Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Watch Me Unravel

Rivers Cuomo of Weezer told Rolling Stone a while back that he had cracked the pop code. He dissected and analyzed every song ever done by Nirvana, Green Day and Oasis and kept the results in a three-ring binder he called "The Encyclopedia of Pop." When exactly Rivers did this is not clear, but Cuomo's pop-song gifts were fully formed from the band's first single, 1994's "Undone - The Sweater Song," which was about as well-crafted as these things get. I'm not sure what Rivers could have possibly learned from Oasis, whose debut album also came out in 1994, other than a sense of how to pronounce "Champagne supernova."

You gotta love Rivers: He's a mess, but he's a mess like us, a low-class beat-down fool, not a mess like Marvin Gaye, where he's fascinating to read about but you wouldn't want to go anywhere near him. Plus he used to sing barbershop quartet in high school.

When the band went to make a video for "Undone," their one insistence was that it have nothing to do with sweaters. The then-unheralded Spike Jonze came along and suggested they shoot it on a blue stage with a pack of wild dogs passing through, and of course, who could resist that? The boys filmed it by playing along with a sped-up version of the song, so that they'd look like they were in slo-mo; the end video was a single take, which they shot over twenty times, for reasons unclear to me. Although this take allegedly comes from the late teens, the guys are clearly still having a good time, especially the drummer. I wonder what he's listening to on those headphones.

[Steve Martin later appeared on Late Night With David Letterman, displaying his supposed collection of priceless antique Chinese vases, when a pack of dogs ran through the pedestals. Perhaps this is where he got the idea.]

Here's where I'd post the video for "Undone," except that someone from Universal Music Group has requested that it not be embedded. No matter: This isn't the first time that "One Poor Correspondent" has been disrespected, and it surely won't be the last. In the meantime, you can go see "Undone" here. But as long as we're here and talking about Weezer, here's their wonderful video for "Beverly Hills," filmed, coincidentally, at my house. (That's me in the black bikini briefs visible behind Rivers at one point.) I love the part where Rivers starts talking; it reminds me of "Moulty."