Weezer (The Red Album)
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Reviewed by Red Rocker
First to the stuff that works: opening track “Troublemaker” and first single “Pork and Beans” are vintage Weezer, revved-up guitars blazing, rhythm section pounding, and goofy, rhyme-at-any-cost lyrics abounding. The cheeky “Heart Songs” kicks a ‘70s K-Tel ballad vibe before morphing into a predictable power ballad, also a signature of what we’ve come to expect from the Gods of geek rock. The lyrics are a hoot, too, as Cuomo name-drops what seems like 100 past artists from Cat Stevens to Devo, Quiet Riot, and Debbie Gibson. The cleverest of the batch reads, “Back in 1991, I wasn’t having any fun, ‘til my roommate said, ‘C’mon on!’ and put a brand new record on. Had a baby on it, he was naked on it, then I heard the chords that broke the chains I had upon me.” “Everybody Get Dangerous” finds Cuomo doing his best Anthony Kiedis and should make for a decent radio hit, given it was featured in the movie “21”.
The heavier percentage of The Red Album, unfortunately, succumbs to the aforementioned experimental element, especially the second half of only a ten-song record. In an ill-advised attempt at delivering a true group project, the three members not named Cuomo are permitted to write and sing lead vocals on their respective song. Oh, and they are tracked in succession on that sub-par second half. It’s not that Brian Bell’s “Thought I Knew” or Pat Wilson’s “Automatic” are altogether disposable – Scott Shriner’s “Cold Dark World,” on the other hand, is complete rubbish – it’s just that they sound borrowed from respective side projects, not Weezer’s calling. The gravest Red Album misstep, however, comes early with “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn),” a song who’s title is every bit as long and awkward as the song itself. In a disastrous six-minute operatic ode to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” complete with Freddie Mercury’s falsetto and all, they venture into hip-hop, spoken word, gospel choir, and classic rock, segment by painstaking segment.
For a band like Weezer, who has been together with relatively few lineup changes, producing a steady flow of relevant alt-rock, albeit geeky, for 15 years now, some degree of latitude should rightfully be afforded come a sixth album. After all, sewing together ten new sweater songs wouldn’t do much to feed the artistic appetite of a guy like Cuomo, now, would it? In the end, The Red Album will likely hold the fans over and keep Weezer together doing what everyone wants them to do – living to tell another geeky day.