Rivers Cuomo Wants To Write An Elliott Smith-Influenced Album. Really?
Two days ago, Weezer’s frontman, Rivers Cuomo, wrote this on his website, under the category ‘Future Projects’: ‘In two separate interviews, I talk about the idea of possibly doing a collection of four seasonally-based themed albums. In i news UK on January 21st, I mention that in 2022, I want to release four seasonal albums, each with corresponding themes (“Happy, chill, stress-free for spring, lots of Elliott Smith-style loss and sadness for winter, and maybe fall could be dance-rock, like Franz Ferdinand”).’
The news was picked up by several news outlets, and in particular, the ‘Elliott Smith-style’ album became the headline. But let’s stop for a minute, Weezer just released ‘OK Human,’ then will drop another album, ‘Van Weezer’ set for a May release, and Cuomo is already talking about 4 other albums? First of all, is Cuomo trying to beat some record? The record of the most records in a year? The 4-season-themed albums won’t probably be released this year, but this pile of releases sounds like a crazy idea. After their Toto covers, Weezer went all ‘60s ‘Pet Sounds’ with ‘OK Human’ while their next one is supposed to be an homage to their pop-metal idol, Van Halen. They seem to be in a pastiche high. The next four seasons’ inspirations, as if Cuomo suddenly were the Vivaldi of pop-rock, are linked to two famous names for two seasons: Franz Ferdinand for fall and Elliott Smith for winter. What a stupid premise. Rivers Cuomo wants to write an Elliott Smith-influenced album.
As a big fan of Elliott Smith, this is borderline offensive. Associating Elliott’s music to winter is a really near-sighted view of his work and jumping once again into the cliches of the sad depressive songwriter while seeing one unique tone in Elliott’s brilliant and diverse pallet. But that’s what 90% of the people think about Elliott’s music so it’s not a surprise, it just shows the shortcoming of Cuomo’s vision. He may be a musician too, but he is certainly another type of musician.
This project supposes that Cuomo has the pretension to pull out a collection of songs that would live up to Elliott’s craft. Have you seen Weezer’s lyrics? ‘Watching all the freaky Dutch kids vomit then have sex’? ‘When I walk to the park with my doggies, I collect all the things they leave, then I put them up under the microscope’? ‘God took a rib from Adam, ground it up in a centrifuge machine, mixed it with cardamom and cloves, microwaved it on the popcorn setting’? ‘I stepped to the floor with her best friend Jill, and tried to thicken the plot, the thing I finally found with these other girls in town, she got hot and they did not’? ‘They say I need some Rogaine to put in my hair, work it out at the gym to fit my underwear’? Mom made my sex, she knitted it with her hands, sex-making is a family tradition’? I could go on forever, Weezer’s lyrics are just the biggest collection of gross, jokey, and often ridiculous lines, always straightforward and explicit, and certainly clashing with the multi-meanings level of Elliott’s poetry. There’s no chance Cuomo will ever write a song like ‘Between the Bars.’
One thing is certain, if Weezer were releasing ‘Pinkerton’ today, they would be canceled… A line like ‘if I’m a dog then you’re a bitch’ would never pass the woke test, and this is not the only cringe-worthy line. This is after all an album inspired by Pinkerton, an American sailor who hooked up with a 15-year-old Japanese girl, got her pregnant, and then abandoned her. There are enough problems in this sentence to rally an army of protests against the casual sexism, rampant misogynism, obvious pedophilia, and borderline racism of the album. There’s no way this would look good in today’s culture, and this only demonstrates one thing to me: Cuomo’s art doesn’t age very well. In comparison, Elliott’s clever lyrics are effortless and ageless, they use metaphors, work as impressionistic touches, and dream-like patterns and there is simply no comparison with Cuomo’s 12-year-old stammering.
Then, there is the awkward connection between Elliott Smith and Rivers Cuomo, the fact that they shared a girlfriend, Jennifer Chiba. Cuomo has described her as his on-again-off-again girlfriend of the ‘90s, and sometimes as his ‘quasi-girlfriend’ (whatever that means). She was the inspiration of many songs of ‘Pinkerton’ as well as the character Maria, from the unfinished ‘Songs from the Black Hole.’ Meanwhile, we all know that Jennifer Chiba and Elliott had been living together for a year when he died under mysterious circumstances in 2003. Should I recall that the autopsy was not conclusive and that the case is still open? So now you have Rivers Cuomo trying to emulate the dead boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend, whose role in his demise is still unclear. Even for Weezer, this is just odd.