“You say it’s a good thing that you float in the air/That way, there’s no way I will crush your pretty toenails into a thousand pieces.”
Thus ends “Only in Dreams,”the closing track of Weezer’s 1994 debut Weezer (The Blue Album). Over time, and within the context of the song, these are words written about a girl so unforgettable, so unavoidable, that she is in the air and “in your bones.” (She’s also your ride home.) But the first time I heard this song – sometime around 2005 when I was 11 – I had absolutely no idea what those lyrics meant. I only knew that they were perfect, sounding suitably epic against the song’s explosive eight minutes.
Now, 13 studio albums into their career, fans and critics alike are still picking at Rivers Cuomo’s words as if they’re enough to justify ostracizing the band for another quarter century. Besides, they’re complete nonsense. Didn’t you read that piece about his spreadsheets? Each song is constructed to give the impression of a singular idea, but in reality, none of the words were actually written to go together. It’s all meaningless.
The internet giveth and the internet taketh away.
Late last May, a 14-year-old Twitter user created an account dedicated to getting Weezer, now uniquely divisive in this stage of their career, to cover “Africa,” Toto’s 1982 hit and a resurging meme in the same lineage of Smash Mouth’s “All-Star” and Owl City’s “Fireflies.” Now, eight months later, the cultural tides have shifted. “Africa” has been viciously chewed up and spit out by the merciless internet machine, largely due to the outrageous popularity that accompanied Weezer’s studio cover. The song peaked number one on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart, the band’s first number one hit since 2007’s “Pork and Beans.” The band closed shows with it, made a bizarre, self-referential music video starring Weird Al for it, and even teased the song’s release with a superior cover of another Toto single, “Rosanna.”
In less than a year, “Africa” became the sort of meme your family would recognize or bring up in casual conversation, essentially nullifying the status it once held and finalizing its new residence in the lexicon’s void.
This is not Pinkerton.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s examine where this 10th LP (fourth self-titled) fits within The Curious Case of Weezer.
To many, Weezer are hacks; they’re notorious for “selling out” (whatever that means), a band who’s switched not only styles but a frontman who famously experimented with hundreds of songwriting methods just to reach the heights of the band’s classic debut, Weezer (The Blue Album). But it’s what’s happened between the time of The Blue Album and now that makes the band (and their enigmatic frontman, Rivers Cuomo) so endearing. There was critical success followed by critical failure; addiction followed by isolation, all in the name of goofy songs like “Hash Pipe” and “Island in the Sun.” There was celibacy, meditation, marriage, divorce, a Lil Wayne feature, and a “return to form” all in the past two decades.