In our coverage of Project Pabst last week, we included a brief review of Weezer’s set in our recap of the festival. However, I wanted to take some time to discuss the ambivalence that I felt as the time for their headlining set approached. Why did seeing a band that I once loved so much fill me with such dread?
Weezer has had a long and successful career, to the surprise of many–they’ve now released nine albums over the course of twenty years, which is rather astounding considering many believed the band would have folded after the commercial failure of their second album. There is a whole new generation of fans that have pledged their undying support for the band and have helped maintain the band’s place as a festival headliner; many of these fans had not even even born yet during the time that the devoted message board community in the late-90’s were keeping the spirit of the band alive. These younger fans probably have no idea why many of the band’s initial followers long ago ditched Weezer.
Much as it pains me to say, I am one of those who sits on the “wrong” side of the generational divide, metaphorically screaming at the young kids to get off my lawn. In my eyes, Weezer released two perfect albums, followed it with a passable comeback attempt, followed by an underrated and overlooked record, and then several steaming piles of shit. The Blue Album not only has all those hits that have filled radio playlists for years, but also several other gems of masterful pop-rock that make it a top-to-bottom classic, and Pinkerton was the beautiful mess that turned off the casual fan but whose ragged emotional core thrilled and captured the hearts of the devout ones. The Green Album and Maladroit each have their merits, but overall they fail to reach the standard of what the band had previously established.
Usually, I am the kind of fan that not only forgives a band for its missteps, but stands up for records that have been treated unfavorably by those who have moved on to the next Hot New Band. Hell, I am still buying Alice in Chains records after the death of Layne Staley. It is rare for me to turn my back on a band, but Make Believe caused me to do just that. I have made it a point to keep the album and transfer the files across several hard drives, only to never listen to it, so I can remember how much I detest the album.* On its own merits, it is an extremely mediocre set of songs, but more than that it represented that the original Weezer that I had grown up with and loved was gone, never to return. I remember giving their next effort a chance, and after listening to a stream of The Red Album I decided that I was done with the band forever. There was no going back, a fact confirmed every time the band would release a new single that would force me to dive for the radio dial.
It was during the Make Believe era, however, that I finally got to see the band in person, and I still have giddy memories of the show. It was about the best I could have hoped for, with the band hitting the expected highlights of The Blue Album, throwing in some Pinkerton favorites (a recent development, since the band had long had an uneasy relationship with the record), and keeping the new stuff to a minimum. The band was lively and having fun, with even Rivers loosening up a bit–everybody had a shot at lead vocals for a song, and the guys all had fun switching instruments.
There was no way that Weezer in 2015 could have improved upon that experience, and I did not want to sully my recollections of that show. Yet I still stuck through to the end, as the band played a strikingly similar set–I got my Blue Album-era stuff, as well as a couple of Pinkerton tracks (including a fantastic version of “The Good Life”), and once again had to endure the same amount of new shit, though in slightly different form. I may be categorized as part of the “Millenial” generation based purely on my age, but I should not be lumped into the same group of people that cheer as hard for “Back to the Shack” as “My Name Is Jonas”.**
While my initial dread turned out to be misplaced, I still wonder why it is I hold Weezer in such high regard compared to many of their peers, refusing to allow them to change as they see fit. Much of their new material has much of the same superficial quality of their earlier work, but to me there is something missing. I want the band that sang about “little ol’ three-chord me” while constructing the musically complex “Falling For You”, or the group that composed the gorgeous instrumental climax to “Only In Dreams”.
I guess I am just selfish that way.
*That sounds like something that should be explained to a therapist
**There were also several fans that cheered along to the absolutely horrid “Beverly Hills”, and I am frightened by the fact that these people are probably allowed to operate motor vehicles