Grasp the Rock

Weezer Lets the Hardcore Fans Produce their New Album

Weezer’s “Green” album, which ranked 83rd in Billboard’s top albums of 2001, disappointed many of the band’s original fans—myself included—because of its repetitive song structures, dispassionate singing, impersonal lyrics, simplistic guitar solos and overall slickness. The sales, however, seemed to vindicate frontman Rivers Cuomos’ separation from the sound of their previous album, 1996’s Pinkerton, which didn’t sell well.

But now it seems he may be reconsidering his strategy.

The website,, has begun publishing email correspondence between Cuomo and some opinionated fans who posted rants on Weezer bulletin boards about how “gay” and “lame” the Green album was. The “Rivers Cuomo Correspondence Archive” contains a dialogue that seems unprecedented in rock and roll history, in which a musician solicits feedback from his fans about the recording process while in the studio. In essence, Cuomo is asking his fans to produce his new album.

I honestly prefer talking to people like yourself rather than a producer, a manager, or a record executive. You make suggestions motivated by artistic concerns, you possess greater knowledge of weezer-music, and you notice the tiny details those other hired-hands miss.

I wish I could grasp the rock entirely on my own, but the truth is, I, and most other musicians, need some sort of advising—whether it be from a manager, a girlfriend, or, in my case, an ex-fan, so . . . as long as you’re willing to give the criticism, I’m willing to take it.

This of course wouldn’t have been possible without Weezer’s superb website, which has been offering mp3s of their new songs throughout the entire recording process—from earlier live soundboard recordings, through simple demos, up to the latest studio versions. They are offering new versions of the songs almost every day. And throughout this process, the fans have been critiquing each new version, every step of the way. “Are you sure you like the unedited On the Edge better?” Cuomo asks. “I could have sworn the streamlined version was better.”

The insecurities are right out there in the open and sort of embarrassing to read, more like a teenager’s diary than a record industry press release. He admits, “I went through a massive Oasis phase in 97-99. I bet Liam rubbed off on me. He’s a very non-dynamic singer. Perhaps his influence wasn’t a good thing.” The people who claim that the geek image is just an act are apparently dead wrong.

Catchy solos I won’t argue with. You’re 100% right; I was 100% wrong. Falling for You is also one of my favorite all-time solos. I think I know how I can get that style back, too.

As for the screaming, I’ll admit the vocal parts don’t have as much intensity anymore, but I’m still not sure that’s a bad thing. On Green it was too subdued, but how about now? Have you heard the latest demos? I’m thinking that’s a good middle-ground—but I could be totally wrong. What do you think?

He discusses his songwriting style, and how it has changed…

…I haven’t written in the continually-building style since Pinkerton. Round about the time I wrote American Girls, I started getting interested in what one of my professors calls “Strophic” composition: where one verse is essentially the same as the last. I think this form produces less “emotional” music, but the masters of the form, including the Beatles and Nirvana, don’t seem to let their listeners down with it. I’ll admit I haven’t found a way to pull it off yet.


The irony is that what I really want to do, if left to my own devices, is write songs without those ultimate climax points. The only reason I bring up Nirvana and the Beatles is because they managed to do this. It’s not that I want to copy THEIR formula, it’s that I want to invent my own. Clearly, I have not achieved this yet. Sometimes I’m tempted to give up, but I want it so badly that I can’t.

I count on people like you to slap me back into reality if I’m just chasing a dream.

What really comes across in these messages is that Cuomo wants to make really great music, but doesn’t quite know whether to follow his muse, which is telling him to write fairly emotionless, “classic” pop standards, or to go back to doing what attracted such a rabid, maniacal group of fans in the first place. I’ve listened to the latest demos, and while they don’t really seem to be pandering to the Pinkerton-lovers, there certainly is more of that type of stuff going on than on the Green album. So what’s going on here? Is Weezer’s fourth album going to be great? Is it going to be a manipulative rehash of Pinkerton, just like the Green album was of the Blue album? Or is it going to strike some kind of a balance between what the hardcore fans want and what Interscope Records can sell? I guess we’ll have to wait until it’s released. Hello, I’m here, I’m waiting…

26 thoughts on “Grasp the Rock”

  1. thanks jake! it’s late afternoon, a perfect time for a work-diversion. and you came through with this one. as a pinkerton lover and after listening to the demos, i totally agree with you that these demos are “pinkertonish”, at least when comparing to the green album. yet they just don’t cut it…they definitely have to work on their guitar riffs. personally i think they should not be so scared off by pinkerton, sometimes record sales aren’t a clear indication of what’s good.

