The Old Man and the Chord of C

by on June 9, 2008

Posted in: Uncategorized

The man in the above picture should be known by all students of the college variety. He is the greatest novelist that ever lived. Ernest Hemingway. The picture was taken aboard his yacht, the Pilar, circa 1950. About when this picture was taken, Hemingway published The Old Man and the Sea. The novella marked Hemingway’s return to writing 12 years after his last successful work (For Whom the Bell Tolls). The book is about an aging fisherman and his battle with an epic marlin -a man past his prime struggling to recover the glory of his younger years. One can argue that Hemingway is actually writing very self-consciously about his craft and his form, but this would make a better paper than a blog post. So why discuss Hemingway on a music site?

This is the band Weezer. You’ve probably heard of them as well. After all, they did release the best album ever. And now, they’ve released a new album known colloquially as The Red Album.

And I love it.

A lot of people don’t. That’s fine. I get it. But just hear me out. The Red Album has everything I love Weezer for. Lots of heavy and distorted riffs, at times silly lyrics, and Rivers Cuomo (third from left -note the killer moustache). Rivers took time off in the wake of the last Weezer album to finish Harvard, where (I can only assume) he read some Hemingway. And in discovering Hemingway’s self-developed, self-aware, and self-criticizing voice Rivers had an epiphany. He realized, as many had in the aftermath of Make Believe, that Weezer could never live up to its own hype. Especially now that those of us who were raised on the Blue Album and Pinkerton had come of age. Even Weezer had aged. So the band wrote an album entirely about how awesome they are. And many of the reviews against the new album point out that Weezer hasn’t been awesome since Pinkerton. While I would argue this point in favor of the Green Album, it’s more important to realize that Rivers doesn’t actually think he is the greatest man that ever lived. But you have too look at the irony behind the act. While Rivers is singing about his own greatness, he realizes that that has faded. And the reviewers that blast the album are playing right into River’s point. People long for a Weezer that existed somewhere between the release of the Blue Album and Pinkerton. That Weezer is dead. There’s a different Weezer now. And Rivers has come to terms with that. In The Greatest Man That Ever Lived, he says, “Somebody said all the world’s a stage // and each of us is a player. // That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. // In act I, I was struggling to survive. // Nobody wanted my action dead or alive. // In act II, I hit the big time, // and bodies be all up on my behind.” Well that someone was Shakespeare, another figure I can only assume Rivers came across during his time at Harvard. But Shakespeare’s Act II’s don’t end with the hero reaching the top and staying there. They fall. But at least Weezer knows it, can have some fun with it -or despite it, and makes some damn good music.

Video: Pork & Beans

Audio:Weezer – The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations On A Shaker Hymn)
(Apparently Rivers didn’t learn the difference between ‘who’ and ‘that’ at Harvard.)

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