Tuesday, June 3, 2008

In Defense of Weezer's Confusing New Album

By Evan Rytlewski
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Since Weezer died a decade ago, fans have had a difficult time reconciling themselves with the parasitic monster that assumed the band’s corpse. At times this new, faux Weezer made a convincing case that they were the same, power-pop-loving lads as always. Faux Weezer’s 2001 green album certainly sounded like the work of the vintage band. But when held to a mirror that album gave no reflection. The hooks were there, the soul wasn’t. Where real Weezer filled its songs with incisive self-reflection, faux Weezer wrote from a safe emotional distance.

Faux Weezer’s misfire-laden 2005 chart-topper Make Believe set the bar so low that anything that followed was bound to sound better by comparison. So if nothing else, the band’s new, self-titled “red” album is a vast improvement over that career low, which is surprising considering it stubbornly revisits everything about that album that didn’t work: the spaghetti-at-wall mentality, the middle-school humor, the half-raps, the superficial pop culture critiques, the meathead pandering.

But at least this time around, faux Weezer doesn’t try to pretend it’s still the Weezer of yore. Instead of feigning blue-album earnestness, faux Rivers Cuomo now adopts a mock-macho, not-afraid-of-you-and-I-will-beat-your-ass persona which, in its overt fakeness, actually feels more real than any other persona he’s worn in years. “I am the greatest man that ever lived,” he boasts, doubling down on the cockiness. “If you don’t like, you can shove it/ But you don’t like it, you love.”

The red album is a weird, fucking Stanford prison experiment of an album. It’s difficult to tell where Cuomo’s facetiousness begins and where it ends, and the songs are similarly ambiguous. They cycle through so many genres—in addition to Weezer’s signature power-pop, there are overblown nods to commercial rock, rap-rock and classic-rock—that they can be read as both loving homages to radio rock and a spiteful send ups of it. Love it or hate it—and, to be sure, early reviews have already laid out plenty of fair reasons to hate this album—there’s a spark and vision driving this record that Weezer’s post-Pinkerton output has sorely lacked.

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