Considering that my third ever post on this blog was me writing Weezer’s obituary, it’d be remiss of me to not review their new self-titled album, no?
Yes, Weezer are very much alive, and Weezer (which we shall henceforth refer to as The Red Album) is now in stores, with lead single “Pork and Beans” sitting atop the Billboard Modern Rock chart. Even though I’m quite fond of the mini-essay I wrote pondering their supposed demise, I’m pretty glad that they’ve decided to pick up their instruments and record again, especially after hearing what they’ve put together with The Red Album.
In short: with The Red Album, Weezer have made a kickass comeback E.P. that kicks the shit out of anything they’ve done since their five-year hiatus in the mid-1990s. Unfortunately, The Red Album is actually a full-length disc.
In an ideal world (and on my iPod), here’s how The Red Album would go. The first three tracks would remain as-is, as they comprise a great mini-suite of rock and roll songs about, well, rock and roll. You’ve likely already heard the third track, “Pork and Beans” thanks to the band’s clever co-marketing with YouTube, and it’s easily the band’s best single in years: a quirky lyric with a thunderous hook. The album opens with “Troublemaker,” and together, these two Jacknife Lee-produced tracks blissfully recall classic Weezer in both sound and spirit.
In between sits “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived,” which might end up being the most divisive track in the Weezer catalogue among fans. It’s a Who/Queen-esque rock opera track with spoken word interludes, falsetto hooks, and choral singing. And it’s awesome. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You’ll probably hate it the first time you hear it, as I did, but the whole thing is just so friggin ridiculous that it becomes rather easy to love. The fact that it’s damn catchy only makes it go down that much smoother.
But back to The Red Album in E.P. form. Track four would be “Dreamin’,” a great little pop rock ballad with some awesome backup harmonies. And the final track would be the album-closing “The Angel and the One,” which – while far from a classic – ends up surprisingly poignant. Sure, none of these five tracks have lyrics on par with the band’s best work, but what makes them varying shades of great is a spontaneity that’s been almost entirely missing from the Weezer discography since Pinkerton. There are great little surprises like the “arts and crafts” breakdown in “Troublemaker,” or the jangly piano bridge in “Pork and Beans” or the “bluebirds” harmonies in “Dreamin’”
So that’s it: five tracks of Weezer awesomeness that not only brings them back from the dead but actually starts to repair some the damage done in their past decade of musical output.
But, alas, there’s five more songs on The Red Album, and they piss all over my “Weezer comeback E.P.” concept in glorious fashion. I know that people like me have been giving Rivers Cuomo a hard time on recent albums, but that didn’t mean that I wanted to hear songs from the other guys in the band. Each of them gets a lead vocal on The Red Album’s second half, and they range from the passably mediocre (Pat Wilson’s “Automatic,” which sounds like a so-so Sloan song) to the downright dull (Brian Bell’s country ballad “Thought I Knew) to the just-outright-bad (Scott Shriner’s dreary “Cold Dark World).
But Cuomo isn’t absolved of wrongdoing on The Red Album, contributing two embarrassments of his own. There’s “Heart Songs,” a song that lists off all of his major musical touchpoints growing up and an exercise that ends up being exactly as excruciating as it sounds. And worst of all is “Everybody Get Dangerous,” which recalls everything that you ever hated about post-1990s Weezer. It’s got a lazy hook, lame tough-guy posturing, and a terrible, terrible chorus.
It’s a shame that these five tracks have to muck things up, because the rest of The Red Album sounds like joyous gasps of life from the Weezer corpse that I had once pronounced for dead. I’ve given up hope that the band will ever reach the plateaus they once called home, but the future looks promising for Weezer 3.0: the band is planning to work with Jacknife Lee – who produced “Troublemaker” and “Pork and Beans” – on a follow-up record due out as early as next year. After presiding, in part, over Weezer’s flawed resurrection, one hopes he’s up to the task of rehab that’s to follow…