Nerd Rock, a small, but recognizable branch of pop-punk and indie rock, is a genre defined by loud guitars, woe is me lyrics and tight musicianship. It’s no secret that most indie musicians of the 90’s would be considered “nerds” (Urban Dictionary definition: An 'individual', i.e. a person who does not conform to society's beliefs that all people should follow trends and do what their peers do. Often highly intelligent but socially rejected because of their obsession with a given subject, usually computers. Unfortunately, nerds seem to have problems breeding, to the detriment of mankind as a whole.) but it’s the ones who focus on this fact in their lyrics that end up categorized with this sad, but fitting title. Through-out the early nineties Weezer would be considered the “kings of nerd rock” but after their ever praised Pinkerton came and went it was clear that Nerd Rock needed someone new. And that someone was destined to be Wheatus.
The name is similar, the sound is similar, and the attitude is similar, so why isn’t Wheatus just considered another Weezer rip-off? The answer isn’t simple, but when listening to the album its pretty easy to figure out. For one Wheatus have a much more fleshed out, experimental sound to them, combining the Cheap Trick meets Pixies vibe of the Weez with the outfits of a true stoner band. For another Wheatus aren’t afraid to get poppy. Weezer wasn’t called power pop for nothing, but their East Coast counter parts bring it to a whole new level, incorporating everything from the sounds of 1970’s soul to the 1980’s pop metal and pop hop scenes into play. Wheatus also have a more distinct sexual appetite, almost all the lyrics involve planting the seed (or lack there of), from the painfully obvious (Hump ‘em and Dump ‘em) to the clever metaphors and pop culture references (Pretty much every other song on the album).
Then of course there’s Wheatus’s claim to fame, the one-hit-wonder of sorts, the pinnacle of god-that-song-rules-but-who-the-hell-played-it tunes, “Teenage Dirtbag”. An ode to Noel, lead singer, Brendan Brown’s high school crush, school bullies and the little ironies that make the world go around. The song is essentially Brendan talking down about himself, his cleanliness and his need to listen to Iron Maiden, but then realizing that “She doesn’t know what she’s missing”. It’s pretty much the standard one hit wonder song, heavy, but catchy, fun and funny. But if there’s one thing that sets Wheatus a cut above the rest it would have to be the guitar tone. Brendan (in addition to laying down vocals he plays most of the record’s guitar) has the tone I wish I could get, a ferocious, clear distortion with loads of sustain and a small amount of treble. The mix is so guitar heavy that it only emphasizes the awesomeness of this tone, the guitars are Godzilla and the rest of the music is Tokyo waiting to be destroyed.
The album is a pop-rock grab bag, with some good, some fantastic and some just plain ugly. For example, album finale Wannabe Gangsta is the kind of laid back tune that bands like Sublime wish they could have written. The tune takes Southern California Jack Johnson like folk-pop, and blends with it with a purely Long Island almost faux emo chorus. The song also features a completely tongue in cheek attempt at rapping by Mr. Brown himself, truly a pop-rock masterpiece. Then there are tracks like the annoying Post-Grunge attack tracks like album opener, Truffles. The riff, despite its impeccable tone, is about as refreshing as hot pizza on a hot day (c’mon, you know how this feels) and sounds like it was written in 1993. Overall the album has its fair share of annoyances, but really pulls everything together with rib-tickling lyrics and bombastic guitar sounds. There are some tracks on this album that should be heard by everyone and some that should have never been released. All in all it amounts to a good release, for sure.