barely skipped a beat, replacing him with Broken's Scott Shriner, now a permanent member. "He's workin' out great – we really feel like, especially live, that we have become much better improvisers," Bell said. (When Shriner was tackled onstage as he made his debut with the band at last year's Inland Invasion in Devore, it wasn't by an unhappy purist but an overenthusiastic friend, Bell said.)

A year later and Weezer had yet another album ready. This time they debuted at No. 3 with Maladroit – which is, of course, anything but.

Like its predecessor, it's heavier on prog-rock guitar than the original "blue album" hits "Undone (The Sweater Song)," "Say It Ain't So" and the stubbornly cheerful "Buddy Holly." But the rocking-out Maladroit is unmistakably Weezer, as evidenced by touches like the sweet groove that cuts through "Burndt Jamb."

Ocasek wasn't available, so the band went ahead and produced it themselves. "We're fairly competent, (though) it always helps to have that objective point of view," Bell said.

The video for the current single, "Keep Fishin'," is flirting with "TRL"-sized success on MTV, aided by the participation of the Muppets. "It's very fortunate that they agreed to it," Bell said. Gonzo and Kermit sing backup, and Animal winds up playing drums when Wilson gets wrapped up in Miss Piggy's dressing room.

"Videos are a very fine line of making you feel lame," saidBell, who was paired with head-banging penguins. At least the Muppeteers came out looking cool, he said. "They were hysterical. They were 10 times the entertainers we are." (Making-of clips for the downright-adorable video are available online.)

There's already plenty of talk about the next album – later this month, Weezer will start a six-week break and then head back to the studio. "We're working at a very sporadic pace," Bell said. "It's always amazing when there's a creative wave – it's great."

Cuomo has been quoted as saying the band will have another record ready early next year.

"It just turned out that we were working at our pace at this point. . . It seems like time is always an issue," Bell said.

The band's time on hiatus certainly wasn't wasted – while Cuomo was busy with his studies, drummer Pat Wilson played with Special Goodness (which, with Shriner also onboard, played the second stage for part of the current tour) and Bell as a member of the Space Twins. "There's nothing better than being able to set yourself aside and look at it in a different perspective and use that time to better your own musical abilities," he said.

Some things remain constant with Weezer, such as the melancholy lyrics set against catchy pop hooks, and the band's unusually supportive fans. And while the notoriously distant Cuomo has taken on management and publicity himself—even sending a pre-release sampler of Maladroit to press and radio, much to label Geffen's dismay—he's still not exactly the outgoing type.

Which is where the Foosball comes in.

"It's kind of like a meet-and-greet tournament," Bell said. Radio-station contest winners are pitted against the band's best players, Cuomo (a soccer fan) and Wilson (whose skills Bell attributes to his rhythm duties). Not only has it become a big stress-reliever for the band, Bell said, "it's also a great way to meet people and not talk to them."

"Fans are great, of course. I'm sitting in a room full of them, so I have to say that," Bell added. Backstage games, autograph sessions and e-mails can only go so far, though. "We can pay them back by making great music," Bell said. "We try."


With Dashboard Confessional, Sparta, Hometown Hero, Rooney, AM Radio and Third Grade Teacher.

When: 6 p.m. today.

Where: Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 8800 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine.

Admission: $22.50-$27.50.

Information: (949) 855-6111 or Ticketmaster, (714) 740-2000 and (619) 220-8497.

Source: The Press Enterprise, Riverside, CA - August 9, 2002

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