Friday, July 11, 2008
Everybody's heard this album already. Everybody's reviewed it already. I feel like I'm late to the party here.
I can't call this a "One-Listen Review" 'cause I've heard this one second-hand a number of times. But this is the first time I've sat down and listened to it without distraction. Maybe I can bring a fresh new perspective to this album that nobody will expect!
Or maybe not. This album is pretty meh.
Track 1 - "Troublemaker"
Nothing new here, but I like it. Crunchy Cheap Trick guitar, starts off immediately with weird Rivers Cuomo vocals about being a badass or something. "Don't let me play football / I'll sack the quarterback / and jack the brother of the ball." Zip zup?
It's a catchy enough song, despite being wholly generic Weezer-by-numbers. But let's ignore that for a bit. Check out the chorus: "I'm a troublemaker / never been a faker / doin' things my own way / and never givin' up." Yes, Rivers is a "troublemaker." A rabble-rouser. He does things the way he wants to fuck the Man. He also goes on to claim that he's "not a double-taker," like he hasn't been repeating the same tepid Weezer formula for the past seven years.
There is one bit here I really like - Rivers has some weird line that's like "You wanted arts and crafts / how's this for arts and crafts?" and then bursts out with this zippity one-note guitar solo while singing "nananananana - THAT'S RIGHT!" It breaks things up a bit! It's cool! It's nutty! It's sadly atypical compared to the rest of the album!
Well, except for the next song.
Track 2: "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)"
Is Rivers Cuomo, like, Brian Wilson's Zoloft-addicted grandson or something? I'm not saying this in terms of talent - he's got a knack for melody, sure, but he's no Brian Wilson. But I do think the comparison is apt when you think of what a weirdo song-hoarding recluse he is, and not unlike the aforementioned Wilson he has a tendency to let his twisted self-absorbed mania seep creepily into his music.
"Greatest Man That Ever Lived" is the perfect encapsulation of both Cuomo's on-and-off genius and fucked-up perspective on modern popular music all in one. What other musician nowadays - hell, ever - would awkwardly rap lines like "You try to play it cool but you just don't care / But soon I'll be playin' in your underwear / I'm like the mage with the magic spell / You come like a dog when I ring your bell" over a sweet piano rendition of "Simple Gifts" and a fuckin' police siren? Who else would have a monk-ish choir sing "After the havoc that I'm gonna wreak / no more words will critics have to speak" over a martial drum beat? Who else would do an outright ludicrous auto-biographical spoken-word recitation ("Act 1 - I was strugglin' to survive / nobody wanted my action dead or alive / act 2, I hit the big time / the bodies be all up on my behind") over "doo doo!" backup vocals? NOBODY BUT RIVERS FUCKIN' CUOMO, PEOPLE.
But I really dig this song, and not just for the Cuomoist blathering - there's a lot of non-embarrassing catchy parts here too! I really like Cuomo's weird Freddie Mercury impression, and I love how after all these weird detours the song ultimately ends on a Weezer-by-numbers pop-grunge thing. Really, this song is so oddly fun and so totally warped that I would say it is, besides most of Pinkerton, the perfect example of Rivers Cuomo's schizoid personality ever committed to record. Psychologists looking to finish your term paper on fucked-up musicians, take note.
Seriously, there's almost no point in talking about the rest of the songs here. None are as good!
Track 3 - "Pork And Beans"
Rivers Cuomo is a badass, doesn't do what his label / the public / his friends / anybody with a brain wants him to do, yadda yadda yadda. This is the third chorus on the album that's totally self-absorbed. But let's not worry about that.
This was the big single, and the first song I heard from the album. I thought it was OK when I first heard it, then when the video came out I really dug it, with all those internet dudes in one place. Neat! Now I think it's just kinda OK again. I like how the main riff is that kind of awkward business Weezer perfected in "El Scorcho," and I like how the lyrics are a little more ballsy than the rest of the album (the Timbaland line is priceless). But otherwise, nothing huge.
Track 4 - "Heart Songs"
Track 5 - "Everybody Get Dangerous"
Ah shit, I thought the next track was "Dreamin'," which I kinda-sorta like. Instead it's this Red Hot Chilli Peppers shit.
I think the lyrics are about Rivers being a wuss? Like, the title is ironic or something? I don't want to look the lyrics up. I just don't care.
Track 6 - "Dreamin'"
Poppity hoppity zippty zow! I like this one - it's a fun uppity number that kinda reminds me of "Holiday" off Blue Album, although a bit more generic. "I'm dreamin' in the morning / I'm dreamin' all through the night / and when I'm dreamin' I know that it's alright." Something about this line just stands out as remarkably lazy, I don't know why. It's like the most obvious rhyme in pop music history.
But there's a really cool bouncy bridge here, and I really like the weird 80's-synth opening that makes no sense. Good stuff! (Except for maybe that "I don't wanna get witcha program" part at the end that makes even less sense.)
Track 7 - "Thought I Knew"
And here on we venture into "Other Band Members' Songs" territory, or as I like to call it "We Can't Have Rivers Funneling More Crap Out His Skull, Don't Tell Him We're Recording Today" territory. I think this one's by their lead guitarist? I forget his name.
Either way, I like this song better than the last few times I've heard it. Here's my problem with it: this guy's voice is douchey. It's like Uncle Cracker or something. I like the strummy hand-clap cuteness of it, but his voice just negates it for me. It doesn't help that the song itself is pretty generic.
Track 8 - "Cold Dark World"
ooooooooh it sucks rivers come back!
Track 9 - "Automatic"
The drummer sings this song. It's actually good! Probably better than a handful of the Rivers songs on here! No joke! It's got a good kind of groove and doesn't sound as hippy-dippy generic like most of the album.
Ok so let's say that these three songs by the other three band members have been Weezer's version of "The Dating Game." Bachelor number one attempted to make himself look sympathetic and sweet in a really obnoxious way, and bachelor number two attempted a really crappy pick-up line. But bachelor number three, hey - he's cool, laid-back, and fun! BACHELOR NUMBER THREE WINS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. He and Rivers can go on a sloppy makeout date in the Bahamas or something.
Speaking of Rivers, back to his shit.
Track 10 - "Angel and the One"
Why does this song remind me of Coldplay? Or maybe not Coldplay. Switchfoot? I don't know.
Hey, this one isn't bad! Kind of a sweet power ballad. Doesn't really sound like Weezer, though - sounds like one of the aforementioned generic wuss-rockers that've come to glory as of late. So that kinda sucks. But at least Rivers is still capable of an effective overblown ballad.
Ugh, Hoobastank maybe? I don't wanna compare Weezer to Hoobastank. But they almost sound like them. YYYYargh.
Inconsistent. Probably better than Make Believe but what the fuck isn't? If you're any kind of Weezer fan you should hear "Greatest Man That Ever Lived," which sums up this new brand of Weezer better than anything I've heard.
But that good 'ol underdog Weezer mystique is dead. Long dead. There'll never be a Blue Album again, or a Pinkerton, or even a Green Album. Cuomo just don't got the cojones anymore.
Either way, I will wait here in perverse anticipation of Cuomo's next breakdown set to music. The albums might not be all that great anymore, but as long as Cuomo keeps his heart sewn on his sleeve, we'll get at least one piece of "Greatest Man"-esque weirdness on every last Weezer album until Cuomo becomes the most awkward 50-year-old in the world and quits music forever. Doesn't he have a wife and a kid now? Shouldn't he be content instead of outright insane? WHAT IS THIS??