The events surrounding the release of Maladroit have caused a lot of problems between Weezer and their label, Geffen Records (a subsidiary of Interscope Records, which is a subsidiary of Warner Music, which is a subsidiary of Warner Bros., which is a subsidiary of AOL-Time Warner). This situation perfectly captures the inherent conflict between the artistic drive of a band and the money hungry record label.
Since returning from their self-imposed hiatus in the year 2000, Weezer has maintained a very fan-friendly website (www.weezer.com), with daily updates by Karl Koch. This site is run by the band, it’s not just a front for the record label. There is also an audio-video section where people can download the band’s videos and MP3’s. Throughout their 2001 tour the band was constantly writing and recording new songs and posting them on the website. Usually an average of about two new songs were posted every week. These recording sessions were paid entirely by Weezer out of their own pocket.
In January 2002 Weezer went into the studio to record Maladroit. The songs for the album were culled from the hundreds written during the 2000 and 2001 tours, most of these had already been posted on the site in one form or another. As the Maladroit sessions progressed, the 18 songs in the running to make the final cut for the album were posted online. A song was updated whenever something was tweaked or changed, giving the fans an inside listen to how a song evolved from it’s inception to a final product. Since any song that didn’t make the album was probably going to be used as a B-side on a single, Weezer was essentially giving away every piece of music that was going to be “officially” released this year. Note that these sessions were also band-funded, no Geffen money was involved.
Then, in late February, the band personally sent radio stations a preview CD featuring eight tracks off of the new album. The stations could play whatever songs they wanted, but “Dope Nose” quickly became a favorite. The song was getting airplay from L.A.’s KROQ, Chicago’s WZZN and WXRK in New York, so much so that it actually reached #25 on Billboard’s Modern Rock chart without ever having been “officially” released. The songs were getting noticed and Weezer had completely circumvented their record company. This could not stand!
The do-it-yourself promotional campaign was not sitting well with executives at Interscope. The MP3 section on the website was quickly shut down. The label also insisted that Rivers Cuomo write a letter to all the radio stations that he had previously sent the Maladroit promo CD to, asking them to hold off promoting the tracks on the CD until the record company was ready to service the “Dope Nose” single. Later stating “I didn’t have a choice,” Rivers wrote the letter, but the songs continued to receive airplay and “Dope Nose” continued to move up the charts.
Geffen is now insisting that Rivers turn over the master tapes for the album, threatening to sue him for breach of contract if he does not. Even though Weezer paid for the album themselves, Geffen still owns the music under the terms of the band’s contract and California state law because it is considered a “work-for-hire”. The album was originally scheduled to be released on April 30, 2002, but now has been pushed back to May 14. Geffen stated that this was because “the album needed to be finished,” which is odd because the band posted “finished” versions of their songs online back in March.
I’ve had a week to digest Maladroit and I love it! It really attempts to strike a balance between the angst of Pinkerton and the fluff of Green. My favorite track has to be “Keep Fishin’”, a wonderful bouncy number. Why is “Slob” the next single and not this? I would give anything to be on stage and see the crowd do that little hop thing in time with the song. Another standout is “Possibilities,” the first Weezer song since “Surf Wax America” that makes me want to drive really fast.
As for changes in the songs since the label debacle, there have been a few. “Keep Fishin’” got a lot better by speeding the tempo and adding a loopy drum beat. “Take Control” was originally very minimalist, but the album version has a lot more guitar overdubs and Rivers’ voice is much raspier. Again, a change for the better. Most of the other changes seemed to be just studio clean up.
Overall a great album. It’s got everything: fast songs, slow songs, happy songs and sad songs. Go buy and listen.