Are Weezer’s songs from the Black Hole the real “Pinkerton”?

!No! Weezer! NO!! Where’s Rivers Cuomo? What did he do? What happened to Weezer ?! WHERE ARE THE REAL WEEZERS? !! ”

This is Pinkerton in its truest form.

– YouTube user “Ziggy Startrucker”, May 2019, commenting on a pirate version of Black hole songs

Chuck Klosterman wrote, in Eat the dinosaur: “People are generally disappointed with Weezer’s albums.” It is difficult to say it more succinctly than that. This is the central fact of the fandom of most Weezer fans. What we talk about when we talk about Weezer, generally, is why we’re mad at Weezer for pretty much all of the music they’ve made since about 1999, except maybe for the intro on the guitar. of “Perfect Situation”. Those of us who loved Weezer before the 21st century – and God knows we are legion – find it extremely difficult to stop caring about the band, even if they continue to make records that we don’t like. not for the most part.

Aside from questions of objectivity, aesthetics, and nostalgia, there is a small army of people who truly believe – whether fair or not, fair or not – that the Weezer from circa 1994 to 1999 is ineffably good, good, manner better than any iteration of the group since. Their music from this era is imbued with energy, passion, desire, angst and personality in a way that amazes every listen.

There is no way for us to know if we would feel this if Weezer hadn’t made albums like Persuade (2005) or Radiation (2009) or Hurley (2010). These are just a few of Weezer’s albums that their fans tend to find disappointing; there are too many to list them. Frankly we wouldn’t be so disappointed with Persuade Where raison Hurley or if we didn’t know Black hole songs, that is, for those of us who think rock music should be very loud, very sad, very sincere, and written and sung only by Rivers Cuomo during the 1994 era, the you are beautiful-album.

And it was never published.

Of course, it’s true that this album can’t be as good as it sounds. It’s not really an album, to begin with. A handful of songs have been recorded entirely for another disc (Pinkerton, 1996, of which 25e anniversary is in September), and some have emerged as B-sides. On the whole, it “exists” as a series of sketchy demos, recorded in a fuzzy way, sometimes poorly played instruments, with a singer singing in a fuzzy way. quite unconvincing all male and female roles. That makes him even more endearing, in a way, since we now know that young Rivers Cuomo has seriously squealing on the clarinet on the solo of “Longtime Sunshine” will write stylish pop songs for teens.

Black hole songs can be described as both a celebrity concept album and a sci-fi rock opera, both of which should raise red flags. The lyrics aren’t particularly good, especially since their writer was, at the time he wrote them, studying English at Harvard. Sex is described as “boinking”. One important motive involves speculation about the size of a minor character’s genitals; we are regularly reminded of his “big thang” which is supposed to be “extra huge”. (It’s worth mentioning that this character is an astronaut.)

The album, so to speak, ends with an almost ridiculous melodramatic pathos, as the protagonist completes a perhaps heroic, perhaps selfish, suicidal mission in (spoiler alert) driving a spaceship through an exploding planet. The reason for this one-way ticket? (spoiler alert): he found a used condom on his girlfriend’s bed. This type of music should surely be accompanied by a Parental Advisory label.

But for all this, it must be said: the songs are exquisite. This music is the best proto-emo of the 90s: catchy and chaotic, brash but embarrassed, brimming with tortured desire and delivered with embarrassing sincerity. Emo as a genre has been duly criticized, most notably by Jessica Hopper’s now classic essay, “Emo: Where the Girls Aren’t,” which berates the misogynistic caricatures of emo women. However, the embarrassing truth about emo is that songs like Weezer’s “Devotion” and “Waiting on You” – drenched in grunge feedback, three-part harmonies, tropes of ’60s pop ballads, and guitar solos with metallic accents – resonate beautifully. .

Somehow, founder Rivers Cuomo makes a collection of songs about how hard it is to be a rock star, feeling like any other kid in a college dorm writing songs about a girl in her. Survey of Brit Lit. Somehow, he manages to make the songs sound good despite being roughly recorded and half-finished composition. His first track, “Blast Off”, is perhaps the apotheosis of Cuomo’s’ 90s work: the perfect blend of exhilaration and self-doubt at a boom-boom pace before “Beverly Hills” is never a spark in Rick Rubin’s eye.

