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Members include Brian Bell (born on December 9, 1968, in Knoxville, TN) guitar, vocals; Rivers Cuomo (born on June 13, 1970) guitar, vocals; Matt Sharp (born on September 22, 1969, in Arlington, VA) bass, vocals; Mikey Welsh, bass; Patrick Wilson (born on February 1, 1969, in Buffalo, NY) drums. Addresses: Record company--DGC Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019. Website--Weezer Official Website: http://www.weezer.com.
With their horned-rimmed glasses and requisite thrift-store sweaters, Los Angeles super-geeks Weezer burst on the scene at a time when rock was recovering from a decade spent under the haze of aerosol and spandex. Combining a love for the elaborate harmonies of early Beach Boys, the indie crunch of the Pixies and the larger-than-life riffage of Kiss (an all-time favorite of singer/guitarist and main songwriter Rivers Cuomo), Weezer became one of the first bands to transcend college rock anonymity and instead found their unlikely faces attached to a buzzing new movement simply dubbed "alternative." Since their inception, the band has successfully issued 4 albums of straightforward power-pop and metal-infused rock heroics, while avoiding the pitfalls that have plagued, and ultimately destroyed, so many bands coming up in the '90s alternative rock scene.
Future Weezer leader Rivers Cuomo was born on June 13, 1970, in a New York City hospital to Beverly Shoenberger and Frank Cuomo. Allegedly named by his mother after being inspired by the sound of the river outside of her hospital window, Rivers (and his brother Leaves, who was born on August 31, 1971) were raised in alternative environments, including the Zen Center in upstate New York and Yogaville---an ashram located in Northeastern Connecticut and run by Sri Swami Satchidananda. It was in Yogaville, a place Cuomo would later say "had no contact with popular culture" that he stumbled upon Rock and Roll Over by Kiss; one that would have an impact on not only him personally, but his future as well.
After Cuomo's father left for Germany, his mother had met and married Stephen Kitts. Instead of moving the family to Virginia, due to a relocation of the ashram, Beverly and Stephen decided to move to a suburb of Connecticut and enroll the boys in a more traditional school environment. As Rivers grew older, his interests began to flourish, and soccer and heavy metal became his main passions. His discovery of bands like Scorpions and Quiet Riot during his pre-teen and teenage years would have a profound impact, leading Cuomo to assemble a his own "hair metal" band, Fury (later known as Avant Garde). As Cuomo's obsession grew, so did the bands' prowess and determination, and eventually, the members of Avant Garde arrived in Los Angeles to pursue their dream of Sunset Strip success.
Though Avant Garde (who later changed their name one last time to Zoom) would cultivate a minor following in Los Angeles, the musical climate of the early '90s, as well as Cuomo's personal tastes, were changing. In 1991, Nirvana's punk and pop informed Nevermind was a number one record, and MTV slowly started focusing their attention away from hair metal groups and more towards bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, who valued substance over style.
In 1992, Cuomo, had become interested in the sounds of the Pixies, as well as the pop mastery of the Beatles and the Beach Boys, and attempted to form a group based around these influences. Soon, Rivers, along with Jason Cropper on guitar, Patrick Wilson on drums, and Matt Sharp on bass, formed Weezer and began playing steadily around L.A. during a time when alternative rock was beginning to show up on the radar of the mainstream. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Sharp detailed the bands' beginnings, saying, "We would just play, and if we got a following, we did, and if we didn't, we didn't. And we didn't. It was pretty much no expectations for anything; we just basically didn't have anything better to do. And we all sucked, me especially."
If such was the case, DGC Records, a subsidiary of Geffen and home to bands like Sonic Youth, Sloan, Nirvana, and Beck, disagreed, and signed Weezer on June 25, 1993. Soon, the boys were recording the Blue Album, their debut, in New York City with Ric Ocasek, famed producer as well as the former singer, guitarist, and songwriter in '80s new-wave sensations the Cars. During the recording session, Weezer replaced guitarist Jason Cropper with Brian Bell, who had previously done time in the band Carnival Art, and upon the records' completion, were thrust into the unpredictable world of alternative rock. Wilson said of their 1994 release that, "None of this was even imaginable, ever. We looked at it as a fatalist type of thing from the get-go. It was like 'I'm gonna fail because 99 percent of all records do, and what makes me so special?'"
Evidently, what made them special was their uncanny ability to put a harmony-filled power-pop spin on hard rock, something that was seemingly lacking from the grunge hits of the day. Songs like "Undone (the Sweater Song)," "Buddy Holly," and "Say it Ain't So" boasted hooks a plenty. Videos for all the aforementioned songs became hits on MTV, as the Spike Jonze directed, Happy Days-themed clip for "Buddy Holly" won the group accolades at MTV's Video Music Awards. All Music Guide proclaimed that "What makes the band so enjoyable is their charming geekiness; instead of singing about despair, they sing about love, which is kind of refreshing in the gloom-drenched world of '90s guitar-pop."
