In the past I’ve avoided (and have even mocked) musicians and bands that do things like collaborate with other artists, such as rockers who have rappers perform on songs. For my favorite artists, collaboration (unless if were of the Shatner-Folds-Weezer-Bill Clinton variety) really isn’t my musical bag. Another thing I’m not a fan of- bands whose lead singer doesn’t take up an instrument.
I don’t know why, these things have just annoyed me.
Well now it looks like I either have to accept these musical trends or find a new favorite band.
On Weezer’s newest album, Raditude (the Deluxe Edition), released today, the band collaborates heavily with other writers and artists, with one track even featuring (groan) a guest-rap from Lil’ Wayne. To top it off, during recent live shows, Rivers Cuomo has given up his guitar for large parts of the band’s sets.
What’s an old-fashioned Weezer/rock fan to think?
If that fan were me, and he gave Raditude a chance, he’d find out that for the most part, the collaboration isn’t a bad thing (although I hope in the future, they keep it to a minimum) and the album is a good, fun listen.
Despite my misgivings about the collaboration , Raditude works. There are a few underwhelming songs, but Raditude succeeds in being what Weezer wants it to be – a power-pop rock album highlighting the band’s versatility. There are ballads, straightforward rock singles and even a song that could be categorized as “world music.”
As evidenced by the title, Raditude is full of lighthearted, enjoyable rock. Pinkerton aside, Weezer was never a serious band (and even then, one could say they still had some goofiness under the surface) and the new album reinforces this.
I feel some songs are up there with the band’s best. The Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World, a song that’s been around for 11 years and the demo of which was released on last year’s Alone II, finally gets a full-band treatment. The spoken-word intro seems fitting after the wait the fans have had to endure for this song. Trippin’ Down the Freeway is an up-tempo rocker with a clever lyrical progression in the chorus (although I have no idea what a Shirley Applebee look is). Put Me Back Together (written with the help of the All-American Rejects) carries the emotional vulnerability of the Pinkerton years and sounds like it could have been written during Cuomo’s ’98-’99 recluse phase.
There are some other gems on the album, such as the lead single (If You’re Wondering if I Want You To) I Want You To, Let It All Hang Out, Can’t Stop Partying (the song with the aforementioned Lil’ Wayne cameo) and The Underdogs.
On the other hand, there are some tracks that just don’t work, such as I’m Your Daddy (while this one is listenable, the title just feels wrong, and the fact that they recently recorded a version of this with Kenny G makes me want to run), Get Me Some (where the band shows their metal influences, and while it’s good from that standpoint, it doesn’t really fit) and In The Mall (which sounds more like a joke song written for one of Andy Samberg’s SNL Digital Shorts).
The one song that I don’t know how to categorize is Love Is the Answer, a song originally recorded for 2005’s Make Believe and earlier this summer, given to Sugar Ray for a straightforward rock treatment. Well, Rivers took the song back and taking a page out of the George Harrison playbook, incorporated a heavy Indian influence, with Hindi backing musicians. It’s an interesting song, but I’m still trying to figure it out.
I like these songs, and would like to hear the band incorporate most of them into their live repertoire, including Run Over By a Truck, which features mainly a piano and drums, sounds like something Ben Folds would have dreamed up.
I like Raditude better than last year’s Red Album, for reasons including the return of guitar solos, and the fact that there’s one lead singer on the album, rather than four.
The other positive about Raditude doesn’t involve the album itself, but rather it’s release and promotion. Once again, Weezer is releasing a number of bonus songs (some lists have this number being as high as 30), including alternate takes and full band demos spanning a number of years. Some of these offerings (I Hear Bells) have been solid, while others (the Red Album’s Cold Dark World with Rivers on lead vocals) probably won’t be listened to again unless WinAmp hits it on random.
So while not everything on Raditude is among Weezer’s best, there is some truly excellent material here. Add to that the amount of extra material coming out and you have enough to make any Weezer fan happy.
Even if Rivers is giving up lead guitar duties and teaming up with other musicians.