A Red Album Review From A Weezer Fanboy

The problem with new Weezer albums is that they are almost always compared by reviewers to the group’s previous efforts.

Reviewers often make up for their lack of creativity or unwillingness to move on with life by mentioning the band’s other efforts, previous bassists or frequent hiatuses. Unfortunately, this takes focus away on what the reviewer is supposed to be doing (reviewing a new album) and places it on the fact that the reviewer is living in the past.

So here it is, a commentary on Weezer’s recently released album, Weezer (2008, a.k.a The Red Album) that keeps mention of certain issues to a minimum.  And by the way, we’re not talking about the roody-poo ten-track CD that was issued. As far as I’m concerned, The Red Album is the 14-track “bonus/deluxe” edition.

After a listen to The Red Album, three words come to mind: bold, fun, rock.

For a band that has, in the past, perfected the 2.5 minute power pop song, this album is adventerous. This album features longer songs, increased use of synthesizers and other instruments, and different songwriters/lead singers throughout its 14 tracks. However, the most bold of all moves, especially for a band whose lead guitarist can shred, is the total lack of guitar solos.  But the beauty of that move is they’re not missed. These songs throw a lot out there. Case in point, The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn), showcasing about ten different musical styles, all united around a common theme in five minutes. Or Dreamin’, another five-minute gem which takes a light pastoral break in the middle of the rock.

On the surface, the two aforementioned songs aren’t emotionally deep.  The lyrics of TGMTEL are essentially five minutes of rock star posturing from Rivers, set against different genres of music. Not every track needs to whine with emotion. Weezer has succeeded in making quality rock that’s fun to listen to and sing along with.

This is not a lightweight album. If it’s emotion you’re looking for, consider The Spider or Pig, where Rivers contemplates his morality and place in the universe. There’s also Pat Wilson-penned Automatic, which he calls “family rock.” Or, probably the deepest song on The Red Album, The Angel and the One, a soaring number that just builds and builds before a long wind-down, much like the most underrated song on The Beatles’ self-titled album, Long, Long, Long.

The Red Album contains a lot of reflection, something you’d expect from Rivers, who a) wrote Pinkerton and b) meditates for fun. But not all of this introspection is in angst.  Most of it drives the music and ties into the fun aspect mentioned earlier. Consider the album opener Troublemaker, where Rivers sings of his childhood wishes to be a rock star (complete with reference to that awkward phase in ’99), or Pork and Beans, where he discovers he’s just fine with himself.  The introspection is all over the album, just not how you’d expect it.

In recent interviews, Rivers has expressed an interest in expanding himself musically and lyrically. No longer content with “generic” sounding songs, he’s mixing up arrangements, and even starting to write music from the perspective of other people. One of the unexpected gems of the album, Miss Sweeney is a good example of this. The song, about a boss who has some strong feelings for his assistant, features Rivers doing some quasi-rapping in the verses, followed up by big strong hooky rock for the choruses.  Listening to the verses, you wouldn’t think the song would amount to much, but as a whole, Weezer really knocks this one out of the park.

With all of this considered, you really can’t compare Red to any of the other Weezer albums. Band collaboration has increased exponentially. There are different songwriters and even singers.  The band is in a different place when it comes to promoting the album and allowing their fans to hear what’s been produced along the way. As I’ve mentioned previously, it’s an exciting time to be a Weezer fan. And this is the perfect album for that time.

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