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Nothing to prove

Weezer - Weezer (The Red Album)
(Interscope Records)
1 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: June 6, 2008

Review by Tony Bonyata

"They say I need some Rogaine to put in my hair. Work it out at the gym to fit my underwear" sings frontman Rivers Cuomo on Weezer's latest album as if already conceding to old age at the cusp of 38. But in the very same song he also brazenly states, "I'm gonna do the things that I wanna do. I ain't got a thing to prove to you."

Too bad, because ever since they exploded on the alternative rock scene back in '94 with their strong self-titled release (aka The Blue Album), which yielded the hit singles "Undone - The Sweater Song" and "Buddy Holly," this entertaining quartet has turned in a wealth of power-pop tinged with metal and punk, along with the prepubescent sugar-buzz combo of too much Cap'n Crunch with too many Saturday morning cartoons. While it was certainly never rocket science, there's no doubt that singer/songwriter Cuomo had tapped into a winning formula with his songs and band, even when stepping outside of their poppy comfort zone, as proved on their underrated 1996 Pinkerton album.

Now on their sixth full-length release (their third self-titled one - this one already being referred to as The Red Album) it appears that the things Cuomo now 'wants to do' is churn out sappy pop geared for Clear Channel-approved "alternative" rock radio. While there's no denying the catchiness of their first single from the record, "Pork & Beans," the cliched power chords and familiar harmonies sound more like Weezer paint-by-numbers.

When they do manage to stretch out beyond their comfort zone a bit, it's not because Cuomo is pushing his own boundaries (although his faux-soul falsetto on the wonderfully convoluted number "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" is not without merit), but rather that Pat Wilson (drums), Scott Shriner (bass) and Brian Bell (guitar) have all contributed their songwriting skills and lead vocals to the tracks "Automatic," "Cold Dark World" and "Thought I Knew," respectively. Unfortunately none of these are standouts, but instead slightly respectable filler material (even if the chorus on Bell's "Thought I Knew" is hard to peel from the roof of your mouth).

While irony has always been an endearing strength of Weezer, their mix of hard rock and bubblegum pop on "Everybody Get Dangerous" is ironically (only this time unintentional) anything but dangerous. The mediocrity continues on rote, if not snappy pop songs such as "Troublemaker" and "Dreamin'," before it all breaks down with, arguably, the most insipid power ballad ever penned - "Heart Songs," where Cuomo waxes about all the bands and compositions that are his own personal 'heart songs.' If you're a longtime fan of this band, like myself, then this song (as well as the majority of this effort) will no doubt break your heart as well.

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Weezer Concert review - Sept. 2001

Watch Weezer - "Pork and Beans"

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