Release Date: Jun 3, 2008
Record label: Geffen
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
An old critical cliché is that eponymous albums are statements of purpose, so what to make of Weezer and their third color-coded self-titled album? Well, the band proves that axiom true, as every one of these eponymous efforts functions as an act of introduction, from their 1994 Blue debut to their 2001 Green comeback to 2008's Red Album, where Rivers Cuomo turns many of the group's long-standing rules upside down. This isn't a radical sonic makeover -- ever a pop formalist, Rivers has Weezer stick to their signatures of big guitars and bigger hooks -- but rather a question of attitude, as Cuomo loosens up as he stares down his impending middle age, choosing to get silly rather than serious. He tears down his self-imposed three-minute barriers, writing two long-form suites (and another track that clocks in over five minutes), he sneers at Timbaland's hitmaking prowess in "Pork and Beans," he never avoids his age, whether he's making asides to Rogaine or indulging in warm nostalgia in the pseudo-"In the Garage" sequel "Heart Songs" and, most importantly, he steals a page from the Noel Gallagher playbook and deliberately shares the spotlight with his bandmates.
We don’t wish any romantic disasters upon Weezer per se, but would it hurt frontman Rivers Cuomo (who is, by all accounts, happily married) to find some fresh inspiration — or a new rhyming dictionary? Lyrics that once seemed cheeky and slyly referential back in the halcyon days of their 1994 debut (think ”Buddy Holly”) and 1996’s Pinkerton (”El Scorcho”) have become tiresomely Seuss-ical on their sixth outing, Weezer. Clearly, a band that has named a full half of its releases eponymously — this one is unofficially dubbed the Red Album — isn’t big on mixing things up. Still, it feels odd that a 37-year-old man — a Harvard-educated disciple of Vipassana meditation, no less — relies on such Cat in the Hat couplets as ”I’m such a mystery/As anyone can see/There isn’t anybody else exactly quite like me,” from album opener ”Troublemaker.
I feel bad for Weezer. I really do. No matter what they put out, there’s gonna be a bunch of haterade-drinkin’ haters out there who will insist on comparing anything new to their first two records and argue that they just aren’t the same band. Of fucking course not – those records came out over a decade and a half ago.
Weezer albums reveal their pleasures quickly or not at all, so this review was fairly easy to write. Basically, the Red Album is not as bad as you’ve heard nor as good as you might have hoped. The big problem as I see it is that Rivers Cuomo, like most people, doesn’t have anything interesting to say, though he has cultivated an interesting way of saying it.
It's getting harder and harder to call myself a Weezer fan. I still count the band's 1994 self-titled debut (most often called the Blue Album) and it's 1996 follow-up, Pinkerton, as two of my favorite all-time discs, and not for nostalgia's sake but because they are legitimately solid, timeless records. I'll even stand behind 2001’s self-titled full-length (known as the Green Album): Sure, it’s cheesy and glossy, but it's a polished gem of a pop-rock record, all hooks and straightforward, sugary melodies.