Oh, Weezer. Here we are, album six for the band who've spent an entire career trying to figure out who they are. Are they The Pixies-aping geek rockers with a penchant for nerdery and romance? Are they riff-wielding guitar heroes rocking ironic stadiums? Are they misunderstood indie icons? Are they, um, white-boy rap? The band's third self-titled album - referred to as The Red Album - sees the four-piece explore these questions and doesn't see them come to any obvious conclusion.
Weezer's last few releases have garnered fairly poor critical receptions from reviewers and fans alike, mainly focused at the clearly-radio-oriented singles and the patchy album filler nestling between these more obvious tracks. Opener "Troublemaker" has that summery barbecue feel, fitting adequately between Kid Rock and Bowling for Soup on MTV rotation. Rivers Cuomo's tongue-in-cheek lyrics almost come across as barbed and witty, but occasionally it feel that he's trying a little too hard to predict his critics and come off as self-aware, if not self-parodying.
"The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" opens up with some bizarre Jay Z-esque southern rap (yes, southern rap) after an elegant piano intro. It's hard to tell if Cuomo is being ironic or just experimenting, but the song feels a little weird until it gets to the admittedly fantastic chorus, which could have came straight from a b-side of The Blue Album. We also get a unique mix of baroque choral breakdowns mid-song, which work really well in a kind of Beach Boys, epic-pop way. Even the staunchest of Weezer haters would find it tough not to tap their feet to the sped-up outro, at least. Sadly we also see the reappearance of the spoken-word midsection, like 2005's annoyingly-omnipresent "Beverly Hills".
You've already heard "Pork and Beans" (or seen the ubiquitous YouTube video), and it's catchy enough, continuing with Cuomo's self-exploratory lyrics, only this time he's reflecting on being known as 'that weird dude from that nerd band' instead of 'that D&D geek from biology class'. "Heart Songs" is a pretty but dull tribute to the bands' influences and origins, followed up by the almost-embarrassing "Everybody Get Dangerous": nerd rock lite. Slightly redeemingly though, it manages to feature some of the oddest lyrics penned by Cuomo in a while despite sounding like generic movie soundtrack rock (seriously, expect to see this featuring in the next big teen movie):
Late in the nighttime / We'd drive around with hairspray and sharp knives
Lookin' for roadkills / Lightin' things on fire for cheap thrills
Stab the corpses / And lick the knives like we're evil forces
At this midway point, the album begins to slow a little and becomes less memorable. "Dreamin'" is catchy but throwaway, and the Brian Bell-penned "Thought I Knew" doesn't even sound like Weezer, removing the unique elements and reducing the band down to sounding like any other Maroon 5-alike on the radio. Scott Shriner's contribution, "Cold Dark World", is again, not typical Weezer, but works better as a darker closer for the record. Drummer Patrick Wilson's effort "Automatic" is a groovy rock number that is a little more daring than Bell's, leading into album closer "The Angel and the One" which restores Cuomo to lead vocals once more.
It must be difficult for Weezer to continue producing albums after apparently peaking with their first couple (depending on who you ask). Fans seem to demand either brand new sounds or replicas of their old material, but the band often don't help themselves by pandering to the masses. It seems at times that if we removed the 'special' factor that Weezer seems to possess due to their past glories, many of the tracks on this album wouldn't be as tolerable as they are. While the band don't want to ride on the coat-tails of The Blue Album or Pinkerton, they're stuck with their own legacy and are in something of a Catch-22.
With this in mind, Cuomo's decision to just mix things up and play some radio rock, play some weird falsetto choral gospel rock, let the other dudes have a shot at singing and writing and make subtle musical references to their past (check out the guitar at the end of "Heart Songs" - straight out of "The World Has Turned And Left Me Here") is understandable. Cuomo and his band have always been weirdos, only now they're the weirdos with the million-selling records instead of four dudes in a garage. Let them have their fun.
6.9 / 10
Posted Oct. 27, 2014, 6:20 p.m.
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