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Weezer mines vauts for new releases

of the Oakland Press

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It’s been a prolific three years for Weezer.

Since the end of 2007, the rock quartet has released a trio of studio albums: “Weezer” (aka “The Red Album”), “Raditude,” and this year’s “Hurley” and a downloadable “Christmas With Weezer” EP. Frontman Rivers Cuomo has released two volumes of his “Alone: The Home Recordings...” series, with a third due in late November. And on Tuesday, Nov. 2, Weezer comes with two special projects — a Deluxe Edition of its 1996 sophomore album “Pinkerton” and the rarities set “Death to False Metal.”

But still, Cuomo says with a laugh, “our fans, as far as we can tell, are never satisfied. They always want more music. As far as we can tell ... they’re listening to it deeply and listening to it a lot. They’re satisfied for a month, and then they want more.

“That suits me perfectly, ’cause my favorite thing in the world is to get in the studio and work on new music.”

Cuomo has had no shortage of time to do that during Weezer’s 16 years of recording — and he even managed to squeeze in a degree at Harvard University, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. But it’s an interesting run at the same time, mostly populated by ups but with a few notable downs along the way.

One of those was “Pinkerton,” or rather the reception to it, which makes this week’s Deluxe Edition reissue an important reclamation of the album’s legacy.

Coming on the heels of Weezer’s ebullient triple-platinum 1994 debut, which spawned the hits “Undone — The Sweater Song,” “Buddy Holly” and “Say It Ain’t So” — “Pinkerton” was a more sober affair and was received as something of a letdown. And a downer. Even today it’s not surpassed the platinum mark, and none of its singles charted on the Hot 100.

But, Cuomo acknowledges, “Pinkerton” was not necessarily designed to have the same kind of success.

“I was frustrated by the reception that our first album received,” says Cuomo, who’s also publishing a book this month called “The Pinkerton Diaries” that collects his journals, e-mails, letters and school papers between 1994-97, including an explanation of the title Cuomo wrote in response to a trademark infringement lawsuit by the Pinkerton Inc. security firm.

“What I was hearing was people thought we were kind of a jokey and shallow and corporate version of the Pixies, and I wanted to be taken more seriously. So I wrote ‘Pinkerton’ very carefully trying to avoid anything that would have made it seem like a novelty. I felt like I was saying, ‘OK world, here’s the truth. Here’s what I’m really like.’

“Then we put it out, and it seemed liked what I was hearing was, ‘What happened to our fun band? They’re kitschy and poppy and fun and energetic, and now there’s this, like, bizarre, grotesque, obscene, noisy, not pop album.”

Cuomo says he was ready for some backlash from the first album. “I probably entertained some doubts — maybe it’ll totally fail and we’ll sell half as much as the (debut) album or something,” he recalls. “And it came out and sold a tenth as much, which in those days was an incredible drop. Critics uniformly hated it, and it was just the beginning of online feedback, too, so you could go on Amazon and see all the negative feedback from the fans of the first record.

“Boy, that was crushing for me, all of that together. It took awhile to build up the confidence to even step back in the spotlight again.”

It would, in fact, be five years before Weezer released its next album. But during the interim, perspective on “Pinkerton” changed. Other artists stepped up to sing its praises. Rolling Stone magazine readers rated it the 16th greatest album of all-time, while Spin magazine named it one of the 100 best albums released during its first 20 years of publication and Pitchfork Media called it one of the Top Albums of the 1990s.

“People eventually found their way to the album,” notes Cuomo, who stocked the Deluxe Edition with 25 demos, outtakes and live tracks. “I’m sure there were some who did like it right away, but the way it’s viewed now is ... nice.”

“Death to False Metal,” meanwhile, is a “different” kind of project altogether, gathering 10 tracks, including an unironic cover of Toni Braxton’s “Un-break My Heart,” that Cuomo says were “finished but didn’t belong on a record” and were subsequently touched up by the current Weezer lineup to become “the album that should logically follow ‘Hurley,’ ” the group’s latest release.

“It was extremely fun and easy,” Cuomo says, “because there’s all this material I loved and it felt like the bulk of the work was already done and I got to go in ... with a totally different perspective and tons of energy and it was easy to figure out, ‘Oh, there’s obviously supposed to be a solo there, so I’ll just edit that in’ or, ‘That lyric was wrong’ or ‘Let me put a harmony there.’ So it very quickly came together and was quite a lot of fun.”

Weezer is celebrating the releases, and particularly the “Pinkerton — Deluxe Edition,” with a five-city Memories Tour that begins Nov. 26 in Universal City, Calif., and will feature two-night residencies during which the band will play the first “Weezer” (aka “The Blue Album”) and “Pinkerton” in sequence along with other material.

“Our core audience is always clamoring for more ‘Pinkerton’ and more ‘Blue’ album,” Cuomo explains, “so why not do a handful of these shows in select markets ... so it’ll be that real core audience that’s really dying to hear those particular songs? A lot of them weren’t old enough to see those songs when we were originally playing them in the mid-’90s, so we think it’ll be a real exciting event for them. I think that Weezer has a lot of different sides to it, and ... ­­I look forward to the opportunity to show a lot of our different sides over those two nights.”

Cuomo added that “there won’t be any replication from night to night,” save for “Memories,” the single from the Hurley album.

After that, Cuomo says he and his bandmates “definitely don’t have any extensive touring (plans) on the books.”

They are, however, working on Weezer’s 10th studio album which is expected out in 2011 and which Cuomo says will likely veer away from publicity-courting stunts such as the cheeky “Pork and Beans” video and the latest album’s cover photo of “Lost” star Jorge “Hurley” Garcia.

“We’re getting a lot of criticism for that,” Cuomo acknowledges. “I think we’re taking that to heart, and I think we’re going to be more careful in the future about making sure there’s a healthier balance between being known for music with a strong intention and then (doing) something occasionally outrageous to just remind the mainstream that we exist.”

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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