For anyone who graduated from high school prior to Y2K, Radiohead and Weezer represent two indispensable pillars of rock. In the succeeding decade, however, while Radiohead has continued to accumulate critical acclaim, Weezer has racked up an impressive amount of disdain thanks to Rivers Cuomo's ridiculous antics (see below). It's like that line from Radiohead's "Electioneering": "When I go forwards, you go backwards, and somewhere we will meet." Now the two have met, with Weezer's surprise cover of Radiohead's "Paranoid Android." So, is this worth a listen?
• After years of three-chord power pop anthems, Weezer get to flex their musicianship muscles with the complex, multi-suite "Paranoid Android." And Weezer does a great job in that sense, matching the OK Computer version note-for-note. The two versions are so similar that Weezer's version clocks in at 6:29 while the OK Computer original stands in at 6:24. That extra five seconds comes at the end of the video, when Weezer marvel at their own ability to cover "Paranoid Android."
• Rivers tweeted on April 18th, "Time to learn Radiohead's 'Paranoid Android'," so he obviously took it seriously. So seriously, in fact, that they recorded the song in a studio as opposed to just breaking the cover out in concert. Points for attention to detail, we guess.
• Really, what's the point? If they Weezerized the song, that'd maybe be worth hearing, but a note-for-note remake? The cover just seems like a ploy by Rivers to craft another insta-headline, like when he covered the State Farm jingle or appeared in Izod commercials or filmed a cameo for MTV's big penis show.
• It becomes painfully obvious, around the "Kicking, squealing Gucci little piggy" lyric, that Cuomo's voice just can't stack up against Thom Yorke's incredible pipes. Cuomo sounds exasperated by that point, and when the "From a great height" section arrives, it turns into slightly above-average karaoke.
• Ever since 2002's Maladroit, Weezer have enjoyed a second wind, career-wise, by making a Xeroxed copy of a carbon copy of a photograph of a good album without actually making a good album. (We do have a soft spot for half of Raditude, though.) The new Cuomo blueprint has kept Weezer relevant while old school fans have clamored for a return to Pinkerton. This "Paranoid Android" is just one facsimile too far.
• The video itself distracts us with its silly Final Cut special effects and dramatic lighting changes. Cuomo should have just danced like it was "Lotus Flower."
Would Shazam Recognize It?
Yes, and then given the subject matter it would become self-aware and probably go all HAL-9000 in 2001. "Why are you listening to this cover version, Dave? The Radiohead version is far superior," it might say before jettisoning you into space.
Is There a Better Version?
Hell yeah, there is. Given the difficulty of performing "Paranoid Android," only a handful have dared to attempt it -- "Creep" is so much easier to play -- but Jazz pianist Brad Mehldau's nine-minute piano rendition of "Paranoid Android" is quite beautiful and universally accepted even by those hard-headed Radiohead fans:
Even though he's 40, Cuomo still somehow has his finger on the pulse of a nation of junior high schoolers, so hopefully this cover opens their ears to a masterpiece like OK Computer. Seasoned music fans have no use for this "Paranoid Android" however, because this one exists: