Revolver article - March 2001
In the Garage
Weezer ready their long-awaited third album.
Story: Erick Himmelsbach
If you thought Weezer was pushing up daisies, think again.
Not that it wasn't a fair assumption. After all, they've been comatose for several years, ever since a commercial death wish called Pinkerton was unleashed on the unsuspecting geek rock fans who turned the band's 1994 self-titled debut into a million-selling success. Sorely lacking in the cheeky, shiny irony that made tunes like "Undone (The Sweater Song)" and "Buddy Holly" alt-radio staples, Pinkerton instead offered discomfiting lyrics that delved a little too deeply into the sex life of Weezer leader Rivers Cuomo.
Without a "Sweater Song - The Sequel" to keep radio happy, the album sank like a stone upon its release. Cuomo subsequently retreated to Harvard University to wallow in anonymity, while the rest of the band pursued side projects. Bassist Matt Sharp, who had managed a fluke hit, "Friends of P.," with his retro-synth band The Rentals, left Weezer altogether after the Pinkerton tour.
Apart from an abortive start in early 1998, Weezer hasn't recorded any new material since 1996. "We had some moments where we were drifting in space," admits guitarist Brian Bell.
But a funny thing happened on the way to oblivion: Pinkerton kept on selling. Though hardly a juggernaut, the album somehow maintained its slow-but-steady momentum and recently passed the 500,000 sales mark.
In the process, Pinkerton has attained a sort of holy grail status for young emo-core bands looking for quality angst to memorize and swipe. And, judging by the business the band did on the road last year, selling out two complete tours, geek rock is alive and well. And, judging by a sellout tour last summer, and an already sold-out Yahoo! sponsored trek in January and February, geek rock was alive and well.
It didn't hurt that the mercurial Cuomo had a Stuart Smalley moment, realizing his once-craved-for anonymity wasn't all that. "I was getting used to being a complete nobody again," he says. "But I think I prefer to be somebody. I feel more in my natural element doing this stuff."
More significantly, he finally got his braces off, an orthodontic breakthrough that boosted his self-esteem. "It's tough to buy something at the checkout line when you've got a mouthful of metal," he explains.
"You don't want to smile when you say thank you because the person will think you're a loser. So you don't smile and you don't say thank you, and then they think you're an asshole." So here's Weezer, in a dingy Hollywood rehearsal space, whittling down the track selection for what unexpectedly figures to be a highly anticipated third album. The group started with 80 songs; "Island in the Sun," "Don't Let Go," and "O Girlfriend" are among the tunes that have made the cut.
It seems like old times, almost. Ex-Car Ric Ocasek, who produced the band's debut, is back, as are Weezer's trademark buzz-saw melodic riffs. "I'm really into melody these days more than anything else," Cuomo says. "More than lyrics, even."
That will probably come as a disappointment to Weezer fans. More than any audience this side of Morrissey's, the geek brigade that makes up the Weezer Army likes to feel the pain of their hero.
But, perhaps to preserve his sanity, Cuomo is being coyer lyrically with this new batch of songs. "They're very general," he says. "Not to put down what we did before, but it's a bit like waking up the morning after a party where you got drunk and spilled your guts - you feel kind of stupid the next day."
Moving away from confessional songwriting isn't the only change that the band has undergone. Since Sharp split in '98, Cuomo says the band is actually stronger than before. "It goes a lot quicker, and the results are a lot better," he says of recent recording sessions.
Still, Cuomo won't—or, perhaps, can't—explain the exact circumstances behind Weezer's two-year sabbatical. "I can't really put my finger on a single reason why things got held up," he says, sidestepping rumors of a Brian Wilson-style meltdown. "It's a good question that we don't have an answer to yet."
But wait - drummer Pat Wilson has one. "The Lord works in mysterious ways," he says, an angelic smile on his face. "I hope that answer will solidify our Christian band status."