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Weezer Lives Up To Reputation in the Red Album

Observer Scene | Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Listening to Weezer’s newest album is like reconnecting with an old childhood friend. You may have forgotten how much you liked them, or thought they (or you) had changed too much for things to ever be the same. But then you run into your old friend, start talking, and it’s like he/she never left.Weezer’s latest release, which is self-titled but nicknamed the Red Album, hearkens back to the good old days when Weezer was one of the best alternative rock bands around. It draws from several different eras of Weezer’s past, giving the album a diverse and eclectic feel.Many of the songs, including the first single “Pork and Beans,” feature a trademark Weezer power-pop sound, a la the Green Album. “Pork and Beans” could function as the album’s mission statement, boldly declaring: “I’ ma do the things that I want to do/I ain’t got a thing to prove to you.” If anything, this album is meant to transcend all expectations. Weezer proves that they’re out to make music however they see fit; no matter what that critics and overly demanding fans might want.One of the best examples of this “in your face” attitude is the song “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived.” River Cuomo, the band’s front man and chief songwriter, supposedly wrote the song and then later realized that he had subconsciously plagiarized the old Quaker hymn “Simple Gifts.” Nevertheless, he puts so many different spins on the melody over the course of the song that he truly makes it his own. The song shifts styles maniacally from hip-hop to punk to falsetto over piano to choral singing and back to power-pop, never letting you get bored. The song’s unpredictability and over-the-top self-promotion (with a good dose of irony) makes it one of the album’s best tracks, declaring that Weezer is through with messing around.Even on the crunchy power chord fare, the band shows a slightly more hostile edge, as in the songs “Get Dangerous” and “Troublemaker.” They still make good use of their nerdy, endearing sense of humor, but many of the songs also display a sort of aggressive energy that is mostly alien to Weezer. Though past hits “Buddy Holly” and “Hash Pipe” did hint at this rawer edge, Weezer maintains an ironic element of self-mockery, being the nerd rock kings that they are.Leaving the power-pop aside, the band also revives a slower, more heartfelt sound that has been conspicuously missing since Pinkerton. “Heart Songs” is a nostalgic tribute from Rivers Cuomo to his favorite artists from childhood, including a few surprises (ABBA?). The final track on the regular version of the album, “The Angel and the One,” starts with one low acoustic riff and repeats this theme over and over again, gradually building into a climactic and beautiful melody.The regular version of the album contains only 10 tracks, but the deluxe version, which is $3 more on iTunes, includes five more tracks. If you buy this album, definitely get the deluxe version as some of the best music on the album can be found in the bonus tracks. “Miss Sweeney” is a delightfully quirky yet moving song about a white-collar office yuppie falling in love with his secretary. It is one of the few times when Rivers Cuomo writes lyrics from another person’s viewpoint, although he most likely identifies himself with the man in the song. Several of the other bonus tracks feature more emotional, personal moments from Cuomo, which is when his talent as a songwriter shines forth the most.So don’t write Weezer off just yet as another 90s novelty band that will never make good music again. The Red Album gives us reason to hope.