I spent Monday afternoon in the presence of a guy who has informed not only my musical history but also my overall world view. I sat down with Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo to talk about his band's new album Raditude, his current mental state (he's pretty happy) and his recent collaborations with Katy Perry and Adam Lambert. Cuomo was his usual genial and thoughtful self, and he was totally game to talk about everything — including the Weezer Snuggie.
I've actually interviewed Cuomo a lot, but this was the first time we were in the same room together, and it was sort of a surreal experience. His band's development and evolution has basically mirrored my life as a music fan, a lifestyle that has obviously informed my current career choice. Weezer's self-titled debut came out in the middle of 1994. I was in the sixth grade and still didn't really have a clean grasp on what was cool in rock music (I'm pretty sure I thought Crash Test Dummies were the best band ever at that point). But the first time I heard "Buddy Holly," I knew that rock music was going to lord over my life in a significant way. I'll admit something to you: Even though I wrote a book about the grunge era, I didn't know who Kurt Cobain was until he died, and Nirvana's records didn't become meaningful to me until the summer before going into eighth grade. I'm supposed to have fuzzy feelings about "Smells Like Teen Spirit," but for me, the song that changed everything was "Buddy Holly."
As Weezer progressed, so did I. They put out their "difficult" second album (the moody Pinkerton) right around the time I was embracing the outer fringes of rock music. When the band went on hiatus around the turn of the century, I didn't really notice because I was distracted by a latent education in hip-hop. (My hip-hop Nevermind was Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star, if that makes any sense.) When they returned in 2001, I was first getting my feet wet thinking about pop music in a more critical, analytical way (the self-titled "Green" album was one of the first CDs I attempted to review).
Your idols almost always disappoint you (I've had countless disappointing encounters with artists who were on posters on my wall at age 15), but Cuomo was different. I can safely say that he is exactly the guy you think you're going to get, which make his records honest in a way that most people don't think is possible. So thanks for being real, Mr. Cuomo, and keep kicking out those nerdy jams.