“On ‘Hash Pipe’ and its Unfortunate Endorsement of ‘Problems'”

Now, part of my inevitable semantic ineptitude present in this piece can be traced to the relative futility of words themselves. I mean, I have a hard time even imagining how to communicate to new millennials just how antithetical to the new Weezer the old Weezer was, on the first five albums, through 2005. Even more than being “awkward,” which I’ve heard the Blue Album described as by a fervent detractor of the Green Album, or “offensive” [1], the old Weezer was PAINSTAKING. And I mean you could just hear the pain emanating in all of the songs, whether it was “Undone – The Sweater Song,” “No Other One,” “Don’t Let Go” (with its proclamation of “Complications in my mind / Got me runnin’ out of time”), or “American Gigolo,” which ok was probably a little bit awkward. 

The Green Album, while it did get many good reviews, was nothing if not divisive. Ok, it was poppy. And it was really short. 

Here’s a brief list of experiences I’ve had with it in my life. I’ve listened to it about 1,000 times, marveling in all the brilliant background vocals and the guitar solos like the one in “O Girlfriend” that exactly mimic the melody of the verse. I’ve heard my friend say he hated it. I’ve had a religious experience listening to “Hash Pipe” on CD in summer 2001 in the back of my friend’s Chevy Beretta. I’ve heard an upstairs neighbor say they didn’t like it, claiming it “really pi**ed him off” [2]. I’ve heard it play at a party I was at right after Soundgarden’s Superunknown and fell in love with the song “Knock-down Drag-out,” noting how all these songs, while on one hand so alike in style and even strategy, all really have their own DNA that makes them what they are. And I’ve heard “Island in the Sun” on satellite radio so much I wanted to barf — while nodding my head, that is. 

Maladroit came out one year later and that was a whole other can of worms but in this post I’m just going to focus on The Green Album and on “Hash Pipe,” in particular. Now, firstly, “Hash Pipe” is a very unique expedition in that it’s a metal song on a pop album. It might be kind of the inverse of, say, “Polly,” a pop song on a fuzzy, hard-rock album, and maybe that was even part of their cheeky strategy (they’ve been known to poke fun at themselves in light of Nirvana like the fake, hopelessly nerdy instrument desctruction session at the end of the “Undone” video). It’s also notable for the fact that it clearly could have been way longer than it is — that minor chord riff and that chugging groove are so hypnotic and even so ORIGINAL that most bands would have been compelled to stretch it out at least into about five minutes. 

But Weezer leave it at 3:07 and the album at 28:28 and really I think both are ultimately better for it. I think they projected a pretty limited attention span in 2001 on the part of their audience, which probably wasn’t completely unfounded. And in this way it’s almost like the self-indulgent last gasp of rock and roll: here is everything rock and roll is, given to you in capsule form, like the dried food you take into outer space. 

Now, “Hash Pipe” has lyrics that anybody would describe as esoteric. As far as I can tell, it’s a song about being a man and receiving unwanted anal sex (an activity which marijuana, or “hash,” has been known to make at least marginally more pleasant, per reports). And I was sitting around thinking about it and I’ve centered, I think, on the line “You got your problems”, in the chorus, as sort of the nucleus of the song’s meaning. Cuomo presents the factor of the rapist’s “problems” as something that said rapist, and perhaps, the world around him, wouldn’t see as “problems” at all, though the fact of the person’s behavior would instead obviate that they are indeed such. The way Rivers Cuomo’s sense of humor turns the phrase, in particular, is as if to say that there are literally people who just get by on problems — their entire lives are composed of impulses gleaned from noxious forces around them each of which end up being destructive to themselves, or others, or both, usually. And it gives them a sense of completeness and accomplishment, so Cuomo plays along, as if to say, “Get down witcho bad funky self,” sarcastically, of course. 

The “players” term of the terrible sycophants who “come to get (him) / ’Cause they’d like (his) behind” is essentially the same thing — Cuomo is applying the word “players” as if to mock the sort of aggrandizing language these individuals might apply to themselves. He’s making the rape cultural and in a sense, perhaps, conjoining it thematically with what he perceives as a cultural rape on the part of corporate America and perhaps his record label, entities typically held as potentially lecherous and soulless, if you will. 

There’s also the tidbit about “I can’t love my business / If I can’t get a trick / Down on Santa Monica / Where tricks are for kids”. Something to be gathered from this precious nugget would be that Weezer, like their fellow Los Angeleans 311, can tend toward the schizophrenic, and potentially to entertaining results. Another of its ploys, other than just the fact that it’s really funny and marries a colloquial connotation of the word “trick” with a corporate motto for the cereal Trix [3], is that there lies value in the very shift of topic. Why is this? Cuomo is pointing out his own smallness, in the eyes of the world. To make a long story short: he’s getting fu**ed and nobody cares. To make a potentially long song short, he rocks out to one killer metal groove that has surely made many tattooed, bearded tastemakers down at Loudwire “Green” with envy over the years. 


[1] Yes, one pejorative the NME scribe used to deride the Green Album was “inoffensive.” They’re taking a stand against inoffensive rock music.


[2] Along these lines, it’s really not shocking to me that pretty much all the negative clatter about this album comes from people stricken with misanthropic tendencies and probably unsettling psychiatric conditions of various forms.


[3] Way back in the ’90s there was a cereal Trix with a commercial on it where a rabbit tried to steal the cereal from a youngster, who would reply: “Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids!”

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