‘The Greatest Man That Ever Lived’ Is The Best Post-Pinkerton Weezer Song
Posted: by The Editor
Writing about Weezer feels more like a rigid assignment from a picky high school English teacher than an open-ended, interpretive exercise from a half-baked college professor. Unlike virtually any other band, there’re a number of points music writers feel like they’re required to touch on within a piece about Cuomo and company. It’s like one of those essay portions of the final exam where you have to choose three of the following topics to cover: the impact of the Blue Album, the cultiness of Pinkerton, the band’s embarrassing mid-2000’s run of albums, the band’s inconsistency throughout the 2010’s, Cuomo’s unwanted attempts at Top 40 crossovers, and of course one of our favorite prompts, the hidden gems of Weezer’s post-Pinkerton years.
There are few creatures on this earth as barbarous, antagonistic and irritating as a Weezer snob. For such a beast is not only a self-important authoritarian for what constitutes “good” music, but an unduly opinionated jerk who’s both unhealthily enamored by Weezer’s first two records, and irrationally abhorred by most of what follows them. Of course, there is some justification to this longstanding narrative. Blue Album and Pinkerton are phenomenal rock records with a garagey charm that the band has never been able to replicate, or has purposely strayed from with results ranging from “pretty good, actually,” to “horrifically cringey.”
One of those p good moments was their then-unappreciated 2007 effort, Red Album, which contained cruncher’s like “Troublemaker” and “Pork And Beans”, as well as now-dated attempts at MCR-esque gloom like “Cold Dark World” and “Heart Songs.” It also featured the nearly six-minute mini-opera “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations On A Shaker Hymn),” which sees the band imitating artists ranging from Jeff Buckley and Aerosmith, to Slipknot and Bach, across 11 different verses. Cuomo once called it his “favorite Weezer song“, as well as “the most ambitious song I’ve ever attempted.”
Weezer stans are historically dismissive of Cuomo’s opinions, so those tidbits aren’t necessarily convincing anyone. Regardless of how much he likes it, though, “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” is not only the most fun Weezer song since “The Good Life”, but arguably the most fun Weezer song of all time. As well as one of the catchiest, one of the best displays of Cuomo’s vocal abilities and one of the finest demonstrations of their range as a unit.
For whatever reason, Weezer have yet to stretch the mid-career glory stuffed into every inch of this track into an entire record. They might never. But for all of his irksome post-Pinkerton ventures, for six minutes of pure musical majesty, Rivers Cuomo really does sound like the greatest man that ever lived.
Eli Enis | @eli_enis
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