What happened to Weezer?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Weezer in the last couple of weeks as I write my song. I always land on the first two albums, the Blue Album and Pinkerton for my inspiration. I’ve wondered if I can really call myself a Weezer fan when I only really listen to two of the six Weezer albums, but the more I talked to Weezer fans, including Tim, the more I realize I am not alone. So what happened to Weezer?

Weezer took an extended break in 1997 after touring with the Pinkerton album, and when the returned a few years later, they had lost bassist and back-up vocalist Matt Sharp. When the Green Album came out in 2000, it brought increased band popularity with a younger fanbase, but mixed reviews from old Weezer fans. For those of us who poured over Pinkerton and had to buy multiple discs of the Blue Album because we had worn them out (happened twice to me), there was something different about Weezer in 2000, and I don’t think it was just the abrasive single Hash-Pipe

Could Matt Sharp’s absence have changed the band so much? As a bassist, I really think so. He is an extremely emotive bassist that fills space really well. The nature of Weezer’s songs leave lots of room, and Sharp was remarkably adept at making his basslines matter. Also, those of us who remember watching Weezer on Letterman play Say it Ain’t So on the Letterman in 1995 (I remember what I was wearing!), know that Matt Sharp delivered one of the coolest bass performances that we had seen up to that time. Remember, in rock/pop, alternative music up until Weezer (with the exception of Flea), it was all about dark clothes, long hair, and bassist who stood in the back and bobbed their heads. Then there is this: 

Our friend Steve Goold is an advocate for musical passion. I tend to think that Matt Sharp’s passion is hard to quantify, but makes a huge difference in the early Weezer years over and against their more recent work.

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4 Comments

  1. Matt Sharp made a huge difference to Weezer. I feel like I parted ways with them when he did. I’ll never forget seeing them at the Metro, they opened up with “Why Brother”, all the lights were out, Sharp was ladling that low E, only to come crashing into the song Sharp is flying through the air at the audience.

  2. I saw them at the Riviera shortly after Pinkerton came out. I remember them opening with Tired of Sex. The highlight of the show was Sharp playing the bass behind his head during Undone.

    The Green album is ehh ok. Maladroit gets almost zero playtime. Make Believe has a few gems that I am drawn to. And the Red album has quite a few that I enjoy, but none that aren’t song by Rivers.

    Looks like you guys have your work cut out for you since it seems like you will both be trying to emulate the Blue album or Pinkerton…something Weezer hasn’t been able to do. But you should both check Rivers’s solo albums. There is some vintage Weezer sound hidden in them.

  3. That video rocks my face off. But you know what? It is so 1995… way grungier than I remember. The difference between Old and New Weezer is the context in music. Old Weezer is pure grunge (just listen to the first chorus- just open notes on the guitar!) and New Weezer came around when the Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls hit it big. I think you and Tim have a big challenge in emulating Weezer, because going grunge today just doesn’t work…. Music is more sophisticated now, but at it’s heart Weezer is the ultimate garage band. I say make your tunes as trashy as possible, play around with feedback, and keep the first takes on all the vocals, no matter how off. Also, gotta add the vocal on the high octive. It should be interesting to see what you guys come up with!

  4. Good thoughts Scott and Nate. I’m certainly realizing that it is difficult task to emulate Weezer, especially when, as you pointed out Scott, Weezer hasn’t really been able to emulate themselves. I’m in agreement, Nate, with the idea of context. If the Sweater Song came out now instead of 1995, it would get zero play and we wouldn’t like it all that much. However, I may slightly disagree on your analysis of grunge.

    Let me explain. If you listen to Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, or the like today, you listen with history in mind. You think of their influence on the 90s and see the music as social commentary. To me, these bands don’t work on tons of levels. Weezer (and I would add Pearl Jam, Sonic Youth, and Pavement), work on many levels. Grunge? It certainly is by genre, but it works on a lot of musical levels. Acoustic elements, sonically dominant keyboards and crisp harmonization were not grunge hallmarks in the least, but Weezer was ahead of their times. These are more hallmarks of the 2000s indie alternative movement. Maybe they were all influenced by Weezer. Maybe Weezer was 8 years ahead of their time. Probably a bit of both.

    Still, why did Weezer lose what we loved in the 90s when the first two albums still sound so good and so relevant? Bands like Radiohead and Sonic Youth (both having grunge years) have stayed a few years ahead of the curve. It seems like the curve has overtaken Weezer.

    But yes, I am doing some vocal doubling in high octaves and trying to create the best feedback possible.

    Thanks for the input.

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