First off, obviously there are much worse albums than any of the following I list in this little post. Lest we forget that this was a decade that saw the release of albums by Paris Hilton, Kelly Osbourne and Lindsay Lohan. I think Vanilla Ice even released an albm this decade, but I must have made that up. I’ve also talked about my “fall of western civilization signifying-band” called Brokencyde here before, so yeah… that happened.
But all these “musicians” are are obvious in their badness. The history of music is littered with these kind of feeble wannabe talents and confused cross platform ego trippers. And we get why they happen. Peopel see dollar signs and go for the imitations and possible built-in audiences. It’s heinous, but I’m more or less fine with it. Even in popularity, folks recognize the fact that these acts simply do not matter to anyone. Even anything they provide easy targets of ridicule which make us feel better about ourselves.
No, the thing that is undoubtedly worse for music is when a good band who has made a nice splash with a good album or series of albums follows it up with a nice, hot, steaming turd.
It happens more than we’d like and it’s always disappointing. To wit, The Darkness came on the scene as an insatiably fun throwback to metal glam rock and even managed to toss out a few songs with nice arrangement. They were a blast to see live, which is usually that special something that allows a band to grow legs beyond having a good studio album. Everything was going for them. So when they followed up that first major international album, with “One Way Ticket to Hell… and Back”, an album so boring, repetitive, and half-assed it managed to render their “the next big thing” status into nothing more than a historical footnote. Sucks for them. Similarly, there’s the Kaiser Chiefs’s who had a nice debut entry into the neo alternative landscape with about nicely laid out brit pop album chock full of catchiness and energy. They followed it up “Yours Truly Angry Mob” which was nothing more than a pale imitation of their first album, and you can practically sense their collective desperation to find some sort of hook that even approached the quality of ANY song on their first album. It was sort of sad. Admittedly, both of these bands were sort of “of the moment” and their demise isn’t significant in the grander scheme. Call it personal dissappointment.
Of course, there here is the much more spectacular failure of Axl Rose’s “Chinese Democracy”. And I refuse to call that album a Guns and Roses album for obvious reasons. I mean seriuosly, can we just stop for a moment and reiterate exactly how much of dick you need to be to” reunite” a band with ONLY YOURSELF as the original member?!?! It’s legitimatelydick-punch worth. And it certainly makes the awfulness of “Chinese Democracy” all the more hilarious. It probably would have been much more sad were it not for the fact that the album was already a joke, having been delayed for near a decade due to sucking. It came. It went. Not even a whimper.
Eventually one comes the sad realization that there is a stunningly obvious answer to the central question at hand:
The worst album of the decade is… every single Weezer album from 2000 on.
Go back to 1999. Weezer is a much beloved band who has made an undeniable imprint on the music landscape. They strandled the transition from grunge and alternative, while never really belong to either and existing as their own unique brand of popular music. They actually embody a group of music fans, who emulated them not out of mere imitation, but because they already were like them. Even if they were evasive in personalitly, they were still beloved because of it. Oddly enough, I find it to be identification at the most honest level. By that point, even the initially tepid reception to their sophomore album Pinkerton, had finally subsided, as everyone seemed to come to their senses and realize it was a complete masterpiece. Yes it was straightforward pop rock (like all their work) but the egnimatic lyrics and slightly-more-lose arrangement created one of the more original, addictive, strange, and enjoyable records on the planet. Of course, the damage from the initial reaction may have already been done. Rivers Cuomo’s much pulbicized breakdown and public withdrawl perhaps killed his sense of fu, but that’s purely conjecture. Still, in 1999, Weezer was coming back and had a new record in the works. Their fans were collectively shitting their pants and fumbling their nerdy glasses in excitement. (I would also like to point out the fact that Star Wars fans were going through the exact same sense of excitement at that point, and were also setting themselves up for nerd related heartbreak).
Make no mistake, everything from The Green Album on fucking sucks. Believe me, over the years I’ve tried as hard as I can to truly like them. I can probably name you about fifteen songs from these albums that are fun and catchy, but I can’t do so without acknowleding their haunting generic quality as well. Sure they don’t SOUND a whole lot different from The Blue Album and Pinkerton, but where the hell is Nightcrawler? The half-japanese girls? Jonas on strike? The waterslide of escape? Where are the host of strangely-life-specific details that defined those first two records? Instead, Weezer’s work has become definied by faux badassery, generic cinecism, and irony drenched-posing. It’s hollow.
Chuck Klosterman tried to address the subject in his a great essay on weezer (and other things). I was going to link to it but it’s not online, but to paraphrase [rivers cuomo hasn’t changed at all. He has always wrote completely literal songs about things in his life and now that he’s rich and in california he’s writing about that stuff and not about playing in garages like young high school kids do]. It’s an interesting article but I think Klosterman misses one crucial point: being able to relate in music matters. It matters substantially. Rivers might still be being completely honest about his emotions, but his emotions were no long filtered through the distinct cultural references and life specifics that made him so accesible in the first place. Plus I don’t fully buy that his songs are as honest as he things. Literal? Yes. Honest to the point of writing a heart-breaking and completely weird song dedicted to a 14 year old girl in Japan? No. Instead we get Buddy Holly ripoffs like “O Girlfriend”, which might as well BE a 50’s song. Considering that Rivers already wrote Buddy Holly, which was the perfect pop dedication to the man and trenscended the sound into the modern alternative, you can see the problem. And even the weird lyrics are unitelligible and boring. An thing that gets close just comes off more like wordy nonsense “cheese smells so good on a burnt piece of lamb” and whatever the hell “franks and beans” was saying. There is virtually nothing distinct, original, or strange in the songs of any of these albums.
And that WAS Weezer in the 90. Distinct, original, and strange. With that, I’ve come to the sad realization that I wish they never came back from that late 90’s hiatus. It’s the kind of nonsensical statement about people I will never know and have no authority over, but because music can be such a weirdly personal enterprise we feel the freedom to make it.
But still, I will be the first to admit:
I hate Weezer, but only because I will always love Weezer.