The introduction to Rivers’ Edge: The Weezer Story (ECW Press) is called “Why bother?” I have to admit that those were my exact sentiments when I saw this book. I don’t like Weezer. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve bad-mouthed them with every chance I’ve been given (and some that I just took). So, why did I bother? Because I figured that reading this book would be like watching VH1’s Behind the Music: It wouldn’t matter which band it was about, the story would be good. And for the most part, that’s the case with Rivers’ Edge.
John D. Luerssen follows Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo from his metal beginnings to his geek rock icon status. All of the typical “behind the music” minutia is unearthed in these 500+ pages: infighting, personnel comings and goings, NDAs, litigation, drugs, girls, quirks, and, oh yeah, the music. Luerssen is obviously a fan of the band, but he didn’t pull any punches while covering their tumultuous story. What did they do during that lengthy hiatus after their initial fame? What happened to founding bassist Matt Sharp? What does Rivers really think of Pinkerton? It’s all here (Good luck with that last one though, as he flip-flops on the topic throughout the book).
When discussing a concert movie, director Tim Pope once said that to the fans of the band, it will be the greatest thing ever, and to everyone else, it won’t matter. After reading Rivers’ Edge, I’m not sure Weezer fans would agree when it comes to band biographies. For some reason, Rivers Cuomo attracts a nit-picky group of fans. That wouldn’t be such a problem if he were more consistent. The man contradicts himself every time he opens his mouth: This record is a reaction to the last, this one is what Weezer is really about, Weezer is embracing its self-styled lack of production, Weezer is glad to have a producer this time around, Weezer is proud to be on tour sponsored by Yahoo!, Weezer is so punk rock they’re on the cover of MaximumRocknRoll (absolutely not true), and so on. Of course, none of this would be so evident if Luerssen hadn’t done such an exhaustive job researching and documenting Weezer’s history. After reading about the obsessive fans in the book though, I doubt that his fellow Weezer enthusiasts would’ve let him get away with any less.
Minor flaws aside, Rivers’ Edge does a good job of covering the band’s enigmatic leader and the band’s roller coaster ride with him at the helm. The biggest problem being, as a matter of course, that it’s still a book about Weezer.
I marshal the middle between Mathers and McLuhan.