Weezer (The Red Album)

Weezer

Geffen Records, 2008

http://www.weezer.com

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/18/2008

Expectations are a facet of our lives that prompt very diverse reactions. Some folks exceed expectations, and in turn, set the bar higher for not only themselves, but for others as well. On the other hand, many will actively seek to never reach those expectations, settling for the bare minimum instead. Within the world of popular music, the word “expectation” carries with it a terrible burden that even the greatest artists can’t help but feel.

Weezer tore onto the music scene in the mid-‘90s with their harmless brand of power pop and clever lyrics, courtesy of Rivers Cuomo. The Blue Album spun off a few hit singles, made the band a household name, and has since become one of the records that defined the decade. Their follow-up Pinkerton was shredded by critics, and essentially drove Cuomo into seclusion to deal with the rejection. It wasn’t until 2001’s The Green Album that the band returned to form, and ever since, Weezer has attempted to rescale their previous lofty heights.

One can’t ignore the fact that Cuomo has attempted to expand Weezer’s sound; instead of settling for the same old same old, he has pushed the group in new directions. Pinkerton has been hailed as a precursor to the emo genre, and 2005’s Make Believe dipped its feet in the waters of ‘70s rock. The problem has been the reaction to the aforementioned records; instead of public praise, there has been negativity. And as such, after each event, Cuomo has retreated to a safe place.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The Red Album is the third self-titled album Weezer has released, and that is not unintentional. Each record provides an opportunity for Cuomo to reestablish what delivered Weezer their success in the first place. Is there a commercial component to it? Almost certainly, but the fact remains that the three colored albums represent the best of Weezer, although the hit/miss ratio has decreased with each subsequent release.

Mick Jagger is a horny son of a bitch; Pete Townshend is a brilliant -- albeit eccentric -- man; Stevie Wonder a blind visionary; so who is Rivers Cuomo? The answer is an everyman, far from the clichéd rock and roll star. This has been a blessing and curse for Weezer, due to the fact they take their direction from Mr. Cuomo. His lyrics are clever and accessible, but rarely reach the level of transcendence. The heartfelt, undisguised emotion of “Heart Songs” is as good as it gets from Cuomo; his blending of pop culture references and 100% sincerity pave the way for a strong reaction from the listener.

One would be hard pressed to identify a more potent series of opening songs as found on The Red Album. Maturity has set in for Weezer; both personally and musically. The lead single “Pork And Beans” demonstrates a firm grasp of what constitutes a pop song; Weezer will likely have one song of this nature on every album they record from here on out. “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived,” is much more interesting from a musical standpoint. Epic is probably too strong a descriptor, but considering Weezer’s discography, it is apt. For six minutes, Cuomo and Co. shift genres with a shockingly low amount of abruptness; punk, pop, ska, and hard rock all find a place, while Cuomo pens a tongue-in-cheek record of the character’s self described importance.

After the first six or so tracks, my expectations had raised significantly for The Red Album. However, the democratic decision to allow songs written by other band members proved to be a fatal weakness. After fifteen years of existence, such a development within the band had to be expected, but they should learn their lesson from now on. “Cold Dark World,” for one, lacks the wit and warmth of its immediate predecessors, a telltale sign that it is indeed Cuomo who is the heart and soul of the material. Ironically, even his closing track “The Angel And The One” takes its lead from its surroundings, and serves to end things on a dissatisfying note.

The great disappointment of The Red Album is how the album trails off after an incredibly strong first half. If this was 1974 (and judging from the current fashions, I would assume it isn’t), I would recommend playing the first side of the LP and using the other as a coaster. Weezer once again has made a stab at solidifying their fan-base and unifying their sound. It works again to a point, but the idea is rapidly losing authenticity.

Rating: B-

User Rating: D


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© 2008 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen Records, and is used for informational purposes only.