Weezer's Rivers Cuomo is among the craziest rock stars of all time. We're talking Keith Moon-, John Bonham-, and Frank Zappa-crazy. Roger Waters- and Skip Spence-crazy. This is a widely accepted fact, as evidenced by a recent issue of Rolling Stone that touted the frontman's eccentricities on its cover. Oddly enough, Cuomo's burned mind was first publicized by the man himself, in a July 27, 2004, post on his above-mentioned blog titled "What I've Been Up to Since I Left School." Over the course of more than 2,000 words -- originally addressed to a Harvard admissions board, mind you, and included on the blog as an afterthought -- Cuomo bares his soul. He spent the last six years of his life, he writes, alternately addicted to "tequila and Ritalin," "playing our biggest concerts ever," losing "fifteen percent of my weight," taking "a vow of celibacy," giving away "most of my possessions, my house, and my car and liv[ing] in an empty apartment next to Rick [Rubin's] house for the rest of the year," and finally discovering Vipassana meditation and a certain amount of solace. And the point of all this? "To purge myself of all weakness so that I could write 'perfect' songs as reliably as a machine."
It's this last bit that gives me pause.
See, I'm way down with crazy. Wanna shave your eyebrows off and masturbate in a Tampa Bay hotel room blaring Fleetwood Mac B-sides for three days straight? Fine. Interested in the occult? Groovy. Like biting the heads off of live animals onstage? Well, that's kind of shitty according to my PETA handbook, but your heart's in the right place.
The reason crazy is good is because -- as stereotypical as it might be, and in spite of the dozens of runaway dirtbags on Haight Street who think they're destined to become the next Basquiat -- crazy makes for good art. Any millionaire rock star who feels compelled to sell away his ivory back-scratchers and jewel-encrusted cell phone and live in an empty room for the better part of a year is clearly being governed by an area of the human brain known as Nolte's Node, an organ twice removed from what scientists call Gore's Ganglia, the part that's there to remind you to buy soap, pay your cell phone bill, and show up to work.
What bugs me about Cuomo is not that homeboy is off the reservation, but that he seems to have forgotten the most important part of his journey: bring those of us who are shackled to civility a little bit of that wisdom by putting it into your music.
I liked Weezer's self-titled debut when it came out my junior year of high school. That album was three-chord arena rock inspired by Cuomo idols like Kiss, but it was full of winks and giggles, the sound of dorks playing three-chord arena rock. Were they allowed to do that? Millions decided that, yes, they were. Pinkerton, in 1996, continued this tack, but its lukewarm critical and fan reception resulted in a commercial disaster that temporarily derailed Weezer's career and landed Cuomo in Crazytown (the mind-set, not the band).
This is where things could have gone terribly right. Cuomo was creatively tapped. He was looking for inspiration. Where did he find it? Napoleon and Julius Caesar. Yup. Specifically, Nietzsche's writings on these great men, from which Cuomo gleaned that the way to channel his energy was, like these dudes, to focus on "world domination."
A series of very successful, unoriginal, and innocuous albums followed: 2001's self-titled comeback LP, which came to be known as the "Green Album"; 2002's more mildly received Maladroit; and this year's Make Believe, which pretty much cemented Weezer as my generation's Cheap Trick. But that's not even accurate, because at least Cheap Trick never tried to transcend its status as a dork-rock band that happened to play arenas. It never attempted the quasi-social comment of Make Believe's pathetic "We Are All on Drugs": "And you put on your headphones/ And you step into the zone when you're/ On drugs/ But the world don't care/ If you're not there 'cause you're/ On drugs."
"Step into the zone"? Is the drug in question Gatorade?
I'd spend more time describing just how shitty this album is, maybe tell you about the "I'd like to teach the world to sing" gist of "This Is Such a Pity," but it doesn't get much better or worse than "Drugs."
However, I didn't write all this just to tell you about what a crappy record Weezer made. There is a moral to this story that I want to spell out: If you're the rare person who finds himself able to access the door between our staid, day-to-day, pick-the-kids-up-at-day-care world and that mystical (sorry to get all hippie on you) place that crazy, visionary artists draw their ideas from, don't lose the freakin' key! Don't squander that special knowledge on writing "'perfect' songs as reliably as a machine." Because if Make Believe is your idea of perfect, I reckon it's better to be screwed up.