What does it mean to like a band? Is it having a track or two that you sneak into a playlist whenever possible? Is it about seeking out their live experience? Knowing a handful of lyrics to sharpie on the inside of your locker? Committing yourself to an encyclopedic knowledge of their band roster (which, if it’s Mars Volta we’re talking about, would fill a literal encyclopedia)?
What about when the band starts to go downhill? They release a bum album or two? Maybe their direction begins to drift along a path you don’t want to follow? Are you still a fan? What if their lead singer habitually does stupid shit you can’t support? Or they cast a pall over their creative output with muddled or frustrating personal politics? Do you still like the band? Or is this ideological disagreement a fundamental impasse?
I read an excellent article on The AV Club today with an hour of likeable music that Weezer released post Pinkerton. The poster child for artistic deviation, Weezer fans have long suffered a rift that arose with the release of their second self-titled album (“The Green Album“). In his piece, A. A. Dowd listed a series of tracks throughout the eight album post Pinkerton era. Eight albums and Dowd managed to find enough aural candy to fit an hour. Surprising, given that most Weezer albums clock in at just over 30 minutes (funny. Front man Rivers Cuomo was rumoured to have written hundreds of songs for the clunky, borderline offensive Make Believe. It’s still merely 45 minutes and these were the tracks they chose?). Dowd has done an excellent job at crafting an alternate reality where Weezer didn’t release record after record of songs that fluctuate between mediocre and painful to hear.
Why is this relevant? Because I used to love Weezer. It’s not like I even came in at the height of their artistic prowess. I’d had a pretty severe distaste for the band after the cavalcade of shitty Green Album singles they’d put out. Despite this, I picked up “The Blue Album” in my late teens. I think after the release of Maladroit. I devoured it, learned the tracklist and lyrics from front to back. Pinkerton was a similar revelation to teenage Leon at age 19, enough that “El Scorcho” has found its way into my karaoke rotation. They wormed into my heart as a staunch part of my internal teenage nostalgia montage.
The band kept releasing horrid albums and shilling themselves out to corporate interest. I was content to give up, until their third self-titled (affectionately known as “The Cowboy Hat Album“) pulled me back in. I went to their Time Machine tour where they played a selection of songs in reverse chronological order, concluding with The Blue Album in its entirety. I found the first hour or so of the concert intolerable, but was undeniably absorbed as soon as they hit the Pinkerton material. I noticed a similar shift in the crowd around me, like each half took turns with both listlessness and rapture. Like the tides, push and pull, push and pull. Whatever lunar powers Weezer had, it was confusing to stand on the shore contemplating their perplexing machinations. At the insistence of the article I found myself today listening to their fourth self-titled record and I kind of liked it.
I guess the notion of fandom is kind of nebulous in the end. You like what you like and you’ve always got choice as to your consumption. The idea of limiting yourself with definitions is stifling at best and seeks to help nobody but those seeking to simplify your identity. Do I like Weezer? Am I a fan? Do I wish they’d just retire before doing any more damage?
The real question is, why am I making this about me? If people enjoy late game Weezer, who am I to shit on that? You know what? That new album has some catchy tracks. Even the totally cringe-worthy Raditude had a superb opening track.
Do I still love Weezer? Let’s just say I’ve got enough of their tracks I’d sneak into a playlist or two. Though that hokey “W” hand symbol still makes me shit my pants.