Weezer mastermind Rivers Cuomo is the James Franco of ’90s rock. Like the actor, Cuomo’s career choices and lifestyle quirks can seem peculiar. Both openly discuss and/or write about their sexual curiosities and explorations. Each has, at various points, set his primary, very lucrative occupation aside to follow some other, far less obvious trajectory.
And despite years in the public eye and voluminous artistic outputs, both remain largely inscrutable to fans.
Weezer’s legions have another chance to consider Cuomo and his quirks via his band’s 10th studio album, which is also its fourth to be self-titled. Like its “Weezer” predecessors, it is referred to by its cover’s dominant color scheme. Thus, this latest one is the White Album.
To promote it, Cuomo and company are hitting the road for an extensive, 42-date, co-headlining summer tour with Panic! At the Disco that kicks off Friday in Houston. It continues on to Corpus Christi, Texas, on Saturday before stopping at New Orleans’ Bold Sphere Music at Champions Square on Sunday. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness is the tour’s opening act.
At press time, only a smattering of general admission tickets remained; the show is likely to sell out in advance. As evidenced by the sold-out Incubus/Deftones concert at Champions Square in August of last year, summertime double bills of ’90s alt-rock bands seem to do especially well in this market.
Weezer broke out of southern California with its multimillion-selling 1994 self-titled debut, aka the Blue Album. It was chock full of radio-ready, melodic guitar riffs and lyrics that skewed just left of center, i.e. “Buddy Holly,” “Say It Ain’t So” and “Undone (The Sweater Song).” Cuomo, with his thick-framed glasses, short hair and button-down stage attire, wasn’t so much geek-chic as he was just plain ol’ geek.
That image was only reinforced by his awkwardness with many aspects of the rock star role. That one of his legs was two inches shorter than the other, the result of a birth defect, didn’t help. Neither did his professed inability to pick up girls. And after the Blue Album made him a star, Cuomo took time off to attend Harvard University (a very Franco-like move).
The eventual follow-up, “Pinkerton,” wasn’t as successful commercially but in hindsight is widely regarded as Weezer’s best overall work. Over the next two decades, in fits and starts, Cuomo and his collaborators have continued to crank out new music and the occasional great song, including “Hash Pipe,” with the sort of guitar heft that referenced his teenage heavy metal aspirations.
The video for the stomping sing-along “Beverly Hills” was shot at the Playboy Mansion and co-starred Hugh Hefner and an assortment of playmates. Cuomo, true to form, looked exceedingly uncomfortable as he and his bandmates lip-synced and air-guitared on the mansion grounds and in its infamous grotto. The lyrics summed up the situation, and his worldview, perfectly: “The truth is, I don’t stand a chance,” Cuomo confessed during a quiet moment in the song. “It’s something that you’re born into, and I just don’t belong.”
“Beverly Hills” came out in 2005. Eleven years later, Cuomo is married and the father of two. But, based on recent profiles, in which he felt compelled to share the most intimate and potentially embarrassing details of his personal and sexual life, he seems to be no more comfortable in his own skin.
“I feel like I’m very different from everyone, but I’m still very social,” he told Rolling Stone’s Andy Greene early this year. “I find myself in all kinds of mismatched situations, whether I’m on tour with metal bands, or at Harvard, or in a meditation center, or at home with my family, or hanging out with kids at the beach. I’m not sure I really belong anywhere, but I like being everywhere.”
Sort of like James Franco.
Follow Keith Spera on Twitter, @KeithSpera.