Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Weezer, "Weezer" (Geffen) [3.5 stars]

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On the third self-titled release of its 15-year-career—destined to be
called “the Red Album” in the tradition of the band’s classic 1994 debut
(“the Blue Album”) and the second “Weezer” a decade later (“the Green
Album”)—bandleader Rivers Cuomo marks a welcome return to the more
complicated but deeply heartfelt songwriting of the group’s early days and
the proto-emo “Pinkerton,” veering away from the simplistic and at times
bombastic arena-rock epitomized by “Beverly Hills,” the standout hit from
its last album “Make Believe” (2005). The song that best captures the vibe
here is a sort of sequel to the rock ’n’ roll bildungsroman of “In the
Garage” called “Heart Songs,” in which the quartet’s auteur recalls falling
in love with pop music while listening to the AM radio in the backseat of
his parents’ car.

“Gordon Lightfoot sang a song about a boat that sank in a lake/At the
break of the mornin’ a Cat name Stevens found a faith he could believe
in,”
the still-adenoidal, Harvard-educated Cuomo sings. “Eddie
Rabbitt sang about how much he loved a rainy night/ABBA, Devo, Benatar were
there the day John Lennon died… These are my heart songs/They never feel
wrong.”
The tune culminates with the writer hearing his roommate’s
copy of “Nevermind” and deciding to form a band himself.

Scoff if you will, but at his best, Cuomo has always been able to turn
cheese into gold, and he walks the tightrope in brilliant form through much
of the band’s sixth album, whether he’s mocking hip-hop braggadocio (“The
Greatest Man That Ever Lived”), mocking the inanity of
lowest-common-denominator pop (“Pork and Beans”) or daring to be the
left-footed fool trying to get funky on the dance floor at a family wedding
(“Everybody Get Dangerous”), all the while challenging conventional song
structure with unexpected twists and turns that nevertheless produce
unlikely hooks.

“The Red Album” isn’t without flaws: Late in the disc, Cuomo makes the
well-intentioned gesture of allowing his bandmates to write or co-author
one song each, and these turn out to be the album’s least memorable. But
the high points are as high as any these still essential alternative-era
veterans have given us.

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4 Comments

Agreed. I'm actually stunned by the amount of vindictiveness directed at this disc by the commenting hordes online. I mean, after Make Believe, anything is an improvement, and I think this is actually a great improvement!

Dear Mr. DeRogatis,

There's that word "adenoidal" again. I had to look it up the first time I saw it in one of your blogs, so thanks for helping improve my vocabularly.

I'm curious about something else, though. I've seen you use the term "emo" a couple of times, including this blog, and I'm not sure what that means. Do you think you could write a blog about that sometime?

Thanks,
Jose

Jim, you're one of the few rock critics out there who seems to "get" Weezer. I'm not saying they're great; and they totally repeat themselves every time. But they're kind of like John Cusack characters -- nuanced just enough to make you interested (well, excepting "Must Love Dogs," but we don't have to go there). And Weezer has provided the soundtrack for my growing up. I finally understood their first record when I was in early high school; "Pinkerton" was very much the overemotionality of late high school; the Green Album was early college; "Maladroit" was late college; and "Make Believe," which gets better and better with age, is very much the soundtrack for what happens immediately following one's college graduation. Now, the Red Album is nowhere near as good as some of these (especially the Blue Album and "Maladroit"), but I'm hoping that, like "Make Believe," it'll get better with age.

I couldn't agree more. I think some people just connect with Weezer. Especially those of us young folk who grew up with them. I got chills when I heard Heart Songs too. I also think that the first three songs on the album is some of Weezer's strongest material in a long time.
I've heard so much crap about how Rivers is having a mid-life crisis, and he shouldn't be so nostalgic and reflective about his coming-of-age as a rock star. For those people I have to words..."so what?" So what if he is having a mid-life crisis. I though music was supposed to be a form of human emotional expression. A mid-life crisis is something most humans go through. What's wrong with expressing that in your music? It's like you're only allowed to talk about certain human experiences in music (heartbreak, loss, joy, love, etc), and some, like mid-life crises, are scorned.
Leave Rivers alone, and enjoy the fun of Weezer.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on May 29, 2008 9:01 AM.

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