Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Geeks Make Good: Weezer’s Legacies Of Simple And Fun

The Good: Great, fun sound, Some decent lyrics
The Bad: SHORT!, Uncomplicated instrumentals
The Basics: With a fun sound, the only serious detraction is the lack of duration of Weezer.

I don't grade on a sliding scale. By that I mean that when I review products, movies, books and music, it's all on the same continuum. So it's not like when I say a group is quirky or eccentric they automatically get bumped up a point. True, originality goes a long way with me. It's important and thus I'm more inclined to recommend something that is positively different than something that is common and mass produced. I value originality and unique perspective. So movies that are unpredictable, books that are well-written and music that is unlike what I usually hear all have a better chance with me than predictable flicks, dime-store novels, and the standard pop-rock artist's latest disc.

From the moment Weezer appeared on the music scene, they were something different. Sort of. They have a sound that is both flat-out pop-rock and weird retro pop sound that makes them sound different because they are simply singing about different things than mainstream rockers. So, for example "Hash Pipe" on their eponymous c.d. sings about what people are wearing and doing in pop culture at the turn of the millennium when the album was released.

Over the course of ten tracks, Weezer sings about kicking back and relaxing ("Island In The Sun"), sticking together ("Don't Let Go"), getting dumped ("Crab") and making music ("Simple Pages"). What nearly kills the album is the duration. Weezer is less than thirty minutes long. While artists like Simon and Garfunkel have an excuse - their discs are re-pressings of old records - new artists who do not use the medium effectively are just annoying. And Weezer seems talented enough to produce enough music to fill a compact disc. It's a shame they didn't try harder.

That said, the half hour of music we get from them on Weezer is decent. For a quartet that is the standard combination of guitar, bass and drums, Weezer manages to make a sound that is atypical. So, for example, the guitar licks of "Island In The Sun" sound like they could be coming from a much-older track, like something the Beach Boys would have made. And generally, the sound of the standard combination of gbd is not bad. The only real problem is that the group seems somewhat limited by that. So some of the tracks sound very similar to one another, which is a terrible thing on an album so short. So the bassline is so similar between "Knock-down Drag-out" and "Smile" that one wonders why they put the songs next to one another on the album.

It can't be all bad, though. When I find myself cheerfully wandering through the house chanting "Give me some love / give me some love / give me some . . ." from "Simple Pages" after only two listens, they must be doing something right. Unlike the annoying hypnotics of something like Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Outta My Head," "Simple Pages" rocks its way into the brain with groovy sound and curiously obscured lyrics that make the listener want to keep listening to the song to further decipher it.

Rivers Cuomo is the exclusive poet for Weezer and he makes it work. The lines are not always terribly sophisticated, but there's just enough originality to keep the band on the plus side with the lyrics. So, for example, following Oasis' "Rock 'N Roll Star" to sing about simply getting up and making music could be a tough sell, but Cuomo tries it with lines like "Gonna make my move / Gonna make it stay / Gonna make it last / Never mind the past / Living for today" ("Glorious Day")! And largely, the album works because it is unlike anything else we hear on the radio today.

Who will like Weezer? I've been trying to figure out what they are most analogous to. They are like a clean version of the Bloodhound Gang or a less-instrumental version of They Might Be Giants or Oasis if they sang about more quirky things than relationships. Actually, the closest I've heard to Weezer would be Barenaked Ladies. If you like them, you're liable to like Weezer. Somewhere in there is the definition of Weezer's sound and I think it is compelling to think of them as a true retro-sounding pop-rock original group.

The best track is the deliciously insinuative "Simple Pages," my least favorite track was "Hash Pipe."

For other indy rock works, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Birds And Beasts And Flowers - Autumn Defense
A Ghost Is Born - Wilco
The Uninvited - The Uninvited


For other music reviews, check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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