The Green Album
REVIEW: Weezer: Weezer (The Green Album)
Weezer: Weezer (Geffen, 2001)
I was going to JP's house.
Simple enough; it's a matter of walking for a bit, jumping on a bus, walking for another bit, and then arriving. What could be easier?
Well, besides 'walking for a bit' and then 'arriving'.
Or just 'arriving'.
Actually, to be perfectly honest, I needn't hop on a bus. I can just (as I did today) walk for a long bit, and then arrive.
But I suppose these details are irrelevant.
As I was approaching JP's house, unbeknowest to me, he was watching me through his window. What did he behold, besides my round face, blue walkman, and shoes?
My shirt and my pants, first of all.
And also, perhaps before the recognition that I was wearing clothing, JP observed that I was dancing. Twirling my fingers, bobbing my head, engaging, if it can be put cutely, in a particularly vicious groove.
When later he confronted me about the whole incident, it was mostly a matter of him laughing at me. But that's okay. I'm used to it. People simply don't understand my art.
A few hours later, we were sitting around with nothing to do.
"I'm bored," said JP.
"Wanna go into your room, put on 'El Scorcho', and crank the volume to 11?"
So we did. And it was great. I even got JP to dance along with me. In a very heterosexual way.
Pinkerton was Weezer's masterpiece, and also their failure. Less refined, more raw than their debut (heretofore referred to as the Blue Album), it was also infused with an ugly macho side, a clumsy, noisy feel. Almost every song closes in a screechy feedback wail, and in contrast with their blockbuster first release, it didn't sell very many copies. Relatively speaking, of course.
It's a good album. I mean, it's not rocket science, and I sort of resent the clumsy feel to some of the songs, but the lyrics are strong, the sound is more original, and the melodies, well, they're as glorious as anything on the Blue Album. Besides the rousing, celebratory anthem that is "El Scorcho", there's the delightful hook of "Pink Triangle", the smile-on-your-face sing-along of "Across the Sea", the acoustic balladry of "Butterfly".
But it bombed on the charts, and lead dude River Cuomo got depressed and called it quits for five years.
So now we have Weezer circa 2001, who have released another self-titled record, this one green, and which clocks in at under thirty minutes.
I think the most significant aspect of this album is the fact that it is a response. River and the band were hurt by Pinkerton's failure. They didn't blame the fans, they blamed themselves. They decided that their explorations were lousy, that their aspirations were silly. They put together a tiny little album, a mundane one, one that wouldn't be too hard to make, that they wouldn't have to invest too much emotional energy in. If it failed, they could still sleep at night. It it hit big time, well, rock on.
The Green Album is a good album. As a cohesive unit, it's great. Every track fits right in with the next, guitars crunching together, double-tracked vocals, it's like a more polished version of Blue. Power-rock. In fact, the only vestiges of Pinkerton are in the sometimes irregular verse-chorus structures.
But it lacks. The charm is gone from Weezer's music. That is not to say that the warm electric licks aren't familiar and friendly and wonderful - they are - but this isn't the band that sang of sweaters and Buddy Holly. Sure, the lyrics have alwyas been fairly inane, but here they've even, for the most part, lost their sense of whimsy. Whimsy was why I loved, and love, Weezer. God-damn you half-Japanese girls.
The Green Album begins rousingly, triumphantly, as drums bang out an introduction to a set of delightful "ooh-ooh ohs", the kind that we've all been missing, the sweet sound of Weezer. "Don't Let Go" is one of the album's stand-outs, but not because it's particularly better than the other tracks. In fact, they all sort of sound the same. But "Don't Let Go" starts the record, it smacks you in the head, it's that welcoming hug - the one that incites a grin, a cheer. What follows, for all of the hand-claps and matching harmonies, lacks that sound of the new, lacks the momentum that five years of anticipation has built up. "Pretty good" Weezer songs are only "pretty good" when they're not kicking down the front door.
It doesn't help that "Hash Pipe" reminds me of that silly Barenaked Ladies song about spiders... but that's another story.
The other big flaw in the Green Album is that by and large, it lacks the super-wicked melodies that Pinkerton and the Blue Album benefited from. Instead of 10 memorable tunes, there's maybe three. The rest are fun, enjoyable, toe-tapping, but, three years from now, they'll feel like acquaintances, not old friends.
A solid Weezer album, then - entertaining but not enlightening. There's nothing new here, nothing really worth dancing along to. Buy it used?
Well... no. You can buy it new. Not for like $20, but when it's on sale as a new release, or something. It's got this one song, you see, this ditty called "Island in the Sun".
"Island in the Sun" is, as they say, the clincher. It's one of those singular songs that makes an album, that lifts it up, that compels you to love the disc simply so that you can put it on repeat and eventually hear the song again.
The lyrics are perfect sing-along fare:
"On an island in the sun, we'll be playing and having fun. And it means me feel so fine, I can't control my brain."
"We'll run away together, we'll spend some time together. We'll never feel bad any more."
And that's pretty much it.
Well, not quite. There's the "hip hip"s. Just some mumbled words that syncopate the beat and make you smile and make you giggle and make you remember why Weezer was so cool, what charm they had, and have, why you bought the album in the first place, why you bought their other albums, why - hey, listen to that chorus! that rocks! - ooh, and the "hip hip"s again... sweet!
If the Green Album is a 7, well, "Island" makes it an 8.3. It makes the album a joy to relish, to repeat, and at twenty-nine minutes, that's an easy feat.