Island in the sun
Weezer breezes into BeachLife
by Gavin Heaney
Guitar tone is the holy grail of rock music. This is something that cannot be fabricated in the studio. It’s the desperate invention of someone trying the hardest of all to cut through the noise and be heard. Weezer’s rock guitar tone has its own signature heaviness, an astonishing rawness that adds gravity and an instant credibility to their songs. Whether they are joking or not, it always remains deadly serious. It’s something so heart-wrenchingly real that its authenticity is unmistakable.
“I think there’s probably something very, very deep, something biological about it,” Rivers Cuomo, the band’s singer and lead guitarist, told Guitar Player Magazine. “You’ve got all those hormones and all this potential and all this energy. And yet your status in the world is so low and you can’t get any attention, and so you just woodshed. I guess it’s like the male birds singing these beautiful songs. You’re training yourself to do that.”
Weezer trained their dragons and rode them out of the dungeon bringing their geek rock to the world in 1994 with their debut album Weezer, probably better known as “The Blue Album.” “Undone - The Sweater Song” somehow broke through the corporate mainstream noise like a flower through a crack in the sidewalk, championing the meek, the paralyzed, the shoe-gazers and wallflowers of the world. It gave them a thunderous voice to be heard and understood, to be seen and connect:
Goddamn, I am
I can sing and
Hear me, Know me
“Undone’s” lyrics are the unraveling inner dialogue of an introvert who is disappearing in plain sight, but longing to make contact. This inner struggle to overcome self-deprecation, shyness and doubt bottles over victoriously into the chorus. Weezer’s music elevates this kind of everyday drama into opera and channels all the angst of teen disillusionment into anthems. They celebrate the pathetic and challenge the ethos of natural selection. Cuomo says that his songwriting has always been a solitary process, but it’s through introspection that he connects to others.
“When I’m writing I’ll go to my room and go in a deep space and work there for hours….I do the same thing I did when I was a teenager,” he told The Zach Sang Show. “Just picking up a guitar…trying to write something that’s on my mind and make myself feel better. Then go out and play it for other people and rock out. It’s what I love to do.”
Cuomo has found out that he is not alone. For nearly thirty years Weezer has been performing and releasing albums for their dedicated and still growing audience. Cuomo thrives off the support and interaction with his fans.
“As an artist, I want affirmation from the world,” he said. “Some kind of sign that what I’ve done is valuable and worthwhile”
This affirmation is the common thread between Weezer and their fans. Like a giant support group, they rally and celebrate the underdogs, the oddballs and the left out. Cuomo’s motivation is always artistic and that genuineness has earned the band lifelong followers and a career longevity not experienced by many of their contemporaries.
Say It Ain’t So
“Weezer” was Rivers Cuomo’s childhood nickname. A teasing moniker that would go on to be his vehicle to transmute pain into pleasure and heal his inner child. It’s this kind of alchemy Weezer brings to their music; they shed light on the darker side of life and turn it into gold. Cuomo wrote one of Weezer’s biggest hits based on his own painful childhood experience and saw firsthand how music had the power to heal himself and others.
“When I wrote Say It Ain’t So, I learned that I can go back to some of the most painful emotions and situations in my life, and make something so beautiful out of it,” Cuomo said. “It can heal me and help me move on and at the same time it can bring joy and meaning to many other people’s lives. It’s such a wonderful thing that can happen. Wow!”
Weezer’s ability to bring light and even humor to our awkward existential struggles humanizes the band to the point of friendliness. It’s hard to feel that way about most rock n’ roll icons who seem to tower god-like above you. Weezer’s songs are like lifelong childhood friends who just get you.
Run away together
Weezer whimsically brings the BeachLife vibe with their hit “Island In The Sun” from 2001’s Green Album. Cuomo recalls its effortless creation, the “zero ambition” of the track. Yet it perfectly captures the slacker escapism everyone has daydreamed about at school or on the job.
“We'll run away together
We'll spend some time forever
We'll never feel bad anymore”
The simple and relaxed, not-trying attitude of the song is a daydreamy jaunt to where the everyday lameness of living is left behind. Yet the minor key arrangement is sweetly plaintive and there is a vague undercurrent begging the question; Why does the real world have to be such a bummer? We’re addicted to the bad news, scrolling headline after headline, without any satisfactory conclusion. One starts to get the feeling that there is no end to it all. The sweet invitation to make our getaway grows insatiably appealing. We all need to shrug it off sometimes and feel carefree, even if it’s just for the length of a pop song. Weezer wants to help us all get over it and Cuomo continues to write music that gives us comfort when there is no ready answer.
“Whatever the world is throwing at us,” Cuomo says, “we want to have a Weezer record ready.”
If you’re looking to escape your worries for a while, Weezer live is your ticket to paradise. Their shows are action-packed and famous for their epic shenanigans. From inviting fans onstage to jam random instruments to live puppet shows, Weezer always has something fun and outrageous up their sleeve. The band gets off on the crowd and is always willing to please, performing all the favorite hits as well as quirky covers from the 1980s. Weezer lets the good times roll.
“We’re just trying to bring good vibes and big concerts with lots of people in harmony and really uplifting music and message yet deep and thoughtful at the same time. Playing rock music in front of 30,000 people is generally fun,” Cuomo said, laughing impishly. “And it doesn’t matter if the song is new or old.”
In other cultures, the wisdom that comes from old age and experience is rightfully valued. Why is the ignorance and inability of youth so valued in pop music culture? Or does this adolescent-like ineffectiveness actually continue throughout our lives? The nerd rock once written for disenfranchised side-liners is now the throwback dad rock of the middle-aged intelligentsia. Weezer are not rock n’ roll Peter Pans stunted in a perpetual teenage wasteland, refusing to grow up. They are refusing to give up – on optimism, innocence, and the good nature of humankind. If you ever feel like a big kid who is still struggling to grow up and be taken seriously, Weezer is your medicine.
Weezer headline BeachLife May 13.