Even though it’s rarely mentioned in the same breath as “Buddy Holly”, “Island In the Sun”, or even “Semi-Charmed Life”, it might be one of the greatest alt-pop songs ever recorded.
Think about everything that’s going on in Weezer’s “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)”.
Need a reminder? Feel free to flash back to a 2008 Straight interview with the band’s famously enigmatic frontman Rivers Cuomo, in which he happily trumpeted the genius of the track, found on that year’s Red Album.
The singer said this: “On our sixth album, this song suddenly appears, and some other songs, too, that just seem so vital and experimental. It’s like we’re not afraid to risk everything and take chances. And we’re really pushing ourselves. “It is five-and-a-half minutes long, there’s no discernible chorus, and very little clear repetition. It’s just this ever-expanding and developing odyssey, and it feels like a big step forward for us.”
In the Straight profile, the track was described as follows:
The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived” is, as advertised, a hook-laden freak-out, as Weezer ricochets from DIY hip-pop to ride-the-lightning metal to coke-soaked classic rock, the tipping point into genius territory being the track’s two Gregorian-chant breakdowns. Through it all, Cuomo makes a convincing case that he is his biggest fan, celebrating himself like a rock ‘n’ roll Muhammad Ali with such lines as “Act 2, I hit the big time and bodies be all up on my behind/And I can’t help myself because I was born to shine.”
Indeed, when Weezer gets around to assembling its inevitable greatest-hits package, “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived” will be right there alongside “Hash Pipe”, “Beverly Hills”, “Buddy Holly”, and a half-dozen of the other smashes that have turned the band into one of the most enduring hit machines from the alternative nation’s glory years.
Can you tell who we’re really excited about seeing at this year’s edition of the Ambleside Music Festival, running August 19 to 20 at one of the most spectacularly scenic parks in the Lower Mainland?
Headliner-wise, the 2023 edition of the fest includes not only the reluctant alt-rock royalty that is Rivers and Co. on Saturday, but glory-days-of-MuchMusic hitmakers Third Eye Blind on Sunday.
Joining Weezer on day-one bill are dream-pop unit Saint Motel, Vancouver’s deservedly revered Said the Whale, and LA indie upstart Wallice.
In addition to Third Eye Blind, day two also features the ever-adventurous Bahamas, alt-rock warriors Finger Eleven, and Bran Van 3000, which is currently having yet another moment with “Drinking in L.A.”.
As for the festival in general, come for the music (and food trucks), and be prepared to be blown away by the supernatural setting of Ambleside Park. Not to mention the promise of hearing “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)”, which makes a great case that, if Rivers Cuomo isn’t the greatest songwriter that ever lived, he’s certainly up there, especially where the alternative nation 1990s are concerned.
Weekend passes to the festival, which marks its 10th anniversary this year, are available to purchase online now. VIP tickets (including private bar service and exclusive amenities like tent access with a direct view of the main stage) are also on sale.
When: August 19 to 20
Where: Ambleside Park