Columns, Music

Me and Rivers and Everything You Know

I had a dream about Weezer. It was a strange dream, probably the fourth of fifth of the night. I’m in the process of recovering from illness so these dreams come in an array of medicated madness streaming through my unconsciousness like a good Chris Nolan flick. Like all dreams, I don’t remember how it started or I how I got there, but I do remember being there. I was in a park that looked like every other park, wide and green and filled with the indistinct noises of chatter and moving people. I had just downloaded (illegally of course) the new Weezer album, Hurley, which in my dream had a new dark blue sheen to its artwork. In reality, I think if an image of Hurley had imposed itself into my brain during sleep, this is where my dream would have ended- instantly and abruptly.

In a parallel to reality, my subconscious seemingly spared me the relief of having to actually listen to the album in full. Instead, fast-forwarding to the moment where I had finally hit “stop” and was left with nothing but the feeling of disgust and disappointment. Next thing I know I’m in this park, and I come across Rivers Cuomo sitting on a bench. Still geekily bespectacled, he was now looking unshaven and slightly bedraggled- as if the diminished talent had finally taken it’s toll (like that Keanu meme). He soon told me, as I fumbled with the voice-recorder application on my iPhone (the app finally has a use!), that he was tired of being a rock star.

Some of the details here get a little hazy but I ask him why, among other things, he can’t write more music like he did for that first Blue Album. I tell him it’s still one of the greatest albums ever written (okay, so a slight exaggeration by my dream self- I apparently have no critical control of him) and it seems to bring a light to his face, a brief and recollective smile. Almost as if, he too remembers that one time long ago, he was a great songwriter. One that penned uniquely intelligent but accessible pop songs that were neither patronizing or self-absorbed, but that moment was fleeting, a flicker long gone. “My Name is Jonas”, “Undone- The Sweater Song”, “Say It Ain’t So”, all since replaced by an endless array of tripe like “Pork and Beans”, “The Girl Got Hot” and “Beverly Hills”. It has been one big joke at all of our expenses that only Rivers and the label were in on. How many more terrible videos can we be subjected to? How does the album cover just get worse and worse? No answer.

I ask him if there is any difference to being on Epitaph than it was to being on Geffen before he lets out a prompt, but ample sigh, “no” he says.

This is where the dream ends. As quickly as I had begun asking him all these questions, a pack of older, slightly overweight gypsy-looking women appear at our table with what I can only decipher as either a television or a karaoke machine and scare Rivers away.

So as I awake from this rather hazy slumber, I hastily jot down this bizarrely memorable dream. What was my subconscious telling me? Was it that the side effects of this medicine need to be studied further, or that Weezer have become so appalling that even a drug fueled dream can tell you so. I didn’t even need to listen to the new album to know this is true. And I’m sure that when I do, I will come to the same conclusion.

I am not surprised to hear rumblings are abound that a possible Blue Album/Pinkerton-only tour could happen. Imagine a Weezer performance where you wouldn’t have to listen to anything they wrote after 1996. Glorious. Think of it as ‘Good Time Weezer’ or ‘How Weezer Should Have Ended’.

In case you doubted my subconscious, Weezer have released the first single from their upcoming Epitaph debut streaming below. Safe to say gypsies singing karaoke are much preferred.

Hurley is out September 14th via Epitaph.

For the sake of reference, here is a small reminder of Rivers’ one time genius:


Hey Suburbia What Happened to You?

One of the most imme­di­ate things you notice about Can­vey Island in the UK is its des­o­late, almost-lifeless vis­age. Adorned in the most bru­tal way pos­si­ble by a gar­gan­tuan oil refin­ery, it is a most fit­ting birth place for one of rock music’s most enig­matic, yet seem­ingly under­ap­pre­ci­ated acts in his­tory; prog­en­i­tors of punk Dr Feel­good. I watched Oil City Confidential and thought it was pretty great, but I couldn’t help but recall how depressing Canvey Island looked (and still does today). Much of the housing areas resembled what I can only describe as “suburban”- lifeless housing propped up together with little to no difference between them. Now I’ve never been to Canvey Island so I can’t tell you how suburban it really is but my immediate connection was that is reminded me of suburbia and how it once bred good music (in this case, Dr Feelgood).

Suburbia is home to the bored teenager encapsulated in Richard Linklater movies and better yet, Penelope Spheeris ones. Hours to kill and with little to do, they tend to gravitate towards basements and garages, talk shop about the cute girl who works at the cookie stand at the mall, and of course, get together with little to no music ability and start bands. Now, back in the very early 90s when my musical taste buds were growing, this was the most exciting thing I did on weekends- get my similarly inclined friends and “jam”. Influenced by great suburban bands like Screeching Weasel, we strung together the best three-chords we could muster and had a damn ball. To quote Fat Mike, “you don’t need talent just sing out of tune“, and that’s what we did. In the end, if you did just that, the “out of tune” part starts to sound a lot like “attitude” and that’s what made bands like Screeching Weasel great.

Fast forward to today and I’m getting this strange and unpleasant vibe that that kids would rather be crunk than punk. Suburban bands are sounding a lot less like Screeching Weasel, old Green Day, Operation Ivy, MxPx and more and more like 3Oh!3 and the Gym Class Heroes. And if someone can please explain THIS to me, that would be greatly appreciated.

Nonsense I say, nonsense!

They say “youth is wasted on the young” and as the decades pass, youth has found new levels of wasteful, seemingly displacing previous generations with unseen ineptitude. There are many factors contributing to the decline- youth culture is a lot different to what it was just ten years ago. The internet has influenced and shifted the way music is produced, marketed and sold, and it all comes at a varying cost to the soul of rock n’ roll. It’s complicated to explain but there is something about a truly genuine band that an adept listener can immediately connect to.

For instance, when you listen to the Bouncing Souls, there is a quality to them- musically and aesthetically- that one immediately associates with punk rock’s most basic ethos. Yes, they’re loud and they can be angry, but there is an intangible genuineness to it. Now you take an artist like The Pretty Reckless (fronted by Gossip Girl star Taylor Momsen) and you see that she cops an attitude during interviews, wears leather and acts like a “rock star” while her videos are meant to be “offensive.” But you know, you just know, that it’s all very transparent in reality, manufactured from market analysis and yes, maybe a little bit of her deep seeded need to rebel. It is however, not genuine.

What makes an artist genuine? Well, it’s like pornography, you can try to explain or justify the many qualities, but  in the end, you’ll know it when you see it.

Let’s face it, if you grew up wanting to play Wembley Stadium instead of CBGB’s then shame on you. If you wanted your high school band to sound like Prince Kanye and not The Ramones, then shame on you. If you would rather buy jewel-encrusted necklaces instead of a leather jacket, then shame on you. If you would rather score a Top 10 hit instead of changing the life of a suburban kid then there really isn’t much left to say.

Attitude makes a wasteful youth a worthwhile one, but you’ve got to be honest about it.

Try and tell us our future’s at stake / we’re gonna slam dance on your grave / cause we don’t give a shit about tomorrow

Screeching Weasel – Hey Suburbia (from the album Boogadaboogadaboogada)