Weezer – The British Are Coming

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For what it’s worth, I think Weezer has a great discography. Fundamentally, many would be quick to disagree with me. I wouldn’t blame them – out of eleven studio albums, only four are really granted this status of nobility. Much like a stock market crash, it (morbidly) follows a story, with every rise and fall having an explanation. As illustrated by its marvelous album cover, Everything Will Be Alright In The End (abbreviated EWBAITE) is one of Weezer’s many plot twists – their grandiose (yet seemingly temporary) return to the rock world. Smooch, the monster in the middle might as well be the face of quality post-Pinkerton material. In my analysis of L.A. Girlz, I had predictably discussed what post-Pinkerton means and carries.

“I hesitate to call any one Weezer song “the best since Pinkerton“, because with enough digging, there are a fair amount of contenders between 2001 and present day. Notable fan favorites (excluding tracks from The White Album) are the majority of Maladroit, Everybody Needs Salvation, and B-sides from The Red Album. The reason this idea that anything past Pinkerton is essentially a wasteland, void of the qualities that made early Weezer so enjoyable and relatable is because Pinkerton was lightning in a bottle. It has been discussed and heard of time and time again, and it seems as though you can’t write any thoughts on Weezer without bringing it up, but that record is Cuomo at his all-time low. He will never be the twenty-something Harvard student falling in love with (what he assumed to be) homosexual girls while weighing down on a cane due to leg surgery again. The only “good” news, is that it feels as though Cuomo is just as aware of this as are the fans of Weezer. Their struggle to stay relevant is apparent in great abundance throughout their discography. Records like Raditude and Pacific Daydream appeal directly to pop success, while breaking the bond gained by fans all alike who cherish that nerdy 1994 garage rock sound.”

I was right, for the most part. That doesn’t go without saying EWBAITE came before White, and although being widely regarded as the weaker between the two, it still packs a punch. The conceptual aspect of this record is often overlooked, and is derived from Cuomo’s mysterious scrapped project Ecce Homo. Over the course of its thirteen tracks, three major themes are conveyed: Relationships with authority, relationships with girls, and relationships with fans. Standout track The British Are Coming rests under the authority bracket, and is definitely the more experimental of the bunch. Driven by the soft and seemingly casual piano notes, this fervid 4 minute retelling of one of history’s most iconic events is done so with an interesting take on the classic Weezer sound. Cuomo has evidently taken interest in Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, a pivotal moment in the American Revolution. I appreciate the exaggerated patriotism found in Cuomo’s songwriting, which resurfaces in songs like I Love The USA in the future. Coincidence or not, something unique these two songs have in common is their incorporation of profanity from Cuomo. Often making an effort to refrain from malediction in his lyrics, The British Are Coming is one of few exhibits when Cuomo sings of “Punk-ass redcoats trying to run the show”. 

If that doesn’t quite capture the essence of the track for you, allow me to take you back to the beginning. The song lands on it’s feet, cleverly coasting off of the inertia of previous track I’ve Had It Up To Here with the gong of a bell (I’m sure Brian would appreciate it). Wilson presents a marching band-like drum pattern which establishes the American Revolution setting in connection with said bell gong. Together with Cuomo’s (admittedly) dramatic monologue, I get flashbacks to seeing him dressed up as a continental soldier in the promotional video for this song. His words sound ever slightly amplified, as if they were coming through the world’s smallest megaphone, and read as bells still chime in the background: “Welcome to the first level literati / Our mission is to keep the tradition alive / It’s up to us, it’s our responsibility / Who else is going to do it?” This sounds awfully familiar to Weezer’s perception of themselves with the release of this record. “Our mission is to keep the tradition alive” and it’s adjacent line spins this whole depiction of an “us vs. them” scenario in the music industry, all while comparing it to the efforts of the thirteen colonies in the late 1700’s. Depending on how you see it, this symbol is either hilariously bad, or given some thought, a bold yet interesting cognition. This decorated metaphor blows any humdrum line from Back To The Shack, a song directly addressing and explaining what happened during the Raditude era out the water. The British Are Coming exists to portray a relationship with an authority figure, literally being the British, many years ago, but implications between the lines allows this song to double up in a chameleon-like guise. In theory, as foolish as it may sound, fans of Weezer are to an extent authoritative of the band. They make requests to modify certain outcomes from the band. Weezer covering Toto’s “Africa” due to a series of tweets that gained fan traction is a recent and colorful example of this.

