Weezer Biography

‘Post-slacker’ US guitar pop artisans from Los Angeles, California, USA, formed in 1992 by Rivers Cuomo (13 June 1970, Manhattan, New York, USA; vocals/guitar), Matt Sharp (b. 22 September 1969, Bangkok, Thailand; bass/vocals), Patrick Wilson (b. 1 February 1969, Buffalo, New York, USA; drums) and Jason Cropper (b. 27 June 1971, Oakland, California, USA; guitar/vocals), although the latter was replaced during the recording of the band’s first album by Brian Bell (b. 9 December 1968, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; guitar). The original four protagonists had met as strangers who found themselves abroad in Los Angeles, and decided to form a band together. Cuomo grew up in rural Connecticut before deciding to move to Los Angeles at the age of 18 to form a band. It was to little immediate success, but, tortured by the sundering of a relationship, he began to write his own songs. Sharp brought the unlikely influences of Talk Talk and Gary Numan to the bass player’s role. Wilson was introduced to the other members via fellow Buffalo citizen Pat Fin (of Winkler).

The official date of Weezer’s formation was 14 February 1992, signing to DGC Records in June of the following year. On the back of offbeat singles, ‘Undone - The Sweater Song’ and ‘Buddy Holly’ (a tale of high school prom rejection featuring a memorable Happy Days pastiche video directed by Spike Jonze), and seven months touring their native country, the band’s self-titled debut album, produced by Ric Ocasek of the Cars and Chris Shaw in New York, went on to sell nearly a million copies. Their preference for goofy garage aesthetics soon distinguished them, and, with fuzzboxes and falsetto harmonies (from Sharp) to the fore, comparisons to They Might Be Giants hardly delineated Weezer’s musical compass, despite helping to pinpoint their humour. The participants, meanwhile, remained awestruck at the depth of their appeal: ‘We’ve sold all these albums when, honestly speaking, we’re a super straight-ahead American guitar garage rock band’.

Cuomo put the band on a temporary hiatus following the album’s release to continue his studies at Harvard. He reunited with the other members of Weezer in 1996 to complete the recording of their second album, Pinkerton. The title of the album infuriated the security company Pinkerton Securities, and they issued legal proceedings shortly after its release (despite the fact that the name was inspired by the character of Lieutenant Pinkerton in Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly). Pinkerton’s savage mauling by the US press was a little unfair but prompted Cuomo to retreat from the music scene for a period of reflection. His bandmates Wilson and Sharp also recorded with the Rentals, and the latter left Weezer in 1998 to concentrate on this new outfit. His replacement was Mikey Welsh (b. 20 April 1971, Syracuse, New York, USA).

Cuomo’s spirit was boosted by the unstinting support of legions of Weezer fans and a new wave of US rock acts singing their praises, and after a period of creative torpor the band returned to touring and recording at the start of the new millennium. Their third collection (known as The Green Album to differentiate it from their similarly self-titled debut) was released in 2001. The album was a sparkling return to the infectious heavy pop of their debut. The sequence of ‘Don’t Let Go’, ‘Photograph’ and ‘Hash Pipe’ comprised a glorious opening suite of power chord heaven.

After completing a series of tours to promote the album, during which Welsh was replaced by Scott Shriner (b. 11 July 1965, Toledo, Ohio, USA), Weezer went straight back to the studio to record a new bunch of songs. The harder rocking Maladroit was released in May 2002 but proved to be a notable commercial failure in comparison to the band’s earlier albums. A potentially nasty songwriting lawsuit raised by former bass player Sharp put a temporary dampner on Weezer’s revival, but the case was eventually settled amicably. Cuomo, Wilson, Bell and Shriner continued to occupy themselves with outside projects before reconvening Weezer in 2004 to work on a new album with producer Rick Rubin. The single ‘Beverly Hills’ preceded the release of Make Believe in summer 2005. Despite mixed reviews, the album was a strong seller and reached number 2 in the US mainstream chart.

At the end of 2007, Cuomo took a break from recording new Weezer material to oversee the release of a compilation of his home studio demos, spanning the years from 1992 to 2007.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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