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Revenge of the nerds

When Weezer debuted its new single, “Back to the Shack,” on Jimmy Fallon’s show in late July, bespectacled intellectual-as-rock-star frontman Rivers Cuomo performed the tune’s indelible power-pop hook while a bobblehead doll depicting Ace Frehley of Kiss shimmied in tempo atop Cuomo’s amplifier.

And there, in a nutshell, was the perfect metaphor for Weezer’s enduring success. They’re a bunch of dorks who grew up loving Kiss and Van Halen, and later married the metallic power-pop of those bands to the burgeoning alternative rock movement of the early 1990s. In the process, Weezer crafted some of the most memorable rock music of that era.

Though the word has rapidly become a go-to cliché for haters, Cuomo was, in a sense, the very first indie-rock “hipster,” a purveyor of nerdy chic with a cutting wit, a deep sense of irony, and, one is inclined to suppose, an absolutely killer record collection.

And yet, when Weezer headlines Edgefest on Sunday at the Outer Harbor, it will be doing so with a hard-earned credibility that belies any notion of “hipsterism.” (Edgefest, it should be noted, has a decidedly Buffalo theme this year. Weezer drummer Patrick Wilson (pictured below) grew up in Buffalo; Sheila Divine frontman Aaron Perrino was born in Hamburg; young bands Pentimento and Dirty Smile are from here. Brand New has performed in the area often over the years.)

Weezer can still headline a festival like this one for the simple reason that the band has maintained integrity over time. Like all of the best pop music, Weezer’s music is about the song – the solidity of the idea, the depth of the hook, the ability to conjure the sort of sugar-sweet magic best exemplified by early classics of the form like Big Star’s “September Gurls” or even the Beatles’ “Eight Days A Week.” Cuomo, who took time off from rock ’n’ roll to go to Harvard just as Weezer was hitting its commercial peak, is able to be both bookish and pop-savvy. That gift has served him well.

Up close with Clarence native Patrick Wilson, Weezer's drummer. (Harry Scull Jr. / Buffalo News file photo)

Up close with Clarence native Patrick Wilson, Weezer's drummer. (Harry Scull Jr. / Buffalo News file photo)

Weezer fans have been known to quibble over what constitutes the band’s best album. Is it the self-titled debut, known as “The Blue Album” to the cognoscente? Is it the far more ambitious and less pure-pop “Pinkerton”? I’ve even heard arguments in favor of the 2001 self-titled album known as “The Green Album,” and based on the strength of tunes like “Hash Pipe,” “Girlfriend” and “Island in the Sun,” I understand why. All of these albums have aged incredibly well.

It’s a fun discourse to dig into, but if you happen to meet a particularly vigilant and committed Weezer fan – and there are many of those in Buffalo – it might turn heated, if not downright nasty. Particularly if you go against the grain by voting against “Pinkerton,” which is an album that I’ve heard people say saved their lives. (How is anyone’s guess, but you get the picture.)

Whatever side of that argument you come down on, you might agree that, based on the strength of “Back to the Shack,” the band’s forthcoming “Everything Will Be Alright in the End” could well end up on that “best of” list, too. I’m sure the Ace Frehley bobblehead would concur.


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