By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
Millions of twentysomethings shrugged at the news of this year's Blink-182 reunion — but just as many kids and teens grabbed their mom's credit card and shelled out for tickets. The San Diego pop-punk trio has only been on hiatus since 2005, but its influence on music endures — from the timeless sound of radio singles such as "All the Small Things," "What's My Age Again?" and "First Date" to the many Warped Tour acts who cite Blink as an influence.
Strangely enough, Blink's tourmate for some of its reunion trek is Weezer, a band whose career is just as problematic (and influential). In recent years, Rivers Cuomo and Co. have strayed somewhat from the lovelorn tunes that made them emo-nerd darlings in the '90s — courtesy of Internet-gimmick videos ("Pork and Beans") and so-so releases (most of 2008's self-titled LP, a.k.a. The Red Album). But Weezer's fans are just as loyal as Blink's supporters, and will continue to vouch for its relevance and quality. Read on.
Ryan Wasoba: Ah, the excitement of the reunion tour. I remember the thrill of 2001, when I finally had the chance to see nerd-rock progenitors Weezer — which had broken a three-year hiatus the year before — in concert. (I loved the band, but was too young to catch it on its initial run.) That initial stomach-knotting titilation was something to behold, and it's the same feeling that local Blink-182 fans are experiencing at this very moment, in anticipation of the band's upcoming performance at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. But as the honeymoon period dies down, one must ask the following questions: Why? and, Why now?
Blink-182 may have taken a break, but its members haven't strayed far from the limelight. Vocalist/guitarist Tom DeLonge started Angels & Airwaves, while vocalist/bassist Mark Hoppus formed Plus 44 with drummer Travis Barker. Sure, the trio may not have been able to "capture the same magic" in other projects, but re-forming Blink-182 still seems like a cheap way to make a buck — especially since the group doesn't seem any more popular or influential today than they were two years ago.
With Weezer's reunion tour, the reasons behind "Why?" and "Why now?" were more genuine — or at least more romantic. Pinkerton flopped, Rivers Cuomo felt like a failure, and fans embraced the band's underrated sophomore album and utilized the newfangled Internet to share their enthusiasm. Over the course of four short years, Weezer had a cult following and the validation that it wasn't just a flash in the alternative-rock pan. Plus, Weezer's musical and cultural influence over that period of time had seeped into the burgeoning emo movement, with outfits like the Get Up Kids and Saves the Day making obvious nods to the band.
Nearly every Alternative Press cover band today claims influence from Blink-182, but they could probably say the same thing about Green Day or the Descendents. Meanwhile, most folks aged 16 to 26 who have ever worn thick glasses, bought ironic T-shirts at thrift stores and/or bid on a Moog synthesizer on eBay can likely claim Weezer as an important part of their lives. It's for these reasons that I firmly believe that Weezer is better than Blink-182.
Annie Zaleski: Originally, I was going to snark: I'm assuming you meant to say that Weezer is better than Blink-182 was back in 1996 (i.e., when Blink was a baby punk band). But then I heard the band's new song, "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To," and that argument flew out the window. Where has Rivers Cuomo been hiding a song like this all these years? Handclaps, strummy guitar, a tight groove and really sweet, lovelorn lyrics — it all adds up to a perfect soundtrack for a summer-fling-turned-relationship.
Still, this tune doesn't excuse Weezer's last half-decade or so (and that's coming from someone who liked 2001's Weezer — a.k.a. The Green Album — and 2002's Maladroit). See, despite the band's reputation for nudity and fart jokes, Blink and its songs never had problems being honest — and didn't hide behind irony or clever genre spoofs. And Blink's last album (the self-titled one) showed more maturity and heart — unironically — than Weezer's last few albums combined. Witness: A Robert Smith duet and a song containing actress Joanne Whalley reading World War II-era letters from Mark Hoppus' grandfather to his grandmother. And that's not including Enema of the State's "Adam's Song," a song that addresses suicide and depression.
Sure, Blink's brand of gross-out humor resonated with an entirely new crop of pop-punk bands — current mainstream darlings All Time Low come to mind. But the band has more depth and nuance than most people think. And this reunion is merely a symptom of how fast nostalgia for the past works these days. (See also: the reunion from the aforementioned Get Up Kids.)
RW: It's easy to dismiss Weezer's decline from serious subject matter and heartfelt delivery (Exhibit A: "Only in Dreams") to its current era of novelty and goof (Exhibit B: "We Are All On Drugs"). Blink's career only seems more legitimate in hindsight because the band's career path was the complete opposite, starting with the pee-pee and poo-poo jokes and eventually grasping for depth. But the tools Blink used to appear grown up — slower tempos, overproduction, a fetish for the Cure — read like the oldest clichés in Musical Maturity for Dummies.
Still, Weezer at its worst is comparable to Blink-182 at its best. The lame call-and-response chorus to "Feeling This" is no less gimmick-stricken than Weezer's "Beverly Hills," and "Perfect Situation" is a better heart-on-sleeve power ballad than Blink's "I Miss You." Rivers Cuomo writes some frustratingly bad lyrics these days, but are they any worse than "The state looks down on sodomy/And that's about the time that bitch hung up on me"? And if we're talking heyday versus heyday, comparing The Blue Album to Enema of the State is like comparing Forrest Gump to Tommy Boy — both are fun, but one is just plain better.
AZ: You know, though, to many kids Enema of the State is their Blue Album. At a certain age, gross-out humor and silliness is the only way they know how to deal with uncomfortable situations like puberty, school and relationships. Embarrassment is a part of life for any adolescent, and Blink's willingness to make fun of itself — before anyone else can — can be rather empowering for an awkward kid.
And at their core, Weezer's lyrical topics — loneliness, alienation and mortification — aren't that different from Blink's concerns. However, Rivers Cuomo et al come at it from the social-outcast (i.e., introverted) perspective — and Blink acts out its emotional turmoil in an over-the-top (i.e., extroverted) manner. It's the difference between the kid who masks his unhappiness by being the class clown — and the one who joins the literary magazine instead.
But really, each band's fanbase isn't just full of teenage misfits. Kids who are — gasp — not nerds like both bands. Why? For starters, it's mainstream-radio saturation, but mostly it's this: For all of its sensitive-sweater-kid preening, Weezer tempers its goopy love songs with jokes and isn't afraid of self-deprecation — which might as well describe the entire career m.o. of Blink-182. Like the classic 1985 flick The Breakfast Club proved, perhaps the jocks and the nerds can find common ground after all.