I'm not sure why Weezer's music isn't silly; it certainly sounds like it should be. Their rhythmic, nearly sing-songy tunes communicate a jaunty popular-music temperament, and their topics tend toward banal (if often universal) themes of love and relationships. With such credentials, you might expect Weezer to follow the career trajectory of a group like Hootie and the Blowfish.
Their lyrics, however, often tell a different story, and in canny, minimalistic ways, their musical style reinforces the twisting conflicts percolating beneath the sappy exterior. "Undone: The Sweater Song," from their self-titled first album in 1994, utilized a deceptively fun, spritely melody line that sneakily belied the painful imagery it conveyed. A line like "If you want to destroy my sweater/Hold this thread as I walk away/Let me unravel, I'll soon be naked/Lying on the floor, I'll come undone" reveals a subtle wound hidden behind an almost artificially steely detachment--a rawness emphasized as the song progresses and appears to collapse upon itself in the end. The album's conventional pop sentimentality nestles comfortably inside the brooding, self-indulgent fatalism of the Seattle grunge sound, so despite its touches of anguish, the first album had an happy outlook overall --an SOS in a bottle set afloat by an optimist confident that everything would work out for him, even the heartaches.
Where Weezer might have sounded like a guy dealing with the clashing emotions of a breakup--laying blame on the woman one moment, but gleeful at his newfound freedom the next--then Pinkerton, Weezer's second album, represents the same guy a few months later, still on the rebound and disappointed at how nothing has worked out as expected. It comes off even darker, with more vitriol swimming inside songs that tell a story of male self-pity ("Pink Triangle") and lethargy ("Why Bother?"), and generally full of sour grapes ("Tired of Sex"). "No Other One" sounds like a mixture of their hits "Buddy Holly" and "Say It Ain't So," but is less rigidly pop in its musical sensibilities. The white noise on Weezer's album (especially the intentional speaker feedback) means that every song is a little less catchy, but a little more grown-up than their first album.
If you add those two together, the resulting mix of raucous party tunes has a welcome maturity. Weezer echoes an explosive pop-rock sound less common now than in decades past, one exemplified by the Freddie Mercury-like falsettos they play with on "Why Bother?" With an admirable, paradoxical confluence of post-modern angst and life-affirming '50s music, Weezer manages to be both earnest and ironic at the same time: You never doubt their sincerity, but you always feel they're more intelligent than they're letting on. There's something to be learned from Weezer: Even in a world gone cold from cynicism, there's always something worth singing about.
--Arnold Wayne Jones
Weezer plays Deep Ellum Live Wednesday, December 18.