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Posted by1 day ago

Introduction

I don’t really know where to start this with, but…yeah.

For those of you who don’t know, Weezer is an American rock band formed in 1992, initially consisting of lead singer Rivers Cuomo, guitarist Brian Bell (who replaced Jason Cropper in the band’s inception), drummer Patrick Wilson, and bassist Matt Sharp. After the release of a collection of demos called The Kitchen Tapes in 1992, Weezer burst onto the scene with their first self-titled album, or the Blue Album (now that the also self-titled Green/Red/White/Teal/Black Albums exist) in May 1994.

Featuring phenomenal guitar work paired with bright, clean production courtesy of The Cars’ Ric Ocasek as producer and major promotion in the form of Spike Jonze directing the music video for lead single ‘Undone - The Sweater Song’ and the video for ‘Buddy Holly’ being prepackaged on the Windows 95 CD-ROM, the Blue Album was universally praised upon its release, being regarded as one of the best albums of the 1990s and remaining as Weezer’s best-selling record ever.

Despite this, the explosive success of the Blue Album was met with a lot of mixed feelings from Rivers as it later went platinum a year after its release. This ended up giving him a self-proclaimed inferiority complex about the music he was writing being too simplistic, and he strove to write more intense, complex music for Weezer’s next effort.

Songs From The Black Hole

Drawing from this goal alongside opera pieces like Aida, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s concept album Jesus Christ Superstar and Les Miserables for inspiration, Rivers decided to write a sci-fi rock opera as an analogy for his life on tour and relationships at the time, which would eventually be titled Songs From The Black Hole. Envisioned as a collection of continuous tracks ending with a coda of overlapping vocals from previous songs accompanying a reprisal of the album’s main musical themes, STFBH also carried an overarching story of travelers aboard the spaceship Betsy II in the year 2126, culminating with the disillusionment of the travelers’ captain Jonas at the end of the ship’s journey and wishing to return to simpler times.

While the characters planned to be voiced by Rivers, Brian, Matt and longtime collaborator Karl Koch alongside several guests like The Dambuilders’ Joan Wasser, recording of the album proved to be unproductive and a majority of the demos were eventually shelved, though the songs ‘Tired Of Sex’, ‘Getchoo’, and ‘No Other One’ would still find their way onto what would actually end up being Weezer’s sophomore album.

The (Madama) Butterfly Effect

During the early stages of making Songs From The Black Hole, Rivers underwent surgery to correct one of his legs being shorter than the other since birth, which was also accompanied by painful physiotherapy sessions. At the same time, he applied to Harvard for studying classical composition, detailing his disillusionment with the lifestyle of a rock star as part of his application letter only to find himself becoming lonelier and more isolated in college, which also led to Rivers’ songwriting becoming darker and more serious. Over time, Songs From The Black Hole was abandoned entirely as Rivers moved away from the more irreverent elements of SFTBH and focused on a new concept for an album loosely based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly, which would later go on to become Pinkerton, Weezer’s second album that released in 1996.

For context, Pinkerton was named after Madama Butterfly’s character of BF Pinkerton, a US naval officer who leaves his Japanese wife (the titular Butterfly) and child for a woman in America which drove the former to suicide in the play, with Rivers comparing his image of an “asshole American sailor” to a touring rock frontman.

Being self-produced and featuring a significantly distorted, more abrasive sound compared to the Blue Album, Pinkerton also featured deeply personal lyrics about Rivers’ loneliness, frustrations with relationships sexual or otherwise, and shades of his questionable-at-best views on women at the time (‘Across The Sea’ having Rivers fantasize about a letter from an imaginary 18-year-old Japanese fangirl with the lyric “I wonder how you touch yourself” directed at said girl) as a self-proclaimed uncomfortable self-portrait of himself.

In a statement to Weezer’s fan club on July 10th, 1996, Rivers wrote:

There are some lyrics on the album that you might think are mean or sexist. I will feel genuinely bad if anyone feels hurt by my lyrics but I really wanted these songs to be an exploration of my "dark side" -- all the parts of myself that I was either afraid or embarrassed to think about before. So there's some pretty nasty stuff on the there. You may be more willing to forgive the mean lyrics if you see them as passing low points in a larger story. And this album really is a story: the story of the last 2 years of my life. And as you're probably well aware, these have been two very weird years.

