Now, more than a decade on, the film saga has gone full circle and Weezer have just released their fifth album, Make Believe, their most eclectic effort to date. Beginning with the surprisingly straight-ahead first single, Beverly Hills, Bell explains how that song is merely a watered-down version of Rivers’ (Cuomo, vocalist) original demo.
“I’m glad that it had the success that it had, but when I first heard the original version of it, I thought it was even better than what was on the album. When Rivers first played me the demo, I called him to congratulate him, like “dude, you did it, you wrote a single. Great. Hooray. Now we can get serious about the other things.” We knew that song would be the single, but no one really liked it that much, to work on. So it kept getting stripped down and stripped down to its least common denominator, and now resembles almost nothing like the original demo, except lyrically, but it got to the point where the chorus was not even melodic any more. So, it’s not my favourite song, but I guess I can kinda see songs like that, people like to sing along with, something that’s big and dumb. I’m glad people like that song, but I’m glad that it’s the first song on the record, cos if you’re sick of it, you can start on song two.”
The album’s most intriguing moment, however, is in the ‘80s synth throwback of This Is Such A Pity, probably the least Weezer-esque tune the band have put out. Bell proudly boasts that Weezer have “never really been the kind of band that would say, ‘we’ve gotta make a new-wave sounding song, that’s absolutely hot right now, let’s do that’.” He goes on, “the only band I think that I heard Rivers say influenced that song, once, might have been the Postal Service, although I’m also just guessing. There was a conscious effort to not have the drums get huge, like most other Weezer songs. And that probably gives you that ‘80s, straight, repetitive, thing. It was a conscious effort to create space.”
It’s been almost ten years since Weezer graced the shores of Australia. It was the Pinkerton tour of 1996, and the band still remember it as one of their darkest hours. Bell explains, “yeah, that was definitely a dark time. I’m not sure how much of it had to do with Matt (Sharp, former bassist), I don’t really remember any more, other than he felt that he was a frontman, or something, and it just got really weird, and it just happened to be the place in the world where all the shit hit the fan. We certainly don’t blame Australia for that. But it’s a long time to have been away from a place, nearly ten years, and I’m looking so forward to coming back to Australia.”
I’m careful to tread around the Matt Sharp issue. But it’s a pertinent point – many Weezer fans, myself included, hold the belief that the first two albums (Blue Album and Pinkerton, and both featuring the departed bassist) are superior to ‘second-era Weezer’ output. Clearly, Bell’s sick and tired of discussing this topic, and a long silence ensues.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” he finally responds, in a significantly less exuberant tone, “I doubt your intention is to be trying to provoke me into some sort of rage. But to anyone that thinks that, I just say ‘whatever’. I don’t even wanna respond, other than to say, look at what we’ve done. We’ve done five albums as a modern band – go find another band that’s put out five albums and is still around, and selling shows. There are very few. I think people that care about Weezer at all should be thankful that we’re still doing it, and doing it in a way that’s beneficial for us. If they give a shit all, then I can’t do anything about it. Musically, I think Weezer are a lot better than we were in the Matt Sharp era. And Matt Sharp really didn’t have much to do with the music in the first place.”
So there ya go. Way to piss off one of your guitar heroes. Of course, I never implied that Sharp was the creative voice in the band, rather using him as a kind of demarcation point. Regardless, it’s clear that this is a band who have moved on, personally and musically, wishing that their fan-base would do the same. I ask Bell if he feels Weezer fans have changed over the years, and his response of “not enough” speaks volumes.
Still, we can finally expect Weezer to return to our shores before the year’s end.
“The fact that I’m doing Australian interviews at least makes me believe that we are coming there. And the fact that we did an album means that we might get to go to a place like Australia. But they don’t tell me, for sure, anything. I barely know where I’m going next week. I’m just happy that people care, and are doing interviews.”
Yes, Brian, we still care. Heaps.
— Daniel Z