This is what Weezer's Blue Album means to me: Pushing the limits of my badass Pontiac Sunbird at a cool 80 mph as I drive from Chicago to Milwaukee. It's December; the top is down. Krazy rides shotgun and gnaws on beef jerky. Above the roaring wind we scream the lyrics to "Surf Wax America." We pass Mars Cheese Castle as "Only in Dreams" hits its crescendo, and then it's time to start over again. Occassionally we'd even have a Jonas with us. He would be forced to sing the first track, proclaiming his name.
Weezer put out its Red Album on Tuesday, its follow-up to the frankly awful Make Believe, which came after the aggravating Maladroit, which was released after the crushing disappointment of the Green Album (Green and Red - and Blue - so named because they have no actual titles, just primary colors).
While I don't own Make Believe or Maladroit, I bought the Red Album the day it came out. I wanted to give Rivers and the boys one more chance. And while I'm not as angry about the album as this guy, I'm still really unhappy that I shelled out 13 bucks for it. I once thought there was a limit to how bad a Weezer song could be - at worst, they're filled with crazy hooks and killer harmonies that made the Blue Album so glorious.
The first two tracks gave me hope, though. Sure, "Troublemaker" and "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived..." are way too slick for classic Weezer tracks, but the base elements are there, and once in a while you get a snarky Rivers Cuomo joke, a real one, not just one he thinks girls 11-19 will swoon over. Then, though, comes "Pork and Beans."
Weezer has led off each of its last three album releases by releasing the "one-hit-wonder" song as the first single. Maladroit - "Dopenose." Make Believe - "Beverly Hills." And now, "Pork and Beans." Most bands release these crazy-catchy, but ultimately vacuous songs, and spend the rest of their careers running away from them. Cf. Nada Surf, who released the great and vapid "Popular" ("I've got my own car, I'm popular! I'm a superstar, I'm popular!" Yeah, you know it), only to overcome its - haha - popularity by releasing a surprisingly good Let Go. Only Weezer would not only put one of those songs on THREE consecutive albums, but do it after they're already famous. And "Pork and Beans," which name-drops Timbaland, and focuses on the band's indifference to popular opinion while still yearning for fame, is a worthy successor. It's catchy, funny, and empty of any substance whatsoever.
This makes it better than the rest of the songs on the album, which seemingly make a stab at sincerity. "Heart Songs," "Cold Dark World," "The Angel and the One"- they seem like heartfelt songs from the titles, right? They're actually awful treacly nonsense.
The upshot is that the awfulness of the Red Album is my fault. Savvy readers will have noticed that one album hasn't been mentioned - Pinkerton. It's Weezer's best, and it launched the pop-punk and mainstream emo movements, for good and mostly bad. So enervated by the Blue Album I bought Pinkerton the day it came out, and couldn't handle what it contained. The songs were raw, angsty, personal, idiosyncratic. No one at the time sang about their love of a lesbian ("Pink Triangle"), or underage Asians ("Across the Sea," "El Scorcho"). But Rivers Cuomo did, and it was a revelation. Most emphatically, in fact, to his fans, who had no idea what was going on.
So we turned on him. I myself handed off my copy to my grateful Brother A, who built his entire musical perspective on that album. This was a typical response - the album was slammed by critics, and sold poorly its first year.
Who knew Cuomo would take it personally? Weezer didn't put out another album for five years. By that time I'd rediscovered Pinkerton, even stealing it back from my brother. I added insult to injury by joining my peers in hailing it as a masterpiece, for too late for its creator to care what we thought. By that time, you see, Weezer was working on the Green Album. And the Green Album is a lot of fun - it's catchy, one of the best summer records ever. But there's nothing personal in it. It could have been crafted by a robot.
But it didn't suck. When Make Believe came out, and was terrible, Brother A called me out. "If you and your stupid friends had appreciated Pinkerton in the first place, this wouldn't have happened!" It's his position that I have to buy every Weezer album that will ever be made, as atonement for turning my back on good, honest, earnest music.
That's not going to happen. But I did buy the Red Album, and it is truly a hairshirt, property as penance. Wife asked me what I'm going to do with the CD now that I've listened to it. What I should do, as a music fan, specifically a Weezer fan, is wear it around my neck, so people can look at me and know that it is because of me that such an abomination exists. It could be my scarlet letter.
Or maybe I'll just pass it off on Brother A.