In short, imagine Kanye dropping Yeezus following The College Dropout or The Beatles releasing Revolver right after Please Please Me, and you’ve pretty much got a good impression of the drastic shift that going from the Blue Album to Pinkerton was.

So how did this go over with listeners?


Not particularly well.

Upon its release, Pinkerton ended up underperforming commercially, having sold only 47,000 copies on its first week. Fan reception wasn’t much better either, with Rolling Stone readers naming Pinkerton as the third worst album of 1996, and many listeners ended up feeling put off by the deeply personal and/or sexual nature of the lyrics. This took a major toll on Rivers’ mental health, with him later describing the fallout around Pinkerton as “like getting really drunk at a party and spilling your guts in front of everyone[…]and then waking up the next morning and realizing what a complete fool you made of yourself”, given the confessional nature of the record.

Hiatus

During the last leg of the tour for Pinkerton, twin sisters Mykel and Carli Allan died in a car crash in mid-1997. As the founders of Weezer’s official fan club in the ‘90s, they had served as liaisons between fans and the band and were pretty much known as Weezer’s two biggest fans at the time - the Blue Album deluxe track ‘Mykel & Carli’ was even written in the two’s honor. Their deaths were another factor that lead to Rivers and Weezer going on hiatus, and after the touring for Pinkerton ended, Matt Sharp ended up leaving Weezer in 1998 after growing further from the band and founding The Rentals, with the Weezer fan club ceasing to exist between their hiatus and the greater portion of Weezer fans migrating to the then-emerging Internet.

Rivers would go back to Harvard and start recording some demos with Brian and Patrick in 1998, but those sessions proved to be unproductive and resulted in Patrick leaving for Portland shortly after. As a result of these compounding tolls on his mental health, Rivers would then lapse into a depressive state after moving to an apartment in California, painting the walls and ceiling of his bedroom black while covering his windows with fiberglass and black sheets to block out light.

Back On Track

However, in early 2000, Weezer was given a high-paying offer to play the Summer Sonic Festival in Japan later that year, with rehearsals and performances under the alias Goat Punishment in the months leading up to the event rejuvenating the band’s members. After replacing Matt Sharp with Mikey Welsh as their bassist, Rivers also began production for Weezer’s third (and second self-titled) album. The band also brought back Ric Ocasek for production, in part due to the commercial failure of Pinkerton’s brasher sound and Geffen Records refusing to let them self-produce again for that reason.

On top of the aforementioned production choices, this was around the time that Rivers had a marked shift towards writing simpler, less personal songs and lyrics starting with the hundreds he wrote between 1999 and then, many of which remained as demos that the band narrowed down during production. Rivers ended up referring to said songs as "very intentionally not about me - not about what was going on in my life, at least in a conscious way.”, while record executives at Geffen ended up forcing several songs on the album to be discarded, which ended up streamlining the album even more. Even the artwork for the now-nicknamed Green Album was meant to call back to Weezer’s debut, and, by similar logic, veer as far away from Pinkerton as possible in all fronts. Essentially, the Green Album was meant to be an antithesis to the abrasive sounds and at times uncomfortably personal lyrics of Pinkerton (as this image kindly sums up), which Rivers reasoned would go over well with listeners…unless the unthinkable happened, right?

The Unthinkable Happens

That’s right, it turned out that…people started liking Pinkerton. As in *really* liking it.

During Weezer’s hiatus, the growth of their online fanbase and a general critical reevaluation of Pinkerton led to Pinkerton amassing a cult following and being considered Weezer’s best work of all time, something that quite a few fans still echo today. During the turn of the 2000s, Rivers hated this shift in popular and critical opinion, referring to the rabid fanbase around Pinkerton as “the most painful thing in my life these days” and calling Pinkerton itself “sick in a diseased sort of way”, which arguably spurred the course-correcting direction of the Green Album further.

