Love-hate: my complicated relationship with Weezer
I love Weezer, but I also hate the fact that I love Weezer, but I also love the fact that I hate the fact that I love Weezer. Many of the Weezer fans that I’ve talked to share this oddly specific sentiment, so what makes Weezer the perfect band to love to hate and hate to love? For me, Weezer is the perfect combination of fantastic—if not uneven—music, terrible lyrics, nostalgia and teenage (or pre-teenage) angst.
Rivers Cuomo, for all of the hate that I like to give him, can write an incredible hook. Weezer’s songs are as catchy as they are iconic, and I would have a hard time finding someone who didn’t know “Buddy Holly,” “Say It Ain’t So,” “Beverly Hills” or “Island in the Sun” among their other most famous songs. The band has the ability to bring out some of the best guitar work from the alternative rock/pop-punk genre. Their vocals, if you’re looking at them sonically rather than lyrically, fit perfectly into their songs. Patrick Wilson’s drumming, though easily missed in the background, provides the base for every great Weezer song. The portrait of Weezer’s songs, painted by each of the members with their own musical talents, ends up as an incredibly full audible experience.
However, while Weezer boasts much amazing music, the sheer size of their discography means that they also have a lot of mediocre music that just gets ignored. Over the past two and a half decades they’ve released a dozen albums, with another album recently announced. Any band with that amount of music is bound to have some duds. As excited as I was when a new Weezer album would drop, whenever I would go back to listen to them, I would find myself relishing a few amazing songs within a sea of average ones. While I’m hesitant to call any Weezer song truly bad, I can only name a small portion of their music as truly excellent. Does this large amount of forgettable music take away from their—admittedly fairly large—collection of fantastic songs? I would say no, but for all the praise that I love to give some of their songs, I have to remind myself of the apathy I have for the majority of their music.
Much of this apathy comes from their lyricism. Although many of Rivers Cuomo’s lyrics sound good, when you actually listen to them it becomes obvious how bad they are. Most of Weezer’s lyrics are uncreative, dull and make me question why I’m even listening to the band. At their best Weezer’s lyrics are all right, on average they’re not great, but at their worst they have elements of sexism, racism and homophobia in them. It’s quite hard at times to listen to Weezer due to their lyrics, especially those in “Pinkerton.”
While “Pinkerton” is debatably Weezer’s best album, the lyrics of songs such as “El Scorcho” and “Pink Triangle” make it quite difficult to get through the album. While many see these lyrics as a way of Cuomo masking himself and as an appeal for genuine human connection, they come across as whiney and offensive. However, “Pinkerton” as an album is an incredibly personal look into Rivers Coumo’s loneliness, and in the album he is extremely vulnerable. While this personal touch is no excuse for its various offenses, and arguably makes the lyrics worse, it does bring with it a level of artistic appeal. The closing song, “Butterfly,” acts almost as an apology for the album. Cuomo knows that much of what he did was wrong but still chooses to include these songs as they represent who he was at the time that he made “Pinkerton.” It’s full truth, and it isn’t always appealing.
Weezer released “Pinkerton” in 1996, two years after their debut self-titled album, and since these albums, with an exception of a short hiatus after the release of “Pinkerton,” they have released albums fairly regularly. Their continual release of new music has allowed a large range of people to experience their adolescence and young adulthood through their music. As someone who got into Weezer in his pre-teen and early teen years, I can attest to the fact that there is something incredibly appealing about their music in that phase of your life. They have just the right amount of moodiness in their music where they seem to go between toeing the line of emo music and just goofing off in any given track. While Weezer’s music has many of the elements of emo in it, it never feels heavy-handed in the way that much of the emo genre does.
Due to the appeal that Weezer has with adolescents, as well as the band’s longevity, it has been able to become associated with nostalgia for many, myself included. The amount of people I’ve met who fell in love with Weezer in their early teens is incredible. The band has been able to capitalize on their appeal and Weezer concerts are filled with people from under fourteen to over forty.
In my opinion, Weezer has become the epitome of the alternative rock band. Emerging from the post-grunge period of the early to mid ’90s, its musical style has become synonymous with the era. They have a wide appeal and a full discography of music that is just as easy to love as it is to hate.
While I personally will always hold their first two albums in much higher regard than their other music, with the exception of “Everything Will Be Alright In The End,” which came out during my height of Weezer love, their new music has its own appeal. Many consider the White Album (known formally as “Weezer”) to be one of their best. The fact that more than two decades after releasing their first albums they can still be making enjoyable music is laudable. So love them, hate them, love to hate them or even hate to love them; there’s no denying Weezer’s impact as a cultural force.