Back in the 1990s, I was convinced that Weezer was the greatest band on the planet.
They were such an unassuming group of guys, a collection of misfits you might bring home to take care of your pets or cook dinner for Mom, not some panty-dropping, hotel-room-trashing rock band. Just look at the cover of their breakout self-titled record and you’ll see a Rivers Cuomo who looks maybe 15, a Matt Sharp who looks like he’d gladly help you with your homework, a Brian Bell who looks like he’d silently play with TI calculators all day long, and a Patrick Wilson who looks strangely like a teenage version of Damon Lindelof.
Weezer was not the self-confident sort of band you’d expect to climb the charts; they were a bunch of nerds who wrote music about hiding in their garage with their Kiss posters and their D&D paraphernalia. Weezer was a band that meant something to sad, lonely kids.
After “the Blue Album” had become an unlikely sales mammoth, the follow-up, Pinkerton, was a fascinating yet then-misunderstood work of musical genius. From my understanding of the story (perhaps more urban myth than reality), Pinkerton was considered a massive flop pretty early on, which sent Cuomo into an existential crisis. He’d put his heart on his sleeve in a brutally uncomfortable way, and was rewarded with an unenthusiastic reception and lackluster sales.
The band would go on hiatus for several years, then reemerge as something almost completely different. The audience had spoken, and Rivers eventually responded with a deluge of uninspired schlock that would define their career for the next decade (with the exception of Maladroit, of course, which I consider one of their best records). To longtime fans — the aforementioned sad, lonely kids — this felt like a betrayal. Weezer had lost its charming naivety and had become rock stars, the cool kids.
Ironically, Pinkerton would be discovered much later in its lifespan and overtake Blue as the fan-favorite Weezer record. In fact, in 2002, Rolling Stone called it the 16th greatest record of all time. Still, Weezer would never return to the painfully honest songwriting of Pinkerton, instead pumping out what many saw as soulless rock hits. (“Beverly Hills”? Come on!)
The same year Pinkerton came out, Capcom unleashed Resident Evil on the world. Like Weezer, Resident Evil was awkward, though in a very different way. The controls felt uncomfortable. The voice acting was so bad it became legendary. The jump scares were often so cheesy you weren’t sure if you were supposed to laugh or not. But, like Weezer, the game possessed enough charm that its awkwardness only made it more lovable. Getting through the mansion in all its claustrophobic glory was a true accomplishment, considering how limited your ammo was, how tiny your storage space was, and how rare those stupid typewriter ribbons that let you save your game were.
These days, it might be hard to see Resident Evil as a masterpiece, but in the mid-to-late 90s, it was impossible to see it as anything but. It felt new. It showed us that the trick to making a great horror game was less about jump scares and more about atmosphere and making the player feel completely helpless. The things that would later be called flaws — the limited ammo and clumsy control scheme — worked to disempower the player, which is where Resident Evil‘s particular brand of tension comes from.
Both Weezer and Resident Evil could have only existed — in their original, awkward forms — in the 1990s. And that means that, in order to continue to exist in later decades, they had to evolve. Weezer, as I mentioned before, went full-on schlock, and I would argue that Resident Evil did too. It cleaned up the clunky control scheme, ditched the static backgrounds and bizarre camera angles, gave players more ammo, and eschewed the shambling Romero-type zombies for cultists who could build traps and mess you up in all sorts of new ways.
A lot of people consider Resident Evil 4 to be one of the greatest games ever, though I will staunchly argue that it was the beginning of the Resident Evil series’ decline. The old goofy zombie franchise, with its tank-like controls and “Jill sandwiches,” had grown up and become something different. Resident Evil 5 and 6 would continue to refine the formula established in 4, weeding out a huge chunk of the heart and charm that made it such an enjoyable series in the first place. Like Weezer, Resident Evil responded to critics and reviewers (who were rightly tired of the old format by the time Nemesis hit shelves) by evolving into something almost unfamiliar to longtime fans.
And, because of this, I’ve had to spend a good deal of the 2000s and 2010s apologizing for being a Weezer fan, and I’ve had to spend at least the first half of the 2010s apologizing for being a Resident Evil fan.
Miraculously, Weezer unleashed Everything Will Be Alright in the End in September of 2014, and, while it’s not a perfect record by any means, it has enough Blue-and-Pinkerton-era charm that I simply can’t not enjoy it. It pulls the elements that worked from almost every Weezer record that precedes it and discards most of the things that had been holding their decent songs from being truly great. And, I mean, Everything Will Be Alright in the End has this song on it:
The original Resident Evil was remastered and relaunched in HD in January of 2015, which, funny enough, was just a few months after Everything Will Be Alright in the End brought me back into Weezer’s loving embrace. Though I acknowledge that Weezer’s pulling elements from their glory days is a completely different beast than Resident Evil‘s remaking an old game in HD, both feel like welcome returns to something that had been long abandoned back in the 1990s.
And, to me, that’s a phenomenal trick to pull off.