We knew we were in for something unusual when we encountered Beverley Hills, which we described as “a fanfare for the new album: it poses questions for and delectates the imagination of Weezer fans.” Our expectations have not been disappointed, though the experience is proving more challenging than we could have imagined. Pat Wilson says (on the Special Edition CD), “we wanted to make something a little more lasting” – well, they’ve sure done that.
There has never been anything like this album. It is coherent but strange, complex, ambiguous, and ultimately disturbing – and very, very good. The rich Weezer sound-painting is deployed as subtle punctuation to texts that are drawing sustenance from an awkward and unsettling post-modern, post-rock world. The quotation from The Tempest in the cover booklet provides a foundation text as well as the clearest explication of what the band is doing.
“People know that there’s some kind of strangeness going on in our band” – Pat Wilson again. Whew! – I thought it was just me! Back in the ’50s and ’60s, the heyday of Rock ‘n’ Roll, recalling its Blues background, we heard frequent reference to “heartbreak” – Weezer gives us “the damage in your heart” (deliberately degraded linguistic expression) – followed immediately and pointedly by “I can’t tell you how the words have made me feel.”
This branding of today’s world as detached, deracinated, enervated, cut off from values such as love and commitment runs through the entire album. At times this is conveyed by hackneyed lyrics such as: “You are taller than a mountain / deeper than the sea, you are” – amplified by “I was closer to you back then / I was happier, I was.”
There is a threat of violence between lovers in This Is Such A Pity. There is loneliness and terror of loss of happiness (if that’s what it really was?) in the next track Hold Me. This leads shortly (I am unapologetic about discussing this CD from beginning to end because it does have an extraordinary integrity that goes beyond Sergeant Pepper or Tommy) to We Are All on Drugs.
The whole history of Weezer leads us to conclude that they are not on drugs. So, I guess it’s us: “we are all on drugs yeah / never getting enough / we are all on drugs yeah / give me some of that stuff.” We are not speaking here of mind-altering substances: the spectrum is much broader – as suggested by the interjection “Give it to me.” Give me your number. Give me your phone, or I’ll kick your head in. Give me your love (give me your ass).
Then we come to the “Sorry…sorry…” society. Pardon Me reduces to the demotic (if not the nervously challenged) the classic story of break-up. When? Oh when? Have we had the word “apologise” in a song before? The text reads like the unwilling words of an English boarding school boy required by his housemaster to write out a confession to some misdemeanour.
For Heavens’ sake, when has there ever been a song as anodyne as My Best Friend – more true confessions with the use again of the word apologise – with ample lashings of “Pardon me.” O please: take me back to the undying love of the mid-Twentieth Century; there was always at least a grain of hope that love might rise phoenix-like, might re-kindle – not “Cause I speak sincerely.”
The Other Way is a devastating portrait of ineptitude in interpersonal relations. “I want to help to help you, but I don’t know how” – the words get more depressing. Are we all so attuned to the landline, the internet, the mobile, the digital this-and-that, that we no longer relate significantly to one another? We live in a world in which there are only “best friends” whom we “love.” Sad – but probably true.
Make Believe is a profound comment on our era. The second track, Perfect Situation, takes up where Only In Dreams leaves off – in the vein of Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner. Appropriately bracketed with Freak Me Out, the most important document of post-modern music thus far: a terrifying scenario presented against a soft, mellow-evening, I’m-in-the-mood-for-love sound.
This album is going to make an indelible impression on popular music, provided the public rise to its intellectual challenge.