My father bought a motor home for his mid-life crisis (and more than likely drove it while naked). Back when my mother had her mid-life crisis, she bought a convertible. She did not drive it naked.
So as I approached the age when one of those mid-life things might sneak up on me, it stood to reason to wonder if I was going to buy some sort of transportation vehicle like my parents. But the truth is, I’ve never had a yearning for any sort of new car or bike or tractor trailer or blimp or anything. I still drive my 2012 Prius and haven’t even thought about replacing it. Vehicles are not my thing.
But time sneaks up on you like a slimy tentacle oozing its way through the underbrush to wrap around your ankle and pull you down into the creature’s gaping maw. While I was busy not paying any attention to getting older, my eldest child went and graduated from High School. This fall, that child will attend college. Not long after my child leaves the nest, I will suffer one of those milestone birthdays that feature an easy-to-remember (if larger than you would like) number. In short, I’m way due for my mid-life crisis.
This realization fell into my lap as I was listening to my favorite Spotify playlist. A playlist I made about three months ago and have listened to non-stop since. It is a collection of songs by the band Weezer. It contains over 50 songs and I haven’t stopped listening to them or talking about the band or watching their videos or reading about them since the beginning of the year.
So yes. Weezer is my mid-life crisis.
I’ve always liked the band, but never owned an album and couldn’t tell you what any of them were, although I would have known that some of them were just colors. But it occurred to me that I had a bunch of Weezer songs on my 90s Playlist, so I decided to collect them into a single playlist of their own. And then, when I had maybe 10 or 11 songs, I decided to listen to the albums. All 15 of them. And my playlist grew.
Weezer is a fascinating band. They have had highs and lows and lows that became highs and today are probably best known to my children’s generation as the band that covered Toto’s Africa. I fully remember when they came on the scene in 1994. I was listening to KROQ in LA, which was one of the true Alt Rock stations of its day. Their first song was, frankly, silly. You may know it as The Sweater Song. “If you want to destroy my sweater…pull this thread as I walk away… watch me unravel, I’ll soon be naked… lying on the floor, I’ve come undone.”
If you had told me in 1994 that the band behind The Sweater Song would still be viable and making new music 25 years later, I would have laughed you out of the room. Yet here we are. The latest Weezer album, their 15th studio album entitiled Van Weezer, was released earlier this year.
As I listened to their catalog, I grew to learn about The Great Weezer Controversy. They basically have two sets of fans. One group believes the band’s first two albums are amazing and they have never done anything worthwhile since, and the others point to a continuous string of hits over the past 25 years and tell the first group to stop being such snobs. I most defintely fall into the second group, as some of my favorite songs (Pork and Beans, Back to the Shack, Perfect Situation, Mexican Fender) are from later albums.
The more I listened, the more I read, the more I became a fan. Because these guys are dorks. Wonderful, successful dorks. If I had been a rock star, I would have been Weezer, and so would have most of my friends. Their songs are just so identifyable. They aren’t the best-written songs in the world, yet their lyrics go to places so familiar and honest. I connect with them whether they are singing about playing D&D as a kid or about listening to Mrs. Dalloway, 1984, and Lord of the Rings on Audible.
The story of Rivers Cuomo, the lead singer and songwriter, is fascinating. Basically, he gets instant fame and fortune with album #1 (“Blue”), then freaks out and goes to Harvard. While there, he realizes that he’d rather go be a rock star, so he writes the 2nd album (“Pinkerton”). It flops and everybody hates it. He takes the appearent failure hard and walks away for a while. Meanwhile, more and more people listen to Pinkerton and decide that maybe their first reaction was wrong. Maybe this isn’t terrible. Maybe it’s OK. Maybe it’s better than OK. Maybe it’s one of the best albums of the 1990s.
The story of Pinkerton is a story of expectations and timing. When you have a hit, everyone wants more of the same. Pinkerton is not “Blue” all over again. It is personal and edgy and emo and was made about 10 years before everybody else made albums that were personal, edgy, and emo. Rivers was truly ahead of his time.
After that, their career becomes a series of albums that are always compared to “Blue” and Pinkerton. Meanwhile, the band just keeps making new music, trying things out, experimenting, and coming up with new sounds. Their latest, Van Weezer, is a tribute to 80s Heavy Metal. Before that, they put out OK Human (which, yes, is a reference to the Radiohead album OK Computer) which was written during the pandemic and is about solitude and technology and, oh yeah, includes orchestral backing on some of the songs.
Basically, if you think you know Weezer, you don’t.
My favorite Weezer line comes from Pork and Beans, which is, perhaps, the perfect Weezer song. It’s a tale of the band getting older and not caring what anyone says or thinks about it. They’re going to play what they play, and not try to change to please people. The video, a celebration of Internet memes from 2008, won a Grammy. My line comes half-way through the chorus, after listing all the things they’re not going to do to please their critics.
“I’m fine and dandy with the me inside.”
That’s become my mantra. Because as I hit this mid-life crisis thing, I find myself comparing my life to those of my peers. Quite a few of them have become very successful, whereas I am currently driving a truck for FedEx. So it has been easy for me to get down on myself. But then I listen to that song. And I nod in agreement. I AM fine and dandy with the me inside.
The truly unfortunate thing about suddenly becomeing a Weezer fan cooinscides with another recent habit I’ve picked up–buying vinyl record albums. Weezer record albums are few and far between. This is mainly because nobody made vinyl record albums in the 90’s, so all the Alt-Rock bands from that period are hard to find on vinyl. I have found two Weezer albums on vinyl (“Red” and “Pacific Daydream”) and I treasure them both.
I gotta admit, for a mid-life crisis, I think I’m getting off easy. Yes, I think my kids are getting a bit tired of hearing the same songs when they are in my car. And I am aware that a lot of Weezer music is… less than mature (The Girl Got Hot, I’m Your Daddy… basically anything on the Raditude album). But it rocks. And it brings a smile to my face.
If nothing else, it’s way less expensive than buying a convertible or a motor home.