It's easy to remember a time when Weezer was almost a guilty pleasure, the band most likely to be found after the phrase "Now, don't laugh, but...." Not that there was anything to laugh at, necessarily, but far too many people had written off the band as a novelty, a one-trick, one-hit wonder. Too many only saw the clever Spike Jonze videos and missed everything else, lost the band somewhere amid a studio full of barking dogs ("Undone--The Sweater Song") and a dancing Arthur "Fonz" Fonzarelli ("Buddy Holly"). And hey, in most of those people's defense, it is hard to take anything involving Henry Winkler seriously.
The problem is, those singles were only the shallow end of a very deep record. Listen to the epic "Only in Dreams"--seven minutes of rock-and-roll catharsis. Or "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here," or, "No One Else," a song with a guitar riff that makes a smile start in your stomach. It was a soundtrack for freaks and geeks, by freaks and geeks. And Pinkerton was even better, stripped of anything even remotely resembling kitsch, revealing the heart of every great record: wanting the girl you can't have. Cuomo's lyrics made it seem like it was happening all over again every time you heard them, and the music backed it up, with guitars that sounded like frayed nerves and heart palpitations subbing for the rhythm section. It's a raw record, in every sense of the word.
But it isn't just the songs that have kept the fans hanging around--even though the 20 songs on Weezer and Pinkerton and the handful of others that popped up as B-sides and on soundtracks are great, a barbershop quartet backed by the Cars, jamming on Pixies tunes, an exhilarating combination of '60s pop, '70s rock, and '80s new wave. It's not that, or at least, not only that. It is the sense of This Could Be You that comes from the band, the idea that these four guys aren't that far removed from the people in the audience. Or removed at all, for that matter. The members of Weezer are tennis racket-in-hand, air-guitar heroes come to life, the kids who used their desks and a couple of No. 2 pencils as a drum kit in math class, every suburban pizza-face practicing his scissors-kicks before even learning a barre chord. They were YOU, fans who had crossed over to the other side.
In Rivers Cuomo, all those kids who looked smart but only wanted to act stupid had found a patron saint, a four-eyed member of the KISS Army with his Dungeon Master's Guide, 12-sided die, Kitty Pride--and Nightcrawler too--waiting for him "In the Garage" right next to his guitar. They all saw themselves in Cuomo and Weezer, and they've been waiting a long time to tell him. Which scares Cuomo. At least a little bit.
"It seems like they're a little more"--he looks for the right word--"crazy now. Like, literally crazy." He laughs. "Kinda frightening. Like some of them might actually be dangerous. People following our bus and stuff." Cuomo admits it's been worth it, however. "It's been unbelievable," he continues. "Every show has been sold out, and everywhere we go, we've broken the record for merchandise sold in whatever venue we happen to be in. Just incredible audience response. It's pretty exciting. I like hanging out at home and doing nothing too." He laughs again. "But this...it's pretty OK."
The only thing the crowds have been disappointed by, if anything, is the set list. Weezer has stuck mainly to "the oldies," as Cuomo called them at Deep Ellum Live, songs from its 1994 self-titled debut (also known as "the blue album" because of its cover design), playing only a few--"Tired of Sex," "El Scorcho," and one or two others--from Pinkerton. Speaking with Cuomo, it's clear he is still licking his wounds caused by the album's comparative lack of success (while Weezer went platinum several times over, Pinkerton only managed to go gold). He thought he had hit on a sound that the world was waiting for, music he knew people would want--no, they'd need. When they didn't, he felt rejected. As Koch observed on the band's Web site, www.weezer.net, "He was simultaneously not giving a crap if it did well, and totally assuming that it would be enormous."