The Green Album REconsidered

Sun 2/17/2008

Okay, okay, I KNOW I said I would stop writing about Weezer, but I just have ONE more post! (Sorry! I can't stop thinking about Weezer!!!) I'll do my best to keep it UNDER 1,000 words...

I just felt kind of bad about bashing the Green Album in my last post... So, I decided to give it a listen and was actually able to hear it with fresh ears (it helps that I don't listen to it very often). I'm not going to take back what I said. It IS the worst Weezer album, I don't think anyone would argue against that point. But think about the Green Album from RIVERS'S point of view!

Seriously, put yourself in his shoes, and that album starts to make a lot of sense...

You are 22. You've moved out to L.A., dropped out of school and have been trying to make it big with your rock band. After a few failed attempts, you suddenly, unexpectedly, get SIGNED (!!?!) You fly off to New York and record your first album. And it is a HIT.

All of a sudden your songs are being played on the radio, you are filming music videos, you are on MTV, you are traveling the world playing your music every night. You sell literally MILLIONS of albums (The Blue Album is TRIPLE platinum at this point). You make a bunch of money.

So things are good. You are pumped! But you don't want all of this popularity to go to your head, so you buckle down and start writing your next album. And you have this cool idea - an opera! Three guys, two girls, all singing together, storylines - outer space! Robots! The songs are awesome, the second album is going to rule.

But then your bass player maybe kind of borrows some of your ideas and goes and records an album that is basically what you were going to try and do with yours :( "Nuts with this!" you think. "I'm going back to school!"

But it kind of sucks at school. You used some of your money from the first album to get your leg lengthened and so you have this huge metal cage around your leg and you have to walk around with a cane. So everyone is kind of weirded out by that. Plus you are older than everyone. And you are kind of famous, but people deal with it by just ignoring you.

So then you think, "Well, maybe instead of the opera, I'll make the second album kind of like a DIARY, and I'll sing all about some of this hard stuff I've been going through." So you write songs that are EXTREMELY personal. And those become the second album.

And it just totally fails.

Unbeknownst to you, there is a boy in Seattle (and a few others, scattered about) who are listening to your second album, and they are all having their minds blown. To them, it is quite possibly the most meaningful recording ever made. It is so good, so groundbreaking, SO INCREDIBLE that the general masses can't handle it. And unfortunately, this is the only feedback you hear about.

The numbers aren't there. The radio just won't play your new songs like they did the first time. You don't sell nearly as many records. You make a few videos, but none of them strike a chord like your first ones did. This ultra-personal outpouring of your heart is a commercial FAILURE.

Despondent, you completely drop off the mainstream music map for YEARS. Also you drop out of school and move back to L.A. You rent an apartment under a freeway somewhere, paint all of the walls black, block out all of the windows and start studying music obsessively. You break down pop songs into their chord progressions and analyze them. You try to come up with a FORMULA to write a perfect pop song. You completely detach yourself from the lyrics, refusing to reveal anything personal, for fear of being burned again.

And so, you reappear FIVE YEARS later with your perfect pop album. The lyrics are standard love-song fare, with no emotion in the performance. Complex, considered arrangements have given way to a generic strumming of chords. Guitar solos are watered down to simple echoes of the song's melody, because that worked for the Beatles thirty years ago, right?

The boy in Seattle and others like him are heartbroken. "Say it ain't so!" they scream at the top of their lungs. But you can't hear them, because your new songs are being played from every radio in the land. You are on MTV again and once more you tour the world playing your new songs.

(See, that's the thing about the Green Album... IT WORKED. Rivers was so burned by the failure of Pinkerton, that he was determined to make the exact opposite album: an impersonal album that would appeal to the masses. The Green Album went platinum almost instantly, Pinkerton STILL has not.)

But Pinkerton IS a better album! And eventually people started catching on. All those idiots who slammed it at first, started pulling 180s. Suddenly it's one of the best albums of the 90s! Word of mouth spreads, like, "have you HEARD Pinkerton???" It influences a whole GENERATION of musicians and changes the entire face of rock music as we know it! Rolling Stone names it as the 16th greatest album OF ALL TIME.

And so, you start to think, "Huh! Maybe it's not so bad writing songs that actually MEAN something." And, also, "Man, I sure miss shredding the hell out of some guitar solos..." So you turn around and start walking back the way you came. Down the path, a few steps closer to NOT SUCKING.

Maladroit was better. Make Believe was even better. There are actually a few tracks on Make Believe which I really love. And I'll be damned if Album Six isn't going to be something worth listening to!!!

(damn... 1060 words... )

14 comments on this entry

Is write a 1000 words about Weezer on your list of things to do everyday?

It should be! ;)

Greg Feb17

wow man, you're really into weezer...

anyway, interesting to read, especially to know that this album was written to be a perfect pop album.

