If you went to school during the 90s (like I did), then you probably remember Weezer. “Oh, yeah—the ‘Buddy Holly’ guys!” you’ll say. Or maybe: “yeah, the ‘Sweater Song’ guys,” or “yeah, the ‘Say It Ain’t So’ guys.” In any case, Weezer is “back.” But if you’re a real Weezer fan, you know that the “Hash Pipe” guys never went anywhere. Over the past 10-plus years, they’ve released five albums, though none has been as popular as 94’s Weezer (the “blue album”).


MAKE BELIEVE

(2005) Music Review


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TRACKS -Windows Media

1. Beverly Hills Listen
2. Perfect Situation Listen
3. This Is Such a Pity Listen
4. Hold Me Listen
5. Peace Listen
6. We Are All on Drugs Listen
7. Damage in Your Heart Listen
8. Pardon Me Listen
9. My Best Friend Listen
10. Other Way Listen
11. Freak Me Out Listen
12. Haunt You Every Day Listen

CD Purchase
Make BelieveTitle: Make Believe
Artist: Weezer
Label: Geffen Records

Taking three-years between albums has made Weezer grow slower and more sober. But on its fifth disc the Los Angeles quartet is no more secure about its place in the world than it was a decade ago in longing tunes like "The World Has Turned And Left Me Here." Singer Rivers Cuomo, still struggling with adolescence at 34, is all apologies. "All I have to do is swing and I'm the hero/ But I'm a zero," he sings on "Perfect Situation," and "I am terrified of all things/ Frightened of the dark," on the lighters-aloft power ballad "Hold Me." The band, meanwhile, keeps things from getting too heavy by punctuating the songs with a familiar rush of bouncy new-wave melodies and fizzing power-pop riffs resulting in the hair-flinging metal of the future D.A.R.E. theme song and album high-point, "We Are All On Drugs." --Aidin Vaziri

Make Believe
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MATTHEW HILL

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If you went to school during the 90s (like I did), then you probably remember Weezer. “Oh, yeah—the ‘Buddy Holly’ guys!” you’ll say. Or maybe: “yeah, the ‘Sweater Song’ guys,” or “yeah, the ‘Say It Ain’t So’ guys.” In any case, Weezer is “back.” But if you’re a real Weezer fan, you know that the “Hash Pipe” guys never went anywhere. Over the past 10-plus years, they’ve released five albums, though none has been as popular as 94’s Weezer (the “blue album”). Incidentally, if you don’t know who Weezer is—if you didn’t go to school during the 90s, if none of the above song titles jog your memory—then do yourself a favor and buy Weezer and 1996’s Pinkerton. These two albums represent some of the best indie rock/emo/power pop music you’ll find anywhere (“Say It Ain’t So” and “Across the Sea,” in my opinion two of the best songs ever written, are worth the price by themselves).

So, it’s 2005 and Weezer is “back” with Make Believe. Having lived with the album for a month or so now, my feelings about it have solidified some, but are still kind of ambivalent. Part of me wants to love Make Believe because it “sounds like Weezer,” and I love how Weezer sounds. Yet part of me hoped it’d be different because, well, it “sounds like Weezer,” and I was looking for some growth. Don’t get me wrong, the album is a standout when compared to other contemporary offerings. But in the context of this band, I long to see singer/songwriter Rivers Cuomo, after 10-plus years, finally reach that “higher plane” he refers to in the liner lyrics for “We Are All on Drugs.” Really, I long for Rivers to see that the 10-plus years of lovable whining, being introspective, being self-effacing—usually about girls, yes, but pining after love can so easily be metaphorical—have really been 10-plus years of seeking God. And I want to tell him that God is ready to find him. And that you don’t get more “higher plane” than that. And that . . . well, more on that later.

Like I’ve been indicating, Make Believe is a solid album. The guitars are punchy when they need to be, jangly when they need to be, clean when they need to be. The solo work is some of Weezer’s best. Vocally, the band continues its tradition of beautiful melodies, catchy choruses, and clean, retro-fifties harmonies. That retro-fifties sound extends to the chord progressions—another Weezer staple—especially on “Pardon Me,” “Hold Me,” and “The Other Way.” Partially because of the addition of keyboards, Make Believe also has a retro-eighties sound in a few places, particularly on “This is Such a Pity” and “The Damage in Your Heart.” Structurally, nearly every song on this album is super-tight. We’re talking verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus tight. And while I appreciate the adherence to the pop song bible, this is one place where Weezer could definitely stand some development.

Now, before moving on to Make Believe’s lyrics, its time for some random value assigning: “My Best Friend” wins the award for Best Beatles Song Not Written by The Beatles. “Beverly Hills,” the album’s first single, is a not-so-good and way-too-obviously-calculated attempt to recreate that old Weezer novelty-song appeal that began with Weezer’s “The Sweater Song” and continued through Pinkerton’s “El Scorcho” and Maladroit’s “Keep Fishing”—all better songs. “Freak Me Out” gives the most specific and quirky insight into Rivers’ personality—something that older albums, thankfully, did lots more of. “Perfect Situation” is the most Weezerish sounding song on the album. “Haunt You Every Day,” if I had to pick, is probably the “best” all-around song on the album, yet I find myself listening to “We Are All On Drugs” more than anything else.