As a result, the Green Album, despite its generally positive reception, slightly polarized fans and critics over its ‘return to form’ sound for the band, with detractors of the album pointing out its departure from Pinkerton’s style or the almost simplistic extent that its songs were condensed to. However, it was still commercially successful, especially more than how Pinkerton fared, being certified Platinum and selling 1.6 million copies in the US. The Green Album also enjoyed modest radio success with its single ‘Photograph’ alongside bigger hits like ‘Hash Pipe’ and perhaps most prominently, ‘Island In The Sun’, and these successes helped play at least some part in heightening Rivers’ confidence and softening his views towards Pinkerton over time.

The former ego boost, however, would be quite apparent immediately after the Green Album.

A Minor Tangent

It was also at this time that after touring for the Green Album, Mikey Welsh suffered a breakdown from drug usage, the physical and mental duress of touring and undiagnosed mental health problems like bipolar disorder, before being checked into a psychiatric hospital and leaving Weezer. He was replaced by Scott Shriner as Weezer’s bassist ever since, and after retiring from music to focus on his art career for several years, Mikey died from a presumed heroin-induced heart attack in 2011.

Maladroit, or How Rivers Learned To Stop Worrying And Took Advice From Fans

In part due to getting cockier after the Green Album’s success, Rivers pretty much threw caution to the wind for making Weezer’s fourth album, firing the band’s management and starting efforts for self-funding the albums. Among these snap decisions was Rivers’ idea of including fans in the creative process and taking their general input, which notably showed in the album title of ‘Maladroit’ that was contributed by fans.

In retrospect, Weezer’s fans naming the album the French word for “clumsy” proved to be rather ironic, given how much of the other fan interactions during production went over pretty awkwardly, to say the least.

While the band would release demos to the public via their own website, Rivers would also talk with fans under the username ‘Ace’, on a forum called the Rivers Correspondence Board for getting feedback on the current works in progress. However, the divide between Rivers favoring the band’s newer and future output and the many diehard Blue/Pinkerton fans who frequented the Correspondence Board quickly proved to be tenuous, leading to Rivers repeatedly arguing with fans over the direction that Maladroit was taking, and in one particularly infamous moment for the Weezer fandom, calling the universally praised Blue Album closer ‘Only In Dreams’ “GAY!GAY!GAY! DISNEYGAY!” compared to the WIPs for Maladroit.

if only you guys gave newer songs half the gay allowance you gave the old ones you'd love them.

i can't tell you the courage it takes to sing these lines every night.

This was basically Rivers at his most antagonistic towards the band’s fanbase, referring to them as “little bitches” in an interview that year and having a number of lyrics on Maladroit being about his dissatisfaction with the fanbase’s relationship and attitude towards him, namely in the song ‘Space Rock’. Regardless, the album’s liner notes ended up giving special thanks for Weezer’s fans upon the release of Maladroit, and was generally received well by audiences and critics, with some calling it one of the more underrated Weezer albums in the following years mostly because of it being more obscure in the general eye.

Said antagonism was also a partial consequence of Rivers’ drug use around the time, which went as far back as taking painkillers for his leg surgery and taking drugs since the Green Album, having written ‘Hash Pipe’ and Maladroit’s ‘Dope Nose’ consecutively in several hours under the effects of Ritalin. The nadir of Rivers’ drug use was arguably during the Maladroit tour in August 2002, where Rivers, having taken painkillers before opening an act in Osaka, saw Buddhist-themed decorations emblazoned with swastikas in an intoxicated haze and yelled “Heil Hitler, motherfucker” during their intro. Rivers would later swear off drugs and got clean soon after, but it remained an unsavory incident that he regretted.

What Happened Next

Throughout the production of the band’s fifth album Make Believe, Rivers would also start meditation after being introduced to it by producer Rick Rubin, which ended up influencing much of the production on that album and leading to Rivers mellowing out considerably in the years following his many inflammatory incidents with the Weezer fanbase in the making of Maladroit, alongside his mental health issues that led to and followed Pinkerton. Although Make Believe would start the trend of more thoroughly mixed critical and fan reception to Weezer’s output in general, it also remains Weezer’s highest-charting album and pretty much marked Rivers’ personal life taking a turn for the better, returning to Harvard to complete his education and getting married to longtime friend Kyoko Ito in 2006.