  2. Yeah, it was about time for a new article — thanks Jake! Loved the article and the demos from the weezer site. I have to stick up for the Blue and Green albums, however. There’s just something about the poppy hooks of those albums that I’m partial too. yeah, “Island in the Sun” is cheesy, but songs like “the sweater song” and “photograph” or “hash pipe” have that punk-pop sound but still rock, if you know what I mean. I like Pinkerton and like the contrast with the other albums, but I prefer the “bouncy” guitar of the other albums. The problem with the demos for the new album is that I felt like a lot of them were trying to be too hard rock (aka, Kiss-esque)(eg, your room, change the world), and others were just top 40 lame…but there were a few that I really liked (eg., porcupine, mr. taxman).

  3. it is interesting how sensitive he is to record sales…can’t tell if he’s just trying to sell records or really wants to connect with his fans. tend to give him some credit and think the latter, but it maybe it’s kind of lame to be so concerned with what everybody else thinks. (the two of us are having our own little debate about this)

  4. it is interesting how sensitive he is to record sales…can’t tell if he’s just trying to sell records or really wants to connect with his fans. tend to give him some credit and think the latter, but it maybe it’s kind of lame to be so concerned with what everybody else thinks. (the two of us are having our own little debate about this)

  5. Don’t get me wrong: I love the Blue album and a lot of the songs on Green (Crab, Simple Pages, Hash Pipe). I would never say anything bad about the Blue album; I just think it’s not good for a band to go back and try to recreate a previous album (except for Neil Young with Harvest Moon) because their other album tanked commercially.

  6. That’s a good point, and it goes back to rivers being way too sensitive to popular opinion. plus, there’s no “sweater song” on Green, ie, it’s even a shoddy re-creation of the first album. mainly, there’s just no “sweater song”…

  7. That’s a good point, and it goes back to rivers being way too sensitive to popular opinion. plus, there’s no “sweater song” on Green, ie, it’s even a shoddy re-creation of the first album. mainly, there’s just no “sweater song”…

  8. Rivers Cuomo is a whining little man biatch! I honestly think that he’s more depressing than Morrissey! As much as I like their first two LPs, I hate almost every statement of his that I read. It’s cool that he’s getting fan inpute, but lame that he was stating just months ago that the Green album was soooo good.if you want to see some on line stuff by a great artist, check this out:

  9. Scott, you are a hateful man.I am intrigued by the relationship Weezer is building with fans. Remember when they let Yahoo sponsor a tour and some hardcore fans went apeshit? It seemed like Rivers was apologizing every ten minutes. I think the band, and Rivers in particular, actually cares what the fans think. They may not always do exactly what most fans want, and in not doing so ensure they aren’t pandering to fans’ whims, but they do seem to want to know how fans react. I like that and I think this whole production discussion with fans is a fantastic use of Internet technology to bring fans closer to artists. I dig it.

  10. I think there’s something to be said for keeping the PROCESS a secret and then just unleashing a great, finished work of art on the public…

  11. I agree with Jake on that last point. I don’t fucking care how you do it, just make a good record that I want to listen to. When artists get too bogged down by process, bad things happen. Need I mention Trans?

  12. I think that using fan input to construct a new album owes a lot to our society’s talk show mentality. Whether it’s River’s lamenting to interviewers his many weeks and months locked away in a dark apartment, depressed out of his mind and unable to function, or wash himself, or the cookie cutter Barbara Walters interviews where celebs cry on que and divulge one slightly shocking personal tidbit per interview, I think it’s all for crap. If you’d ask me I’d say it wasn’t the fans’ or the public’s business why I holed-up like Howard Hues for two years of my life. And when it comes to your art, stick to your guns. Don’t vacilate from one extreme to the next. It makes for shoddy work, ala the Green album.On the flip side……..perhaps he’ll use this to show that Weezer really does deserve the mantle they’ve been saddled with, that they really are the genuine thing. After all, the greatest bands are the ones that survive mediocre productions and come back to show how relevant they really are. Witness Elvis’s comeback, which was after a break I think shorter than that between Pink and Green. Also, think about the Beatles. Had they put out one more 60’s pop record they would have gone too far, but they came out with Sgt Pepper.Bono……he he he