Ajani Feb17

I HATED pinkerton the first time I heard it. and then, later, it smacked me across the face with its awesomeness. Let's hope there is another.

Carolyn Feb18

Yay, awesome post! I like the green album for what it is, a "perfect" pop album and I can enjoy it on that level for sure. One of my favorite activities when drawing comics is to listen to all the Weezer albums in order and think about the differences and similarities between them. I think I know what I'm doing tonight!

I'm curious to hear your feelings on Maladroit! I don't suppose we could cajole you into another entry? Eh?

Liz Feb18

Word Liz. Listening to them in chronological order is way fun. Also, on at least two of my 24-hour comics I started by listening to like 10 straight hours of Weezer! :)

At the risk of further alienating the other 99% of my readership, I think I better hold off on the Maladroit post... We'll dork about it next time we hang out though!

Alec Feb18

Hey, Alec, who did the art for that first weezer tribute cover album? Not the pro-produced one, but the fan one, the one that came out either right before or right after the green album. Somebody comic-booky did it, but it's been so long since I had it that I can't remember. It might be someone we know!

Chris S. Feb18

your passion never ceases to amaze.

wait: "But it kind of sucks at school. You used some of your money from the first album to get your leg lengthened and so you have this huge metal cage around your leg and you have to walk around with a cane. So everyone is kind of weirded out by that. Plus you are older than everyone. And you are kind of famous, but people deal with it by just ignoring you."

did i just read that right? LEG LENGTHENED? whoa!

i've heard songs off their first album (soon bok's all nostalgic for it, as many people are i know) but that's it. oh, and they played a song on the citywalk jumbotron for a spell with the muppets. that's my weezer history. (42 words! haha)

great post, alec. you are one passionate mofo.

nate Feb20

It's crazy that the Green Album is Rivers' attempt to craft the perfect pop album. Somebody should have told him he already accomplished that feat with the Blue Album.

ak47 Feb20

Chris - I don't know which CD you are talking about. Sounds cool though!

Nate - YEAH. They broke his leg in like three places and then drove these giant screws into his leg bones and then slowly stretched it out and let it heal. He had this huge cage around his leg. Supposedly it was extremely painful.

Andrew - WORD!

Alec Feb21

Hey Alec-so there is this magical store in Phnom Penh called Boom Boom Music. You go in and sit down and they have a big binder of all the music they have and then you make a list and they can either download it on to your iPod or burn it on to a DVD. And it's cheap! (about 75 cents - $1 an album). I went in yesterday and I wanted to tell you that after reading your essay about Pinkerton, I added it to my list. I'll be picking up my order this afternoon so I look forward to checking it out!

alison Feb25

Awesome Alison!!! I am having such a good time reading your blog, I hope you continue to find the time to post! Stay safe over there.

Alec Feb25

I stumbled upon your blog today while reading up on the Alone albums. I think you make some great points. I have a different perspective on the Green album, I hope you'll read it with an open mind-

I view the Green album not just in the context of the Weezer story, or the Rivers story, but in the context of the music scene at the time it was written, recorded, and released. Look at the music that was being shoved down our throats at the time. You have boy band after boy band making over produced CRAP. You have Britney and Avril and all the other no talent clowns making made-to-order "hits". You have new bands (at the time) like Good Charlotte making terribly predictable over-produced, over-marketed garbage.

Enter the Green album.

The mindset that I think Rivers had for this album is: Look at all the crap out there. No one is genuine. It's all about the Benjamins. Its all overproduced with big, tight solos screaming look at ME! What is wrong with trying to write catchy, hooky songs? What is wrong with being upbeat? I'm going to write this record to have the classic, gritty Weezer sound. I'm going to skip the self-aggrandizing, chauvinistic solos in favor of short, melody following ones. (No one was doing this at the time, remember, even if it had been done before.) I'm going to put some really neat ideas in this album and see if people catch them (i.e. Simple Pages: GIMME some love, gimme SOME love...OPEN your arms, open YOUR arms...) I'm going to create a catchy, hooky, fun album and I'm going to have fun doing it.

Now, this is all speculation by me as to what Rivers was thinking, but this has always been the mindset that I have listened to this record with. I don't have a favorite Weezer album since I enjoy them all. Depending on what mood I am in I will listen to an album and it will take me back to the time in my life when the album first came out.

That is just my take.

Dan Dec07

Dan, those are some interesting thoughts! I guess I wasn't listening to that much pop music at the time when the Green Album came out, so it's interesting to hear your thoughts about the album, considering the trends of the time. Thanks for the comment!

Alec Dec08

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Long live the list! (The list is dead)
Well, sorry if I'm letting anyone down, but I'm throwing in the towel a week early with THE LIST. ..
Songs From the Black Hole considered
Q: How do you follow a 1,200-word post about Weezer? A: With another 1,000-word post about Weezer! ..