Friday, September 17, 2010

Weezer is broken statue with four toes

We should be well acquainted with the Rivers Cuomo marketing technique by now. Have you not seen the ridiculous album covers? Maybe you heard the oddball collaborations with Lil Wayne and Kenny G? Well, then you must have purchased the Weezer Snuggie.

This season, the perennial meme-generators bring us "Hurley" - an album whose patron saint is the character from the now-defunct hit television show "Lost." Oh, and there’s a beaming shot of actor Jorge Garcia plastered on the cover.

"I just loved this photo of Jorge Garcia," Rivers told AOL Music. "It just had this amazing vibe."

But more than the “vibe” it's fitting how the band chose to associate with this particular show. Each one is a pop culture phenomenon that continues to perplex their fans with elaborate stunts. With “Lost,” we were intrigued with kernels of faux-philosophy and allusions to revered scientists. Weezer elevated nerds to their full glory in the ‘90s with horn-rimmed glasses and wide-eyed lyrics about Dungeons & Dragons and Buddy Holly. We fell from them both, and they convinced us that they held secrets and insights to our lives. But in the end they failed to deliver anything except disappointment and regret.

What’s been missing from Rivers' work for the past decade has been his sincerity. And “Hurley” is another recycled watered-down version of a Weezer album.

There’s a brief glimpse of pre-Harvard Rivers on “Unspoken,” a genuine power ballad that shows the songwriter unvarnished – with acoustic guitar, even. "Our life will be broken, our hate will be unspoken," he utters in the refrain. It’s the only moment on “Hurley” where you hear some conviction beneath what this man is singing. And it makes the eventual crescendo of distortion an actual payoff rather than a convenient diversion.

But this feeling of redemption and relief is quickly obliterated by "Where's my Sex?" - a juvenile and unconvincing song that is actually about losing one’s socks. Do we really give a shit if Rivers finds his “sex?” And, whether it’s “under the rug” or “stuck in a shoe closet?” He certainly doesn’t sing like he even gives a shit. And, why would he?

When Rivers sang about sex on “Pinkerton” he gave us confessional lines like, “I’m spread so thin, I don’t know who I am.” These are honest revelations from a man suddenly and completely bombarded by stardom. Trying unsuccessfully to deal with this new outpouring of “attention.” “Hurley” is bereft of any such resignations.

The album’s opening track "Memories" maintains that - Hey, the 90s were cool, right? - but fails to conjure up any images from that decade that are actually worth remembering (Hacky Sacks, techno music?!). On “Smart Girls,” Rivers talks about girls and stuff, how rad they are and all. But perhaps the most hollow and pitiful lyrics come from “Brave New World:”

“This is the dawning of a brave new world /
I don’t know where I’m going, but I know I’ll figure it out, Yeaaah!”

Besides giving Aldous Huxley an aneurysm Rivers is being completely disingenuous. If he truly didn’t care about where he’s going, he’d be making “Songs from the Black Hole” – the lost, Pinkerton-era, sci-fi rock opera that never saw the light of day. Instead, he’s churning out “The Blue Album for Tweens.”

When Rivers sang about "12-sided die" on "In the Garage" it was cute, and referential. We were right there in that garage with him and you could feel the collective embrace of D&D freaks around the country. Here, on songs like "Trainwrecks" (actual name) he insists, "We don't update our blogs." That’s just pathetic and pandering. It’s like Weezer Mad Libs – simply replace the nouns to fit the generation.

The band has always modeled themselves after Kiss - a sort-of grotesque marketing template for rock bands. Gene Simmons turned that group into a brand that became more famous than the music itself. And one can imagine what happens to the psyche of a pop-punk songwriter after he’s received an Ivy-league education. It seems that Rivers Cuomo is intent on delivering whatever iteration of Weezer he thinks his fans want to like to buy.

Critics have charged that the artist is regressing, becoming trapped in a teenage fantasy - becoming more immature and irrelevant the older he gets. I'd say he is becoming something much, much worse – a rock star.

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