some bands, and specifically some albums, are more than just a cultural reference point, but a touchstone for one's own personal history. for me, weezer's eponymous debut album, known by the emo masses as the Blue Album brings me straight back to senior year in high school. it was fall 1994, and i would rock out behind closed doors to "in the garage" and "say it ain't so" while attempting to pen my college application essays.
luckily for me, the album's power pop sound and confessional lyrics were more adrenaline-inducing vs. distracting, sending me into college, primed and ready for angst and self-discovery. which was why Weezer's second album, released during my sophomore year-- the sometimes angry, often dour, and always catchy Pinkerton-- sealed the deal for me: Weezer was My Band. i was freakishly obsessed. i re-read every tortured lyric, pined after geeky front-man Rivers Cuomo, played each song over and over until every exploding guitar riff found its place as a personal anthem. will i ever get over this? could another band ever mean as much to me?
well, the answer would be yes. and yes. my obsession was real, but so was my short attention span. Rivers and crew waited five years to put out two consecutive albums that amped up the power pop but forgot the soulful introspection that brought them to cult status. i had, in turn, gone from insecure collegiate to wannabe yuppy. so now, on the cusp of my late twenties ready to discard yuppy status, the band has released a new album rumored to be more closely aligned in tone and sound to the earlier ones i had been so attached to. sure, its been ten years, but i was ready to Make Believe.
a recent Rolling Stone cover story illustrated Weezer as a band mired in dysfunction, one where Cuomo's quirks and ego dominates every track. Cuomo spent much of his three-year hiatus seeking peace and celibacy through meditation and the result is a fifth album that is at once introspective and unapologetically optimistic. the album's first track, already an MTV staple as the video was shot at the Playboy Mansion, seems to shout out "Look! The Geeks have made it!" while other tracks, such as "This is Such A Pity" sounds like it could have come straight off a Depeche Mode album-- when did Weezer become a New Wave band?
however, these deviations aside, the album has some real gems reminding me of the Classic Weezer i first fell for. "Perfect Situation" opens with a 40 second punk-pop guitar solo before plunging straight into a quick-tempo song about fear, love, longing and loneliness, eventually leading into a power ballad type chorus. i have a feeling its a track i'll be putting on repeat a lot. "Hold Me" and "Haunt You Every Day" continue along this same theme of self-doubt, very much in the vein of Pinkerton. other tracks, such as "Pardon Me" and "Peace" are reflective and somewhat hopeful-- it's as if all the meditation is allowing Rivers to finally forgive himself.
in the end, nothing will ever replace the impact of Weezer's earlier breakthrough albums. but, maybe that's okay. i'm older and wiser (supposedly) now too and can learn to appreciate that as a band ages, it's expected that they will let go of the issues that once defined them...so long as they don't forget what makes them essentially who they are. you should only be allowed to Make Believe some of the time.