So the other week I watched the season finale of Saturday Night Live. I’ve come to like the show again over the past few years. The current cast has been great through its evolution and certainly tops the one before it that featured Jeaneane Garofalo, Laura Kightlinger, and Michael McKean among others. Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan, Jimmy Fallon, Darrell Hammond, Tina Fay, et al. have done a fine job of entertaining me this past year. The finale’s host Christopher Walken has always been worth seeing on the show, even when the cast flat out sucked, allowing that oddball creepiness of his to make even the most routine sketch seem perversely amusing. And with musical guest Weezer topping things off, the episode had everything going for it.
And the show really was good for most of the 90 minutes that it is always given. Walken abused “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” with Fallon during the monologue, fell in love with Mango, and reprised his beloved role as The Continental as well. It was a great night made even better by the appearance of a band that actually didn’t suck. When Weezer finally took the stage for the first time, they played “Hash Pipe”. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. After all, original bassist Matt Sharp had gone on to work full time with his band The Rentals and was replaced by Mikey Welsh. Add to that the fact that the band’s sophomore LP Pinkerton was a lot rougher and not anything at all like their best-selling debut, featuring an angrier tone and darker lyrics. Who knew what the new stuff was going to be like? “Hash Pipe” was indeed a bit of a rocker, tipping the scales back to the Pinkerton sound.
But then during the band’s second performance, they came out and played “Island in the Sun” (with a fake-mustachioed Will Ferrell supplying maracas) that sounded just as good as any of the sweet pop tunes found on the debut. Obviously, a purchase of the band’s new album was at the top of my list for the next week. After all, I had been eagerly awaiting this release ever since I had first read about it some months back. It would be nice to have Weezer around again, even if it had taken two purchases of Pinkerton to keep me convinced of their talents (the first copy was purposely destroyed after hearing the first three songs and getting pissed that they hadn’t made a Xerox of the debut; silly me). My final verdict on this latest Weezer album is that it’s simply their best yet.
I do indeed love the debut album and Pinkerton very much, but both albums had songs on them that I could have done without (including the favorite “Undone The Sweater Song”). On “The Green Album” and all of its 10 tracks, there is not one tune here that I care to skip over. Perhaps the time away from the scene was just what the band needed to regain their stature as one of the best power pop bands of my generation. When the market is catering to those who are considerably younger than the late 20s age group that I am a part of, it’s nice to have an old hero come back and attempt to shake things up. By all accounts, “The Green Album” should please the old fans while scoring a whole bunch of new ones.
The first thing that comes to mind when listening to these songs is “What happened to Rivers Cuomo’s melancholy?” It’s noticeably absent for most of the album. Either that or the songs are so damn catchy that you don’t notice when he is wearing the long face. Certainly something like “Smile” and its “Open your heart and let the good stuff out” demand wouldn’t have appeared on Pinkerton. And surely the happy loving “Simple Pages” and “Glorious Day” outshine even the sunniest moments of the debut. The guitar solos ring out as joyful as the words. And even the songs’ lengths are nice and compact. Weezer comes in, plays the song, and exits. No overkill makes for many moments where you want to hear these songs again and again. Perhaps having producer Ric Ocasek back on board was one of the best ideas the band had, as “The Green Album” is certainly water tight all around.
My favorite songs would be the aforementioned “Island in the Sun” (with its “hip-hip” refrains), “Photograph”, and “Crab”. The latter tune attempts to be a bit angrier, but even it can’t help but turn into a catchy pile of notes that will leave you humming throughout the day. But it’s OK to be gleeful. Hell, someone certainly needs to lately. Even the tougher sounds of “Hash Pipe” seem to have a tongue-in-cheek element about them that makes the song immediately endearing. Weezer is most definitely back, and in a very big way.
Prior to purchasing this album myself, I had read a review online that complained about “The Green Album” not being enough like “The Old Weezer”. This was exactly my problem with Pinkerton when it first came out. But with this band, you just have to let them grow and bloom as they will. Yes, the days of “Buddy Holly” are long gone, but that was years ago. Why not just accept the fact that like the rest of us, our favorite bands get older with time and have changes of mood, style and attitude. So this time around the mood happens to be one of happiness. Good for Weezer. I’m just wondering if Matt Sharp is second-guessing his decision to leave the band now. Yeah, the Rentals are amusing but they aren’t this good. We’ll just have to see what happens, I suppose. In the meantime, secure yourself a copy of “The Green Album” as it could very well be this year’s Summer Album.