  13. I agree with Derek, Rivers initiating a production discussion with Weezer fans is very interesting. If this discussion affects the upcoming album, and word really gets about it, don’t you think Rivers’ actions will probably influence other artists?I also find it fascinating to be able to peer into an artist’s creative process. Sab, if you know how Neil Young made Trans, you must find it at least a little bit fascinating too. But I guess people have their different degrees of wanting to be “behind the scenes” and just wanting to dig the music and that’s cool.Two other bits of artist/fan communication that impressed me… 1)Robert Fripp’s 1998 stop at the Park West, during which he set his dynamic tape loop machines in motion, left the stage, and actually stood with the audience, for a few minutes, watching his own show. He also came out and did a Q & A session with the audience for at least a half hour after the show.2) Last month, Brian Wilson posting a response on his own website’s message board to the 1,065th question about finishing and releasing the Smile project, saying, “It’s in the works…”

  14. Brian Wilson later admitted he was just fucking with the fans and went back to his story that the majority of the Smille stuff has been lost/destroyed.

  15. You guys actually think that the new tracks are a rehash of Pinkerton? I dunno. I can see how Green bears some resemblance to Blue, but it lacks a lot of the effervecence and vitality. It’s a different entity. Blue really is amazingly indie-esque. I guess the rhythem structure on the new demos is varried enough it seems like a whole new bout of expirimentation. This fan feed back is doing something, and it isn’t bad. Further, I think this whole structure right now is a music historian’s dream. Imagine a kid 20 years from now looking into Weezer and finding all of this. All the data will help preserve Weezer long beyond the normal lives of rock bands. This is great.

  16. Agree Cuffubled, that this little stunt will prolong Weezer’s life for the music historians- but not just among music historians. I bet Weezer is hoping that this will prolong Weezer’s life in the SHORT term. A band can’t release too many “Green Albums” and hope to remain popular and current. Jake, did Brian Wilson really go back to his old story about Smile? How did he save face? He seemed to have a lot of his fans thinking that Smile was a project.

  17. Ryan, maybe what I read was just Brian fucking around some more. Although who knows? The big hubbub about the Smile project getting back into gear started around 2000 when he launched his website, and now it’s 2002 and still no Smile…

  18. Yeah, Jake, maybe you’re right. There seemed to be a significant population on Brian Wilson’s site who didn’t take Wilson’s comment seriously, some interpreted his comment as the same old runaround and some interpreted his comment as “I’m working on it.” Wilson’s in such a good position, it seems, because I think people by now don’t really believe the tapes exist, so people don’t bug him too much about it anymore, but if he really does release something, he stands to rake in some publicity, popularity, and cash. I dunno. Maybe it’ll be amazing music but somehow I doubt it… I would love a Wilson feature sometime, and I bet that guy from Wilco would too. Hey are you guys going to weigh in on that Uncle Tupelo retrospective?

  19. Well, a lot of the confirmed Smile stuff has already been released on the Smiley-Smile album and the Good Vibrations box set. I bet the remaining stuff is a lot of noise and freak-outs and backing tracks without vocals. My man Phil just got me Sunflowers/Surf’s Up on cd for Christmas which contains the “centerpiece” of Smile, “Surf’s Up.” Those are both really cool albums.

  20. Ryan,We’ll certainly weigh in on the Tupelo retrospective when we get it. As for the Smile sessions, I am not too thrilled with the idea of finishing up tracks started that long ago. Brian Wilson is adifferent person and technology is different today. I liken it to what George Lucas did “finishing” up the original Star Wars films. They’re fucking crammed with digital shit that doesn’t add anything to the films. A revisit of a mythological album, probably better left unreleased, could get the same result.

  21. Phil man, George isn’t done yet! After the release of Episode III in 2005, he is going to do a final remastering of the original three movies, which will include new scenes and dialoge! This is slated for completion by 2008 and will include DVD versions of all six films, probably in a box set. Lucas has commented that his intent isn’t to add more computer generated images (sub. ‘cartoon’), but instead to supliment the storyline to incorporate some of the themes of the new films. This most likely will include added scenes involving the Emperor and Vader. God, I’m a dork!

  22. UPDATE: They even let a fan pick the name of the album!From”…Thats right, it’s official: Weezer’s 4th album, currently in the mixing stage and due for release in April, is entitled “Maladroit” . This means that the ‘color’ theme will not be revisited this time round, (as fiercely debated by fans) and there will only be 2 self titled weezer records. (so far at least!) The name was originally suggested on the message boards by board member “lethe”, who will be officially credited for the idea. Tracks will indeed include the barnstorming “Take Control”, “Dope Nose” and “Keep Fishin'”, all fan faves at live shows over the past year.”

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