by John D. Luerssen
My first experience with Weezer was back in 1994, when I saw the video for “Undone…” After seeing the slacker posture of the band members, hearing their ridiculous lyrics, and being bored by the simplistic song structure, I wrote them off as being just another in the slew of indie rock-ish bands to have videos on Alternative Nation. It wasn’t until months later, when I heard “Say It Ain’t So” in a local record store that I realized just how special Weezer really was.
Ten years later. I have since become a rather fierce and rabid fan of Weezer, and John D. Luerssen’s River’s Edge offers a welcome documentary into the history of the band. Other die-hard Weezer fans may object to this book, as it makes Rivers Cuomo look like an egotistical jerk of the highest degree. He comes off as a maniacal control freak, a sexist pig that uses women simply for sex, a recluse, and someone completely lacking any social skills, whatsoever. Luerssen paints an equally bleak portrait of Matt Sharp, who is basically the Lennon to Cuomo’s McCartney; Sharp is shown treating members of his post-Weezer band The Rentals with complete and utter disrespect, and basically being much too cool for everyone else around him.
It should be noted up front that Rivers did not actually opt to offer help to Luerssen in writing this book, nor did the rest of current Weezer members. Nevertheless, many credible and knowledgeable sources were consulted, including former Weezers Mikey Welsh and founding bassist and Rentals leader Matt Sharp.
Luerssen, who has written for such publications as Rolling Stone, Billboard, and the All Music Guide, writes in a clear, flowing manner that is quite easy to read. The book follows a basic chronological order, with a good portion of the book being spent on the events leading up to and the explosion brought about by the Spike Jonze-produced “Buddy Holly” video. The book is rather thick, and can get a bit tiresome at times, but it does serve as an invaluable resource for trivia curious fans.
In terms of what a fan can learn from this book, I guess it depends on the level of fandom. I learned a lot here about the mysterious Rivers Cuomo Band, a side outfit that played for a while after the completion of the Pinkerton tour. The information on Rivers’ childhood was also quite interesting, as I was unaware of his rather untraditional upbringing. Luerssen also does well to offer the childhood history of all current and former relevant Weezer members. What I found equally interesting were the “behind the song” facts and snippets. Knowing little bits and facts about the songs helps to make a more personal connection with me, as I feel like I better understand parts of my favorite Weezer record, Pinkerton, after having read this book.
Having been a Weezer fan for many years, I was honestly left wondering, upon completion of River’s Edge, “why am I such of fan of this guy (Cuomo)?” If he is truly as awful as this book portrays him to be, I’d bet that many fans who read this may be left thinking the same thing. It’s an interesting read, and offers a lot of great information, but its main accomplishment, in my eyes, is that it shows Rivers Cuomo to be quite the opposite of his shy, nice guy persona.