Ever since Weezer fought its way up from the LA club scene nearly a decade ago, Rivers Cuomo has been as much an everyteen figure as Kurt Cobain, his burb-dwelling angst channeled through nerdy classic rock updates back when Nirvana was all about hair-flailing sludge. “Undone (The Sweater Song),” Weezer’s college radio hit-turned-MTV staple, inspired nearly as many high-schoolers to pogo about their bedrooms as did “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” While Kurt’s had the cooler video, even long-haired and flannel-clad youngsters had to admit Cuomo’s tune was catchier. No matter that most of the MTV set
couldn’t distinguish lightweight power pop from Gen-X landmarks — this was altern-a-riffic 1994. However packaged, disaffection sold.
Since then, Nirvana burned out, Smashing Pumpkins faded away and Pearl Jam evolved into torch-bearing road warriors (the jury’s still out — literally, almost — on Scott Weiland and the Stone Temple Pilots). Among the cream of the early-’90s alterna-crop, Weezer has strayed the least from its putative roots, in part because the band made only two albums in its first seven years. The 1994 self-titled monster seller was followed by 1996’s Pinkerton, a darker affair that held sway with both mopey teens frightened by the humorless affectations of emo-core music and college kids indifferent to (or just taking a break from) more doggedly fuzzy indie rock.
Judging by its latest LP (also self-titled, but referred to by sly insiders as The Green Album), Weezer would indeed rather court its sizable cult than the postgrunge/modern-rock crowd. Befitting a band of advancing years, The Green Album is the most “mature” album of Weezer’s career, casting aside all the pubescent jokeyness of the earlier albums in favor of an even more darkly crunchy guitar sound than Pinkerton sported.
Hooks are in ample supply, but they’re less of the tart pop or charmingly plaintive variety than a bunch of Cheap Trick melodies clad in thrift-store sweaters and set atop flavorless midtempo grooves. As such, even “Island in the Sun” and “Photograph, two of the most subtly polished (and just plain subtle) songs Cuomo’s ever turned out, just don’t pack the same punch as oldies such as “In the Garage” or “El Scorcho.”
That’s understandable, since MTV would have you believe that today’s everyteen is either a sexpot or a frat boy, meaning that overt pop concessions aren’t nearly as good an idea for a band such as Weezer as they were seven years ago. And even with his hooks sandpapered over, The Green Album’s got plenty of what has always been Cuomo’s stock-in-trade: adolescent catharsis made hummable.
E-mail Christian David Hoard at email@example.com.