Weezer, Weezer Interscope

Paul Wong
Courtesy of Interscope Records

Ultra-clever hipsters Weezer underwent a Frankenstein-like transformation between their first two albums, dropping the irony-laced witticisms on their eponymous debut, replacing them with Pinkerton”s tongue-in-cheek soul bearing couplets embraced by searing guitars. Their five-year deep freeze has brought about another change in the band”s musical dynamic this time, forsaking the rock that made Pinkerton a staple to the emo movement. It is their new record however, that is indeed a monster.

Titled Weezer (again) and packaged completely in lime green, the album cover (which features the four band members just standing around) and eponymous title are obvious throwbacks to Weezer”s 1994 days of yesteryear. They even nabbed the same producer in the Cars” Ric Ocasek for “the Green album.” This time around, the song isn”t the same, or moreover, the songs are all the same. Cuomo”s formulaic tuneage dominates the ten tracks on Weezer that, despite a rare exception, could”ve been written off a chord chart in a “Guitar for Beginners” book.

“Gonna break it down with a brand new sound,” sings Cuomo in “Glorious Day,” the ninth track on their sub-thirty minute opus Weezer. Weezer has in fact returned with a new sound featuring elementary pop-chord changes and impersonal lyrics.

Through singer/songwriter Rivers Cuomo”s autonomous dictatorship, Weezer was nearly crushed by its uber-personal mis-hit Pinkerton and Cuomo adopted the role of Boba Fett, freezing the band completely. Weezer vanished, completely.

And now the once hip, once ironic popsmart geek anti-heroes have returned, slinging chunky power chords against pop”s slick mainstream.

Long gone are the distempered freakouts that endeared Weezer to the emocore movement. Emotion has disappeared from Weezer”s new album faster than Pinkerton dropped off the Billboard album chart. In its place are “Oca-slick,” climate-controlled melodies and chunky guitars that made Weezer”s debut tick. Missing, however, is the music.

Stagnant and stalemated by simplicity, Cuomo has distanced himself from the album”s lyrics. Weezer”s debut album was emotionally detached compared to Pinkerton, but what carried the “blue” album was irony. Weezer was slackjaw poprock, Pavement for the pop-savvy. Now, Weezer is pure unadulterated pop, filtered right down to emotional alienation.

“When you”re on a holiday/Can”t find the words to say,” Cuomo coddles on the ultra-catchy “Island in the Sun,” which is backed by a wall of reverb, and propelled along by the quippy “hip-hip”s” which cruise along in tuned two-part harmony. His none-too-vivid portrait of a vacation, or a drug trip gone south is a fine example of Rivers” distance from his “new sound.”

“Photograph” makes no qualms about Weezer”s quest for commercial success. The song is catchy and smart, although it completely rehashes the musical formula that “Buddy Holly” used, right down to the handclapping. It sounds like the “second single” and maybe Spike Jonze will come up with a clever “Wonder Years” theme this time. Rivers Cuomo is a ringer for Paul Phifer.

First single, “Hash Pipe” has smoked its way up Billboard and is propelled by guitars equal parts Rick Neilsen and Spy Hunter. Cuomo”s brave use of falsetto pays dividends as this bright spot on “the green album” is like nothing Weezer has recorded before.

And being different is the problem on Weezer, as there isn”t much difference between the songs. They are similarly structured, and all feature simplistic vocal-line solos, which seems to be a nonchalant “screw you” to Cuomo”s metal roots, or his attempt to bang his infectious melodies into listener”s heads.

Despite its overwhelming blandness at times, Weezer is catchy as hell, chalked full of hooks and fortified with major-chord riffing, but it lacks the clever lyrics, irony and musicianship of their back catalog. Weezer”s schizophrenic third album showcases a band reeling from Pinkerton”s failure and simultaneously reaching for some sort of identity. Weezer seems to have forgotten who they wanted to be, and in that amnesia are stretching to be what people want Weezer to be, or what Geffen thinks will sell the most. It is after all “the Green album.”

Maybe Weezer”s ironic side isn”t gone.

Just hidden.

Grade: B-

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