Cuomo, fresh from the surprising hit of the 1994s Blue album, exclaims: “Someone is giving me a lot of money to do what I think I want / so why do I always feel depressed?” Its primitive drums lend just the right amount of brutality, and the end of the track foreshadows the quirky acoustic guitar riff that would become “El Scorcho”, Pinkerton’s first single. The song, never refined beyond the immediacy of the demo, remains an energetic and joyful listen in 25 years. Those of us who have come to love Black hole songs You cannot help but hear it as a masterpiece, astronaut genital or not.

It’s not hard to see how deeply Weezer fans are attached to our love for the band, even when they disappoint us. The boundaries between a) professional reviewer (say, Spencer Owen from Pitchfork; see above), b) amateur reviewer (say, you or I posting about Startrucker on Youtube; see also above), and c) musician from rock (say, Rivers Cuomo) are unclear in our world. The very word “fan” (that is, fanatic) offers a clue as to what animates this world: the personal and social investment of people in the object of worship, or, more simply, their love for. this one. Fans are self-proclaimed critics and identify with bands so much that they wish to be them, or pretend to be them, or become them by creating bands themselves. Critics are above all fans, and often musicians (* cough * failures or amateurs * cough *). Bands are primarily fans of other bands, and amateur critics by default.

Cuomo has been instrumental in shaping the discourse about his band, writing for magazines, social media, and other self-published ephemera. Weezer fans share a vocabulary, a love of rock’n’roll, a universe of discourse.

These three overlapping communities are equally important in making music what it means, and we are often members of one or more at the same time. We are all, in the fan / critic / artist orbit, the ones who make popular music what it means. Although Cuomo was notoriously ashamed and embarrassed by the contemptuous public reaction to the deeply personal songs that eventually made their way to Pinkerton, he has taken fan contributions seriously over the past few years, going so far as to release demos for the 2002 album. Clumsy daily, then review and re-record songs based on fan feedback. He then collaborated with fans via a series of videos on YouTube called “Let’s Write a Sawng”, published under the title “Turning Up the Radio” on the compilation album Weezer 2010. Death to faux metal (with seventeen co-authors credited). In 2014, he spoke directly to fans at the start of “Back to the Shack”, singing “I’m sorry, guys / I didn’t realize I needed you so much”.

But it’s Black Ho songswhere this fan-critic-artist constellation shines the most. The amount of speech generated on this unreleased record is plentiful: YouTube compilations, blog entries re-enacting tracklists, illegal zip files, timeline interviews with Karl Koch (Weezer’s tour director and unofficial archivist), Cuomo in his Alone releases, and self-published journals.

Of course, there are the recordings themselves. Take Operation Space Opera, a group of fans who loved Weezer so much around 1995 – and hated what Weezer had become so much since then – that they formed a band and covered the entire album, releasing it Bandcamp in 2012 with sarcastic liner notes. (They refer to Rivers Cuomo as a ‘dunce without a chick’.) The musicians claim to have made the album ‘for the lulz’, (actual quote) but they lovingly and painstakingly recreate the songs, exhuming them, saving them of themselves, so others may appreciate them better. Fans, critics, groups, all in one disc.

It’s the kind of talk those of us in Weezer’s orbit – the black hole, if you will – produce all the time: Operation Space Opera isn’t even close to be the only fan-made Weezer tribute album. Several musicians have recorded a surprisingly good album based on Cuomo’s failed attempt to start a side project called Homie; some Weezer forums have produced half a dozen tribute albums.

Indeed, Black hole songs cannot be understood apart from the love and deep involvement of the fans. It would be an uncontroversial statement on any beloved musical artifact, but in this case the meaning is literal: the fuller versions of the album are actually performed by fans.

In 2008, the Weezer (the Red album), the band released “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived”, a nearly six-minute track that repeats its titular claim via a mystifying mash-up of styles, 20 seconds at a time, across genres. ranging from rap to country to baroque counterpoint to punk. There is a brief section that you could call “what Weezer is supposed to look like”. It’s medium-fast, chunky, melodic, pushed relentlessly by guitar and synthesizer. There’s a vaguely cheesy sci-fi vibe, and it’s sung with what feels like deep emotion. In other words, it’s not too far from Black hole songs.

Whenever Weezer of the last days feels like he’s about to recognize this lost gem, we the fans feel like we’re finally getting, maybe, what should have been from the start. Sometimes we take matters into our own hands, like when a fan invited to play “Undone (the Sweater Song)” on stage with the band in 2005 grabbed a microphone and sang the first two lines of “Blast Off”.

What Weezer is supposed to look like, to Cuomo and the band, may not have much to do with Black hole songs. But they are not the only ones to decide.

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