Weezer, or Harvey Danger?
The problem with Weezer’s newest self-titled album is that Harvey Danger already made it. But Harvey Danger sounded like Weezer when they released their first record in 1998. Uh-oh. Who’s on first? And does it matter if it’s all just the same?
In 1994, Weezer released its (first) self-titled album on DGC, and blew alternative music wide-open with a series of witty, rocking singles that were accompanied by witty, scholcky videos (courtesy of Yahoo Serious-esque auteur Spike Jonze). Within Weezer’s arsenal of chugging riffs and cooing harmonies could be heard echoes of The Cars, Cheap Trick, and even the 70s cock-rock of AC/DC and The Sweet. The band’s success was notable, inasmuch as their members went out of their way to appear as geeky as they were in real life (Overheard at record store in 1994: “Who are these losers on the cover of Weezer’s album?”) Sure, the “Happy Days” reset in Jonze’s clip for “Buddy Holly” was funny, but it only fueled the geek nitrous in the back of Weezer’s Chevelle. You ain’t going to catch STP looking likes geeks in their videos, dude…
Two years later, Rivers Cuomo, et al released the more introspective Pinkerton. It was promptly shit-canned.
You might remember the boys of Harvey Danger, but their record company doesn’t. In 1998, their churning, vitriol-spitting rocker “Flagpole Sitta” broke nationwide on modern rock radio after the fledgling group’s album was snatched up by Slash Records. The kids from Washington made the rounds of MTV chats, Spring Break concerts and radio station appearances. They were well on their way to rock stardom. They were promptly forgotten. Did you know that the followup, King James Version, was released in 2000? It was pretty decent, too…
It’s funny. When “Flagpole Sitta” hit, I remember thinking that it was the best song Weezer never wrote. What I had always loved about Weezer’s first record was the viscous brown noise of the riffs. Harmonies were fine, but it was the teutonic underbelly of “My Name Is Jonas” that melted my butter. Same deal with the Danger and their big single. “Flagpole Sitta” stood out from the modern rock pack because of its surging beat that seemed to choke the very melody being sung by Sean Nelson. Unfortunately for Nelson and his band, they spent all their gold with “Flagpole Sitta.” But evidently Spike Jonze wasn’t interested in crafting a few wily, culture-twisting videos for them to sustain the wilted power pop of their would-be followup singles, and they faded faster than you can say “writer’s block.” And 2000’s King James Version was released to the kind of fanfare reserved for a CCM crossover act. Sound familiar, Weezer? It should, because Pinkerton suffered a similar fate. Taken at face value, it’s a great record. But after the animated geek metal of their first album, Cuomo’s “series musician” gag didn’t have anyone laughing.
Unless their next video is the sequel to “Sabotage,” Harvey Danger will most likely be erased from most memory banks until “Flagpole Sitta” surfaces as track 5 on Rhino’s Monsters of 90s Alternative in 2010. But Weezer? Ho ho, they’re back with a tour and an album. It’s even produced by Ric Ocasek, and the single “Hash Pipe” is getting a major push in modern rock formats. And darn it anyway, there’s even a side-splittingly hilarious video to accompany the track, as well. But the master tapes must have been switched, because the mediocre sonic rough-housing on this most recent of self-titled Weezer records just makes me think of…Harvey Danger. Cuomo, Inc. has spit out 25-plus minutes of Play-Guitar-The-Roy-Clark-Way “alternative” rock, most of which wouldn’t sound out of place as filler on the next Halloween installment’s soundtrack. Basically, if you take ‘Weezer’ off the front cover, you’re left with a bunch of guys writing follow-the-melody guitar solos with an occasional flash of their lost brilliance.
I don’t think that Weezer’s new record can be saved by a few funny videos and the Geffen marketing machine. Bizarrely, neither does the band. My man Jake quotes River himself in his GloNo feature article on Weezer. Cuomo lays it down:
“I don’t expect it to succeed commercially, unlike everyone at the record company,” he says. “They’re all gonna be incredibly disappointed in a few weeks. The thing that I’m worried about, and this is a real concern, is that I also think our fans are gonna hate it.”
If a half-hearted attempt at rocking falls in the forest, will there be any fans around to hear it? I don’t know, but the Danger’s Sean Nelson does. You can ask him. He works third shift at the Carl’s Jr on 29th Avenue in Spokane.
Say it ain’t so…