After countless tours, increased popularity, Cuomo's enrollment at Harvard University in Boston, a case of writers block, and an operation to extend one of his legs that was shorter than the other, Weezer were set to return to the pop world with a much different and gloom-drenched second album: 1996's Pinkerton. Stylistically, the album was without a doubt Weezer, as evidenced by the catchy pop-hooks, but a newfound sense of emotion, as well as relentless distortion and harder-sounding production values left fans of the Blue Album, as well as more than a few critics, slightly confused. Loosely based on Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly, Pitchforkmedia.com issued a 7.5 rating for the album, saying "The feeling still edges toward geeky pop, but Rivers Cuomo's apparently not feeling like himself these days. Not only is this record not a joyous blast of uplifting rock magic, it's a downer at times!" Though the album, which featured songs like "Tired of Sex," "No Other One" and "Getchoo," wasn't immediately received as positively as their debut, Pinkerton struck a chord with many burgeoning musicians who claim it as not only their favorite Weezer record, but their favorite record of all time. Brian Diaz of the Reunion show was quoted in John D. Luerssen's book, Rivers Edge: the Weezer Story, saying that "I knew they had it in them to lay their souls out on the table. So, for the second time, my perception of music was changed by the same band."
Still, though, Cuomo could be found blasting the record in the press, and in 2001 he was quoted in Rolling Stone, saying, "The most painful thing in my life these days is the cult around Pinkerton," he says when asked of the record's new status. "It's just a sick album, sick in a diseased sort of way. It's such a source of anxiety because all the fans we have right now have stuck around because of that album. But, honestly, I never want to play those songs again; I never want to hear them again."
The unexpected reaction to Pinkerton, as well as changes in the bands' lineup (bassist Matt Sharp left the group to concentrate on his side project the Rentals, who issued Return of the Rentals in 1995 and Seven More Minutes in 1997 on Madonna's Maverick label, and was replaced by the Boston-born Mikey Welsh), legal squabbles, tour exhaustion, Cuomo's return to Harvard, and the death of Weezer fan club presidents Mykel and Carli Allan in the summer of 1997 may have all contributed to the 5 year gap between Pinkerton and the 2001 release Weezer (also known as the Green Album). The band did continue to demo throughout the break, and even went so far as to post them on their website in order to get instant feedback from fans. When the album was finally issued, featuring songs like "Hash Pipe," "Photograph," and "Don't Let Go," it seemed that a whole new generation of Weezer fans had sprouted. The record's decidedly less emotional content, coupled with a growing interest in paying homage to Kiss, as well as Cuomo's hair metal past, the Ric Ocasek-produced album helped the band sell out larger venues on the subsequent tours following the records release.
The New Times Los Angeles called Weezer "tighter than ever" and Q Magazine proclaimed that, "The 11 selected for the Green Album hark back to the keenly observed power pop of Weezer's multi-platinum '94 debut, and there isn't a bad apple among them. 'Island In The Sun,' 'Glorious Day' and 'Simple Pages' sparkle with a deceptive simplicity, sublime melodies offsetting Cuomo's crisp, driving guitars; even the quirky, irascible single 'Hash Pipe,' written while the front man was drunk on tequila, is indulged with a quite irresistible hook."
Riding high on the Green Album's success, Weezer quickly got back to work, writing and recording demo versions of hundreds of new songs. During this time, bassist Welsh was replaced by Scott Shriner, a native of Toledo, Ohio, and member of Los Angeles' Broken. Soon, the fourth incarnation of Weezer had enough material recorded, and in May of 2002, they issued Maladroit. Packed of Green Album-esque hard rockers like "Dope Nose" and "Keep Fishin,'" Maladroit garnered it's share of mixed reviews. Pitchforkmedia.com said, "Stripping down to the basics is one thing, but removing almost every element and characteristic that separated the band from the other million quartets-with-guitars is a sad, sad sight to see." The Dallas Morning News, however, called it "Fun, breezy, pop album," and the Washington Post said, "No matter how soft or hard he's rocking out, no matter how pathetic his woman problems might be, Cuomo builds each of his songs on a melody that, stripped to the essence, could be strummed around a beach bonfire."
by Ryan Allen
Group formed in Los Angeles, 1992; released first album on DGC, 1994; sold two million copies worldwide by 1995; Matt Sharp's other band The Rentals released first album on Maverick, 1995; Weezer's second album, Pinkerton, released in late 1996; band played benefit for longtime friends Mykel and Carli who were killed in an auto accident in 1997; released Weezer (also known as the Green Album), 2001; released Maladroit, 2002.
- Selected discography
- Weezer (Blue Album ), DGC, 1994.
- Pinkerton Geffen, 1996.
- Weezer (Green Album ), Geffen, 2001.
- Maladroit Interscope, 2002.
December 14, 2005: Weezer's album, Make Believe (released May 10, 2005), was certified platinum, having sold one million copies. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bbcom/riaa/index.jsp, January 15, 2006.
- Luerssen, John D., Rivers' Edge: the Weezer Story, ECW Press, 2004.
- Rolling Stone, March 23, 1995; September 13, 2001.
- Dallas Morning News, May 15, 2002.
- Q Magazine, July 2001.
- Washington Post, May 15, 2002.
- New Times (Los Angeles, CA), May 17, 2001.
- "Weezer," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (November 19, 2004).
- Weezer Media Archive, http://wma.weezernation.com (November 25, 2004).
- Weezer Official Website, http://www.weezer.com (November 23, 2004).
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