Following this profound introduction are a few acoustic guitars which play to foreshadow the upcoming verse. I am brought to a time years ago, when founding member and guitarist Jason Cropper (who has since parted ways with the band) plays the unforgettable riff to Blue Album opener My Name Is Jonas (among other tracks). Each string is plucked to forge this peculiar charm, carrying a sense of bewilderment. It’s like crossing a door to a fantasy world, a la Narnia. The British Are Coming factors this into its formula in order to compose a vibrant exposition. The acoustic guitars are seamlessly swapped out for a piano, which similarly brings forth a melody to be heard in the chorus of the song later on. One acoustic chord progression is carried over which serves as its foundation, and makes a great team with the piano. The notes hop around like an elegant avian species, and is beautiful in further heightening that feeling of trying to grasp an incredible sight. Meanwhile, Cuomo and co. croon as they outline the lyrics with enchanting “ooh’s” over the same rich keys. All of the instruments and voices gets increasingly more tight over time, like a push pin being inserted further into a balloon before it pops. Carefully placing this segment neighboring the vocal entry, which of course retakes Weezer’s electric composure, allows for a harsher contrast – that satisfying balloon pop. Cuomo’s saccharine intonation ensues with several calls to action, mimicked by the wailing guitar behind him.

Multiple references are made to the Revolution and Revere’s midnight ride. Cuomo namedrops “old King George” and turns the listener into a soldier in this compelling universe as he sings “We’ll show them we are the true sons of liberty”. This line mirrors the King George one, as “liberty” and “old King George” have a matching amount of syllables. The former is sung in ascension, while the latter descends along with Brian Bell’s rhythm guitar. The song then flips itself around as it transitions into showing Sergeant Cuomo’s inner thoughts during this motivational pep talk, cursing out the redcoats as I had brought up earlier. This wave of acrimony is made possible with Wilson’s firm drumming, and Cuomo, who sings with the deepest tone of voice found throughout this track. Although it is a different song, the same attitude from I’ve Had It Up To Here (where Cuomo expresses his displeasure with record execs) is passed on in The British Are Coming with partner lines: “Telling me what to do and where to go / Mount your horse, ’cause it’s time to tell the world”. This dynamic cause-and-effect type presentation makes Cuomo out to be this force of nature – and he has snapped.  The moments leading up to the chorus are remarkable. The rapid flurry of snare and bass drum in unison personify the motion and sound of a galloping horse. I am put in the boots of Revere as Cuomo cries “The British are coming!”  like a series of whistles being blown; a pool shutdown. What is certainly one of the highest vocal keys he has ever reached, this exclamatory chorus permeates with alertness, and a true sense of alarm. Each stroke of a chord from Bell’s guitar feels like another light in a civilian’s home being turned on, another head being turned to what Weezer is up to.

Cuomo extends each chant of “British” to fill 3 beats, and on it’s final way through, he pauses before the second half of the line (“are coming“). During this time, the guitar, which at first sounds hesitant, pulls through and chimes in with cheers of success. The song then cruises back to another visually spiking verse, where Cuomo mentions more iconic events of the Revolution, notably “We know the shot will be heard all around the world”. The British Are Coming, like most songs, follows a cycle, and the chorus is never kept distant. Once he resumes howling of the British’s arrival, it feels right, and somehow more powerful. As the song takes us onward to the bridge, the guitars work collectively to almost simulate some brass instruments with their elongated and triumphant clamor. Cuomo’s vocals are put upon this throne as he transcends while singing “This is the destiny for all of mankind”. I can almost imagine this discourse being heard over clips of an award winning movie in a trailer-like fashion with the weight it carries and how broad it sounds. What follows might be one of my favorite moments in the history of Weezer’s discography to date. The guitar solo of The British Are Coming arguably ranks in the big leagues of Only In Dreams and Tired of Sex.

I find that often, the best guitar solos of Weezer are great not only because of the talent they exhibit. While yes, they do also sound phenomenal, it’s the foundation it lies upon which makes it whole. There are numerous examples where the solo is used to perfectly capture the emotion conveyed in the consequent line. This technique was abundant in Weezer’s Blue Album, and when it makes an appearance on The British Are Coming it’s an otherworldly affair. Prior to the aforementioned solo, I can see Cuomo shouting to his bandmates, to his listeners, or as he sees himself: shouting to his militia. Either way, the command “Come on, let’s give them everything we have!” is sung to an immensely compelling degree across the board, no matter how you conceptualize it. The instruments climb with Cuomo and Bell’s persuasive voices, but swiftly trail off like a spacecraft being ejected as Cuomo’s guitar flies alone. With the help of Wilson’s steady clashing cymbals in the first 10 seconds and the continually building tension, this fearless excerpt of music is monumental. The melody goes on to soar over all of the aiding instruments in the background, derivative of the same melodies Cuomo sung in the verses and choruses, with an extra note here or there to add to its grandness. I can practically hear the words as the solo progresses, as ambitious as ever. The S.S. Cuomo reaches a point where it has attained it’s maximum velocity, it’s climax, and begins to travel back down at incredible speeds. Cuomo plays to near perfection, every passing note being an increment of built up altitude that has now passed. The solo concludes with a soft pestle of drums, as if our spacecraft has landed in the delicate New England snow. There is no moment of appreciation following this expedition, as the band jumps right into to the final chorus which is as rewarding as ever, hearing Cuomo cry “The British are coming!” one last time in an impressively high pitch. The guitars import this lasting effect upon themselves, echoing in marvel as The British Are Coming wraps itself up with a king’s cape – perhaps that of “old King George”.

written by oliver

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