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Weezer – [Album]

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Monday, 13 September 2010

Since the band first knocked fans for a loop in 1996 and released the abysmally received Pinkerton (okay, the album's stature has improved over time, but it was considered their folly upon release), Weezer has upheld a tradition of putting out a blockbuster record (usually referred to simply by the dominant color on the cover) and then following it with a slightly less satisfying (for fans) return. It's shocking when one really thinks about it, but the band's catalogue really does play out that way; for every blue and green album, there has been a Pinkerton or Maladroit – albums which, whether good or not, haven't necessarily done well commercially. That tradition faltered when “The Red Album” failed to make an impression comparable to “Blue” or “Green,” and Raditude seemed like an even weaker effort because it failed to resolve or re-script the pattern and found the band burrowing deeper into hollow, same-y and sophomoric songs instead. The question quickly became whether Weezer was beginning its' decline into mawkish self-parody but Hurley proves that all the band really needed was to be turned off their leash and be allowed to act their age. Immediately as “Memories” opens the record, listeners will note that the guitars are more fluid than chunky and imply a greater sense of delicacy and, as Rivers Cuomo takes the mic and plainly thinks back to where the band was (“Pissing in plastic cups before we went on stage/Playing hackey sack back when Audioslave was the Rage,” and, “In fact we didn't know what we were doing half the time/We were so sure of ourselves and sure of our way through life”) versus the comfy seat they're sitting in now, listeners know what the score on Hurley is going to be: Weezer has grown up and they're going to show it on this album.

The guiding principle behind Hurley is certainly to deliver a more mature message and every part of these ten songs reflects that; gone are the thick, Velveeta-laced guitars of “Buddy Holly” and “Beverley Hills,” gone are the twee, sweet sentiments of “Island in The Sun” and “Pink Triangle,” the plastic fangs of “Hash Pipe” and “Dope Nose” have been discarded and a more confident and self-secure mindset and sound sits in place of all those novelties. While Cuomo does venture close to the edge of their old sound and style in the reasonably plain and obtuse rocker “Where's My Sex?,” there's still a thread of worldly knowing, even there; the sparks and jolts of nervous energy are totally absent from Hurley, and songs like “Ruling Me,” “Trainwrecks,” “Smart Girls” and “Brave New World” all rock with a sublime swagger that fans who have waited for the band's overbearing shtick to end will find infectious.

As “Time Flies” appropriately sees the record out and leaves listeners to digest what they've just witnessed, some will find a bizarre little smile creep across their faces. It might sound weird, but the reasoning for it is simple; listeners have been waiting for Weezer to leave their extended, awkward adolescence behind for years but, while the band has found new and inventive ways to mask it, each of the last five albums has fallen short of that mark. Something about 'The Green Album,' 'The Red Album,' Maladroit, Make Believe and Raditude was always a bit off, awkward, misplaced or flawed in the band's mask and so, as hard as they may have tried to fake it, listeners have reluctantly spotted the contrivance. They won't find the same find of seam in Hurley though; this time, the band's growth is the real deal and they wear it surprisingly well. Here's hoping that Hurley sets Weezer's new standard and their next album sees them continuing on this path rather than backsliding.

Artist:

www.weezer.com/

www.myspace.com/weezer  

Album:

Hurley comes out on September 14, 2010. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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Weezer – [Album]

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Sunday, 13 December 2009

Recently, Weezer released their seventh studio album Raditude, which could have been more aptly titled “The Curious Case of Rivers Cuomo.” As bands get older, they mature; either setting or bucking trends with original wordplay and instrumentals. Cuomo and his band, however, seem to be tripping backwards in the sound-time continuum. Just like Brad Pitt, Weezer seems to get younger sounding every day. And their music is feeling the growing pains.

Their debut release made them underground rock darlings. Songs like “Undone (The Sweater Song)” and “Buddy Holly” made surf rock fun all over again whilst reinventing the crunchy guitars and heavy taste of 90’s rock. They arrived fully matured, with a style very much their own and a voice, via Cuomo, that demanded attention. They began with what most bands arrive at: individuality.

And thus began the retrograding.

Weezer’s albums since that debut have slowly circled towards the current trend and away from something particularly unique, example being The Red Album’s smash single “Pork and Beans” that had its roots in popular YouTube videos. Raditude continues that spiral. From start to finish, it’s a photograph of the current trends in pop rock. Lots of synth-inspired movement, churning guitars, and bopping beats that flow together seamlessly but don’t have much substance.

Take a look, for example, at the opening song, “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You Too.” It’s fun, upbeat, punchy, a rapid moving little love song that really showcases Cuomo’s considerable vocal prowess over a bedrock of rock noise. But it’s lacking that certain quality that makes it distinctly Weezer. This could be any fresh-faced MySpace band with really good audio quality.

