Album: Weezer (The Red Album)
Comments: A few years ago, Weezer released what was universally regarded as their worst studio album.
Of course, this is the second time in their career that this had happened. Back in the mid 90s, critics and fair-weather fans alike rejected Pinkerton, Weezer's emotional, personal second album. However, where that album is now seen as a high water mark for alternative rock and a testament to the fickle and short-sighted viewpoint of most critics and casual music listeners, odds are that good that there won't be a Make Believe revival seven years from now.
It stands to reason then, if we are to assume the bottom fell out with Make Believe, then Weezer's next album has to be better by default. After all, where can you go after you hit bottom?
The Red Album, while miles better than their last studio release, is not the revival that some fans were hoping for. I'll admit, I was drinking the cool-aid on this revival idea myself. After hearing the album's first single, “Pork and Beans,” which is catchy and witty, with a wry, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, brought back memories of “Don't Let Go,” and even “Buddy Holly.” Coupled with the color-coding of the album and the magnificently silly album cover, I was prepared to be 12 all over again.
Well that didn't happen. What happened instead was I learned to appreciate the new Weezer, which isn't hard when you imagine how much fun the band probably had recording this album. “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)” is a five minute rock-opera mess, but it's easy to forgive considering how fucking fun it sounds. The same can be said of “Troublemaker” and “Everybody Get Dangerous,” the latter boasting the best bridge on the album, and one of the better ones in the Weezer catalog.
Most of the tracks here are standard Weezer fair, musically; big guitars, big hooks, big fun. The band has been made for the stadium since The Green Album, and that giant rock sound continues here, for the most part. The deviation comes in the back half of the album, which features three songs written and sung by the other three dudes in Weezer. While it's cool that the band is starting to shift it up some, only bass player Scott Shriner's “Cold Dark World” holds up.
Despite the early release of “Pork and Beans,” which had given many people (like me) the (ultimately false) hope that Rivers Cuomo had returned to form, lyrically. The man has never been a poet by stretch of the imagination, but his hyper-awareness of his band as a media target has really fucked him from a songwriting standpoint. A good portion of the album (the first three songs) are sneering, almost bitter tracks about Cuomo's newfound celebrity that are saved by sardonic humor. The rest of his contributions aren't anything to write home about; I can think of some pretty good lyrics and I can recall some really cringe-worthy shit, too.
The band only totally fails once on the album, on the putrid “Heart Songs.” I'd really rather not get too much into it, as I think it might be the second worst song the band has ever done. The lyrics, which aim for melancholy nostalgia, miss the mark by miles, and the instrumentation makes the song play more like an R&B track than anything else. And Cuomo borrowed whatever the hell T-Pain uses to make his voice sound stupid.
That being said, there are a few songs that work completely, and suggest that the self-conscious nerd-rock of the 90s isn't totally dead. There's the aforementioned “Pork and Beans,” and the album closer “The Angel and the One,” which recalls the band's quite, sadder, better times.
Those looking for Weezer to sing about half-Japanese girls and 12-sided die best find Doc Brown 1.21 giggawats, because those days are past. The Red Album, ultimately, sounds like the beginning of a new chapter for Weezer. They might never again write the kind of songs they used to, the kind that spoke to a generation of average chumps with low self-esteem and dreams of guitar solos, but they still make quality rock music, and they'll occasionally turn your head. If nothing else, the band is having fun again, and after the disaster we'd all like the Make Believe never happened, that's pretty good to hear.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Key Tracks: The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn), Pork and Beans, Cold Dark World, The Angel and the One
Buy, Steal, Skip: Steal