Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Song of the Day: Weezer - Tired of Sex (1996)

Venturing into the emo scene yesterday with Jimmy Eat World reminded me of this song, which might be my favorite "pure" emo song. By purest, I guess I mean not just emo in terms of artist or sonics, but really emo in its lyrical and emotional content. For anyone that doesn't know, "emo" is short for "emotional rock," and it's a scene that sprouted up in the early-to-mid 90's which basically melded punk/grunge/alternative guitar style with lyrical content about the artist's lack of satisfaction with their own love life. The critics of emo, of which I am often one, deride it as whiny, but the generation of teenagers who loved it were as passionate about it as any fans of a music scene you're ever likely to see. 

Along with Jimmy Eat World, Death Cab For Cutie, Dashboard Confessional, and a few others, Weezer were at the forefront of the emo scene and probably the biggest stars, so much so that they received a backlash of fans claiming they weren't emo enough. (Yes, that really happened.) Weezer became mega-stars with their debut album in 1994, and then again with their third album in 2001, but in between they released their second (and best) album, Pinkerton, which very nearly ended their career in 1996. In the history of rock music, few follow-ups to blockbuster albums have ever bombed as magnificently and completely as Pinkerton, but that's only where its legend starts. The casual Weezer fans (which were most of them) hated Pinkerton, because it was depressing and introspective whereas their debut was happy and catchy. But the hardcore fans of the emo scene adopted Pinkerton as an instant classic, and it became one of the most notable "cult classic" albums of its era. 

"Tired of Sex" was the opening track on the album, and that sequencing was probably the worst commercial decision of the band's career even if it was a great artistic one. Somewhere infinitely beyond the realm of ‪#‎whitegirlproblems‬ and ‪#‎firstworldproblems‬, Rivers Cuomo introduces us to the concept of ‪#‎rockstarproblems‬, and whines about how despondent he is from having sex with an endless supply of groupies. While he's spending every night with a different girl (the horror!), he laments his inability to "make love come true." This, folks, is as emo as it gets, but what a great song. The desperation in the vocal, the drums used as a lead instrument, the disjointed guitar that almost sounds like it's choking… And then the screaming, pleading passion that exudes out of the last verse when Rivers wails "Tonight, I'm down on my knees! Tonight, I'm begin' you please!" This is a prime example of when rock and roll becomes great art. There is no commercial aspiration in this song whatsoever, and placing it as the opening track surely contributed to the album's disastrous sales performance. But that decision is also part of the reason this album is a masterpiece. As a tone-setter, it's magnificent, and as an emotional palette cleanser, it prepares the listener for the next 9 tracks that follow. This may have been the sound that plunged a popular band back into obscurity, but it's also the sound of an important artist at the top of his game.

This was originally written and posted on Facebook on June 12, 2014

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