How Weezer became Pitchfork’s biggest nightmare.

Publications often seem to have a desire to trample a band into the ground. Online, none have been more enduring as Pitchfork’s reviews of Weezer’s albums. That is not to say that they aren’t entitled to their own opinions, and that they haven’t given Weezer a fair critique. In fact, they may sometimes be fairer than others. Publications can often appear too lenient with their score systems, and use much higher ratings to suggest something ‘average’. Just look at this review on The Guardian site of Matthew McConaughey’s new film Serenity – labelled as the ‘first gloriously bad movie’ of the year. It’s a bold statement for a film which is scored 3/5.

This inconsistency between what scores mean from site to site (and author to author) can make aggregate sites like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes slightly redundant. However, for the sake of the exercise, we’ll use Metacritic. Pitchfork have reviewed all nine albums Weezer have released since 2002’s Maladroit, and for every one have given a lower score that the average. Most obnoxiously, they scored 2005’s Make Believe just 0.4/10.

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Although they would eventually admit to making a misjudgment with their 0.7/10 review of Andrew W.K.’s I Get Wet when its reissue received an 8.7/10, Pitchfork’s persistence with Weezer suggests that there won’t be a big mea culpa any time soon. This is sealed by Pitchfork senior editor Jillian Mapes’ article, headlined “Will Weezer Ever Stop Being Disappointing?”.

This was in reply to the surprise release of Weezer’s new cover album Weezer (The Teal Album) – the result of a successful online campaign to get the band to cover Toto’s ‘Africa’. The whole concept is asking for trouble from critics. Weezer are bound to be accused of pushing a joke way too far, and cashing in on the attention brought be their Toto cover. Let’s face it. It’s going to get the lowest scores of their career, but they knew exactly what they were doing and what they were in for. They’re including a pointless Rubik’s Cube with all of the sides the same teal colour with the limited preorder version. According to the store, the idea was “invented this morning”. Alright, perhaps in that instance they are doing so at the consumers’ expense ($35 to be precise. Not that 500 people cared. All of them have now sold out) but the the subject of authenticity and quality of the music itself is open for more debate than it seems.

There is no denying that Weezer’s first two albums Weezer (The Blue Album) and Pinkerton are their greatest achievements, but Mapes’ article, and others similar, suggest that it is a band’s duty to stop altogether if they cannot live up to the dizzy heights of their previous standard. In fact, just look at this comment on Metacritic.

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Weezer have been around for long enough that the threshold has been broken for them to be able to make music “for themselves”, and allow fans to just come along for the ride – a liberty that newer bands do not get.  They even had the audacity to release a self-titled album full of covers, as if to turn a blind eye to everybody and state that this is what they do and who they are. At this point in their careers, they have nothing to prove.

As of 2019, it’s not so much a matter of good vs. bad, and whether they tug at your heartstrings. It has become more a matter of those who accept it, and those who don’t – something that just can’t be scored outside of personal preference. It is the lower key equivalent of “you just don’t get it” being used to defend a pretentiously arty act, but instead of demeaningly looking down on naysayers, it looks up – Hey! We’re enjoying ourselves down here! Leave us alone! 

With Weezer’s reputation being a matter of just being fun, they are a difficult band to accurately review, because the only barometer by which they can be scored is their own work. The only time that they are truly vulnerable to criticism is if they decide to release something deadly serious, and it is of poor quality. As yet, this could well be the case with Weezer (The Black Album), written with the intention of being the evil counterpart of Weezer (The White Album) (“I’m thinking of swearing, which is something I’ve never done in songs.” – Rivers Cuomo) which will be released in March.

There is no definitive answer to Pitchfork’s provocative clickbait headline. But can they? Yes, Weezer can stop being disappointing, and yes, it might be infuriating as you know what they are capable of. However, it feels like all out snobbery to take their actual output as deadly seriously as some critics do.

 

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