Wrap-Up

Weezer are still going to this day, with the third part of their 4-EP ‘SZNZ’ series having released just recently, Rivers providing vocal features regularly alongside the occasional solo song, as well as Patrick and Brian having their own bands as side projects. While fan expectations over their music direction have been a topic they’ve flip-flopped on throughout the years, taking a strong do-what-we-want stance with songs like “Pork & Beans” and sometimes swinging the other way with “Back To The Shack” pretty much being a promise to return to Weezer’s roots after the mixed-to-negative reception of previous albums like Raditude, Rivers’ dynamic with the band’s fanbase has certainly improved over the time since, what with being willing to cover Toto’s ‘Africa’ after fan requests on Twitter and just having some of the funniest memes from a band themselves. Hell, even the Weezer Fan Club was revived after the release of 2014’s Everything Will Be Alright In The End, with other venues of fan interaction like their official Discord server going strong as well.

In conclusion, although Weezer’s music remains with its share of major ups and downs alike to the point that many fans name the only consistent trait of their discography being its inconsistency, their real-world low points are all but long past them, with Rivers and the band being all the better for it.



This was the first time I’ve tried to make as extensive of a writeup as this and I ended up enjoying it quite a bit, with the main sources I looked from being Weezerpedia and the Wikipedia entries for the 4 albums in question. I’d also recommend Zeepsterd’s ‘Keeping It Weezer’ videos for covering the similar span of events here and MarcButEvil’s Weezer videos if you want to learn more about Weezer’s general history or going deeper into other albums like Make Believe or the White Album. Thanks for reading!

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Posted by12 days ago

Here is an excerpt from local TV station KOB4's coverage of the events.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Conservative political commentator Tomi Lahren was scheduled to speak at the University of New Mexico Thursday night.

Lahren was invited as a guest speaker by the Turning Point USA student chapter at UNM.

However, a large crowd of protesters were upset Lahren was on campus during the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, according to Maddie Pukite, UNM student and managing editor at the Daily Lobo. Lahren has stirred up controversy with past statements about the Black Lives Matter movement and immigration.

Inside the Student Union Building on campus, cell phone video shows protesters outside the doors to the ballroom where Lahren was speaking.

UNM said a hole in the wall was made by protestors. University officials said they are “investigating these incidents and will hold anyone who violated the law or University policies accountable.”

Lahren and students inside the ballroom were escorted out. UNM officials said there were no injuries reported.

I'm no fan of Tomi Lahren or TPUSA (and have no real doubt they wouldn't use the same tactics were the social dynamics in their favor) but this seems explicitly the thing conservatives mean when they say left* wing "cancel culture," which I'll tentatively define as "coordinated social pressure intended to induce a third party into disassociating from a target based on alleged moral transgressions."

* I think it's wrong to conflate it with "the left" in general; it's not everyone on the left, but a small, determined minority.

In this case, the protestors even used physical and verbal intimidation to the point where UNM officials felt the need to escort Lahren and the students out. This was also a state university, with which the sponsoring group and speaker had both received approval for the event.

This is not how liberal democracies behave. There's an old saying that solution to bad speech is more speech. If the speech is so bad that it's about to incite lawless action, then the proper authorities can make that call and shut it down. There are civil remedies for tortious speech. To have crowds of protestors make these decisions, or force the authorities to make them in the name of public safety, is not a liberal society but vigilantism.

On the one hand this is simply counterproductive. Rather than change anyone's mind who came to hear her speak, the protestors have likely validated her claims in the eyes of her audience there and elsewhere. Yet it also acts to justify (in their eyes, not morally or legally) right wing groups who want to shut down speech or activism through acts of intimidation.

I can CMV if someone presents a compelling argument why normalizing this as an acceptable tactic is a good thing regardless of the fact right wingers will use it, too, or some consistent principle that can help us differentiate "good" uses of this tactic from "bad" ones.

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Posted by23 days ago
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