As for the lyrics, Make Believe offers traditional Weezer fare. Nearly every song is about how Rivers’ life, in some way, isn’t how he wants it to be. Honestly, if you were to piece together the main ideas of each of the album’s twelve tracks, you’d get something like: I’m a born loser, I’m lonely, the relationships I do have suck, I need someone to hold me, I need peace, drugs aren’t the answer, I’m kind of used to it, I’m sorry, I love you, I might give up, I feel scared and isolated, and I’ll haunt you when I’m gone. Probably no more exposition is needed to get back to the earlier point about Rivers needing God. To me, when someone is saying—emotionally, poignantly—“I need to find some peace,” that someone is ultimately talking about God, even if that someone hasn’t realized it yet. When someone sings, “I am terrified of all things/Frightened of the dark, I am/You are taller than a mountain/Deeper than the sea, you are/Hold me, hold me/Take me with you/’cause I’m lonely,” they’re ultimately singing to God, even if they’re singing to someone else on the surface. Those last lyrics, from “Hold Me,” may as well be taken right from the Psalms.

Thematically, then, Make Believe turns out to be about what lots of things are about: the need for God. And given the rumored pains Rivers has taken to find the peace he sings about—higher education, hiatuses from the band, apparent drug use, self-imposed celibacy, self-imposed isolation, meditation, obsessively prolific songwriting, etc.—I just hope he’ll see that it really is time to take things to that “higher plane,” and that it can happen. I mean, when you’re 25, singing about girls not liking you and being unfulfilled, it’s probably alright. But when you’re 35, and you’re still singing about the same thing, it’s probably not. And—God forbid it that this unlikely possibility be true—if you are past those 25-year-old issues, but are just faking it for your fan base, then it’s even worse.

So Rivers, if you’ve secretly moved on somehow, please let it come through in the music. But if you haven’t, or if you’re someone who feels like Rivers does . . . boy can God fill all that inter-connected void. He can be that “Peace” that you need. He can be there when you cry, “Hold Me.” He can be that “Best Friend.” He can take you to that “higher plane/Where things will never be the same.” Through Jesus, he can forgive all the things you know you’ve done wrong, answering that call to “Pardon Me.” Life may still suck sometimes—feelings may not always reflect spiritual reality—but the perspective, the context, the relevance that is lent by that spiritual reality will always be there in life, and with even more after.

In the end, Make Believe is most valuable as a snapshot of the soul in search of God—like the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, only with no answers at the end. And while I've definitely got some room in my record collection for albums like that—especially ones as listenable as this—I've got even more hope that this kind of searching will eventually lead to finding. The Bible says that God will be found when he is sought with a whole heart. Keep looking, Rivers, and I'll keep listening . . . and maybe the next Weezer album will find that “higher plane,” that fulfillment, moved out of the realm of Make Believe, and, finally, into the realm of reality.

ABOUT
the basic story so far...

weezer was founded in los angeles on february 14, 1992 by rivers cuomo, jason cropper, matt sharp, and pat wilson. the band began writing music and playing local clubs. despite not having much success at first, the band pressed forward. after 16 months together, playing shows and recording demos in los angeles, dgc records (geffen) signed weezer. the band moved to new york to record at the famed electric lady studios under producer ric ocasek (of cars fame). during the recording of weezer, jason left the band to take care of his future wife, who was pregnant with their first child. jason was replaced by brian bell, a then bassist from a band called carnival art.

weezer's self-titled debut album was released on May 10, 1994, and was a hit from the start. they released three singles from weezer: "undone - the sweater song", "buddy holly", and "say it ain't so". "buddy holly" won several mtv awards that year, and weezer eventually went double-platinum. after several tours around the u.s. and the world, the band settled back in; rivers went to school at harvard, matt and pat worked on a new band named the rentals, and brian resumed work with a former band of his, the space twins. in the early winter of 1995 and the summer of 1996, weezer once again commenced into the studio, but this time they were to produce the album themselves.

on september 24th 1996, weezer's much-awaited second lp, entitled pinkerton, was released. it is quite the opposite of weezer; the guitars are more gruff, the lyrics have a deeper meaning, and the band's talent and style has matured considerably. weezer released three songs from pinkerton: "el scorcho", "the good life", and "pink triangle". pinkerton went gold in record sales and has been a steady seller since. in the band downtime after pinkerton, matt sharp has left the bassist position (under good terms) to pusue his ever more notable band, the rentals. filling matt's place is mikey welsh, of boston, and formerly of juliana hatfield's band. during 1998 rivers & mikey played a few shows together in boston (dubbed "the rivers cuomo band"). the following spring rivers and mikey joined brian and pat in los angeles and had on/off rehearsal sessions over the next couple of years. rivers devoted some time to "homie" which released one song, brian released a couple of records with his spacetwins, and pat and mikey toured with the special goodness.

fast forward to spring 2000. after playing unannounced shows under secret names, in addition to more frequent rehearsals, weezer booked dates on that summer's warped tour, and subsequently a nationwide club tour. much to the band's surprise the dates sold out instantly. juiced by an overwhelming fan response and a wealth of new material, weezer was back. following another sold-out tour in the fall the band continued writing and practicing new material in los angeles into 2001. a christmas song e.p. was distributed to fans and radio stations and shortly before the new year weezer began recording their 3rd effort, dubbed "the green album" in los angeles, again with producer ric ocasek. with the album finished the band got back on the road for much of the rest of 2001. Mid summer saw another line-up change, with Mikey replaced by bass heavyweight Scott Shriner. The band continued their relentless touring through 2001, finally pausing to record their 4th album, Maladroit, which was released in May 2002. The band continued touring till september, when they took a break and intermitently worked on new tunes for a 5th album.

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