The rest of the album reads about the same. “I’m Your Daddy” revamps 80’s-like synthesizers and guitar riffs like the youngsters are into these days, and “Can’t Stop Partying” blurs the lines between rock music and club music with an easy to find beat and some heavy-handed voice modulator usage. Style-wise, the biggest stand out is “Love is the Answer” with its Hindi flavored styling over crispy electric guitars and upbeat drumwork, but lyrically it feels a bit contrite. Sorry Rivers, I just can’t buy your Hands Across America message, and I’m not sure you buy it either. It feels like it was dropped into the middle of a rump-shaking pop rock album because being socially conscious is cool.

Is Raditude a horrible album? By itself, no. It has energy with a lot of solid alt-rock instrumentals, and Cuomo is no slouch at singing. If you’re, say, fifteen, or you like music but you’re not really into music, perhaps you’ll enjoy. Personally, I think a band as seasoned as Weezer should move more in the other direction, i.e. growing in their definitive sound, not degenerating into the babble of hormone driven lyrics (“I just want to, ooh ah/Feel your fire/Feel your fire/Feel your fire!”). Boys, childhood is fun but maturity is better. Green Day was able to stop singing about masturbating, why can’t you?

Artist:
www.weezer.com
myspace.com/weezer

Album:
Raditude is out now. Buy it on Amazon.

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Weezer – [Album]

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Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Weezer is back. And it’s the real Weezer this time. Make Believe may have been their biggest commercial success, but in the eyes of many fans and critics alike, it was a colossal failure. While The Red Album could be even more successful than its predecessor, this is the album that Weezer fans have been waiting for since the band returned in 2000.

“Troublemaker” is easily my favorite track on the record. Nothing groundbreaking here, clocks in at 2:46 and is catchy as hell, like all good Weezer.

The next track, “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived,” is definitely breaking new ground, for Weezer, anyway… This is Cuomo’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Opening with a Jay-Z-style rap, followed by short a Limp Bizkit-type romp, the song then stops with some falsetto and acoustic guitar. After a short pause with choral hymns reminiscent of SMiLE-era Brian Wilson and more falsetto, it morphs into what I call “proto-Weezer,” sounding like something heard on the band’s earliest demos.

“Pork and Beans” is classic Weezer. While “Greatest Man” may be his most ambitious songwriting effort, this one may be his crowning achievement. He’s written a song that will likely be huge, that expresses his feelings and is still in his definitive style. Ironically, the song came about after a meeting with the label where Cuomo was told they needed more radio-friendly tunes. Well, they got it, along with a big middle finger from the songwriter.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t shit on anything on this record, but I really don’t have anything good to say about “Heart Songs.” It may be personal for the songwriter, but from the TRL-ready backing track to the Weird Al/“We Didn’t Start The Fire” lyrical structure, this song just fails all around for me. Quoting a bunch of other songs in your song is usually never a good idea either.

“Everybody Get Dangerous” begins with a riff that reminds me of an unreleased song from 2002 called “Running Man” and ends with a drum and vocal freak-out. In the middle is a fairly solid, if forgettable, rock song. Though, it’s not often that the term “ninja swords” makes its way into a song.

“Dreamin’” is another solid, yet forgettable ballad. I knew that I had heard the “Ooh, ooh, whoas” before and sure enough, there is an old song called “You Are The Woman” by Firefall that has the same phrasing. Probably just subconscious plagiarism from Cuomo, something which he has been guilty of often in the past, as with anyone else who’s ever written more than a handful of songs, I suppose. “I Thought I Knew” marks the lead-vocal debut of guitarist Brian Bell on an official Weezer release. This was originally recorded by Bell’s side band, The Relationship, and has a more mature sound than anything else on the record. It’s almost adult-contemporary.

“Cold Dark World” is a song co-written by bassist Scott Shriner and he handled the lead vocals for part of the song as well. It has an epic, haunting mood, it reminds me of another unreleased track from 2002 called “Queen of Earth.”

“Automatic” is drummer Patrick Wilson’s lead-vocal debut on an official Weezer release. I haven’t been able to get my hands on this track or “The Angel and the One,” which people are saying is akin to the classic “Only In Dreams.”

So, there are some firsts on this Weezer record: the first time the band has used more than one producer on one record and lead vocals from someone other than Rivers Cuomo. This is also the first time since their debut album that he hasn’t written all of the songs on his own. While there is still not much substance lyrically, the band set out to make the best record possible, and musically I think they did. This is their strongest showing since Pinkerton.

More on Weezer here: www.weezer.com

The Red Album will be out June 3, 2008, on Geffen.

Weezer – “Pork and Beans” – [Video]

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