Monday, January 30, 2017

Everything Awakens: Parenting and Weezer's Issues

Growing up is tricky, and I am not just talking about the time in and around those tender teenage years. Growing up continues well into adulthood, and requires no small amount of reflection and self-forgiveness. For songwriters with long careers, reconciling the successes of the past with the perspective of personal history can be a challenge, especially when those perspectives change with maturity. Weezer, a band whose defining material captured a unique brand of nerdy slackerishness, has wrestled with expressing their adulthood for decades.

Despite gleaning moments of brilliance arising from this struggle, I had effectively given up on the band until last year, when the Weezer [white] album broke my moratorium on their albums and ended up making my 2015 top 10. It success caused me to reconsider my pass on its predecessor, 2014’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End, which is, in some ways, even more successful because it shows the band finally singing in their grown-up voice

I should state that I became a Weezer fan reluctantly. I did not get them at all when Weezer [blue] was released, at least not initially. They won me over, however, and I followed them unquestioningly for nearly a decade after. Say it Ain’t So, with it’s unbelievably cathartic bridge, ended up being the model Weezer song.

There came a time, however, that I thought my jag with Weezer had come to an end. In 2005, they released Make Believe, and it seemed to me so crushingly cliche and formulaic that it reframed what I liked about their work in the worst possible way. It was as if Rivers Cuomo had sprayed midi-chlorians all over his entire back catalog.  Everything Will Be Alright in the End, however, seems much more like the actual sequel to Weezer [blue]. It is Weezer’s The Force Awakens, acknowledging all that has transpired since A New Hope and, despite having some flaws, recaptures much of its original excitement.

Listening with an open ear reveals that Everything Will Be Alright in the End has a lot of common ground with Weezer’s pre-00s work. While they can never reclaim the slackery innocence of those early releases, there is a carefree sense to the album that stands in its stead. This untroubled environment sets the stage for Rivers to essentially acknowledge the successes and failures that he and the band have experienced. Although its not my favorite track on the album, Back to the Shack serves as the album’s mission statement, in which he rededicates himself to the things that once defined him.

The big difference here in my mind is that Rivers, as Weezer’s voice, is airing insecurities rather than making clever social observations at his own expense. This is a welcome shift.

Another track that really speaks to me personally is Foolish Father.  In addition to being phenomenally tuneful and epic, it also feels like an significant conceptual inversion from Say It Ain’t So. Where once Rivers was being pretty explicit with where he laid the blame in his strained relationship with his father, here he expresses a bit more sympathetic position.  Foolish Father suggests that the tensions that exist between a father and daughter stem more from the father's personal issues than lack of his love. The refrain is particularly gut-wrenching, as the characteristically cynical Rivers ends on a positive note, belting out the album’s optimistic title with a youthful gang-choir for impact.

Being a father myself and sometimes painfully watching my own flaws play out on my kids, I really connect with this song.  Although my relationship with my kids is in no way strained right now, I don’t expect to end up being a perfect parent.  I will probably go through times when we are at odds, but I sincerely hope that both P and EJ grow up knowing that any mistakes I made are in no way a reflection on either of them. Or their little brother, for that matter.

You read that right. If you made it this far into this post, you get the official treat: we are pregnant with a third and we are very, very excited  We are, however, a bit nervous about the stress of having two littles only 18 months apart, a stress that could have repercussions in my interactions with the girls.  I probably won't make it through the whole thing without doing something foolish, so I hope I have taught them enough forgiveness and understanding for them to realize that despite my shortcomings, I love them both dearly.

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