Monday, June 9, 2008

So this new Weezer album...

sucks on ice. It's terrible. Easily the worst thing the band has ever recorded.

When Make Believe came out in 2005, no one wanted to listen to me arguing that "Beverly Hills" was a tongue-in-cheek send up of glamor culture, that Rivers didn't really want to be in Beverly Hills, he was just making fun of people who did. But what's weird is, now it's three years later, and Weezer's put out what's basically an entire record of "Beverly Hills," and people are going nuts for it!

It's not just fans. Critics love or at least like the Red Album. Rolling Stone's given it three stars. Spin magazine talks about how it's a "return to Weezer's roots." rates the album at four and a half stars. But the most audacious thing about AllMusic's review is this line, courtesy of head critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine, who usually I agree with 100%: "[Rivers] never avoids his age."


This whole album is an exercise in Rivers avoiding his age! With only one or two exceptions, every song on this album is about, in some capacity, being a rock star. Except, critics insist, it is an ironic take on this--Rivers makes fun of over-produced pop in "Pork & Beans," he mocks the faux bad-boy side of rock in "Troublemaker," he sends up the tendency of rockers to overvalue themselves and their work in "Greatest Man Who Ever Lived." Well, okay. That's one way to look at it. But it's not a good way.

This reading of the Red album would work if Rivers Cuomo was, well, a ROCK STAR. But he's not. It's been three years since his band's last album, and they didn't even headline their last tour. Each successive Weezer album (of course, except for this one, inexplicably) has been met by worse and worse reviews. Weezer is not a band full of rock stars... they are a band that, since 2001, has been trying to be rock stars again.

Given this, doesn't it seem a little odd that Rivers positions himself to critique pop music from the inside? If this album had come out in 1996, yeah, sure, that's good timing--you're rejecting the process of corporate pop/rock by making fun of it while you're on top of your game critically and commercially. You get to look down at others and scoff. But it's come over a decade later, when your only means of salvation as a band seems to be embracing that world. Hmm...

See, I have a much more insidious reading of this album. I'm pretty sure that the goal of writing all these awful songs criticizing rock stars is to make Rivers & co. be part of that same scene again. It's a weird kind of tactic in play here: "Yes, I am ridiculously cool. I'm so cool that even though I'm not famous anymore, I'm going to make an album tearing apart famous people from a perspective that only other famous people are privy to. By doing so, I will seem even cooler, and will become famous again." It's attaining proximity by distancing, and it's a great tactic in theory... at least for a rhetorician. Not so much for a musician, at least not one in a band whose early work was so praised because of its honesty. But it seems to have worked, because if the press is any indication, the Red album is some sort of comeback for Weezer. But to me, it's ridiculously transparent. You are not cool, Rivers Cuomo. And making fun of cool people does not make you cool.

If Rivers really had acted his age on the Red album, it could have been excellent. See, I have to say... I'm actually a fan of Maladroit and Make Believe. No, they're not classic Weezer, but they have some good songs on them. And that's what's really important... not cultivating some kind of pop-rock image like Red tries to do. And to me, it's really a shame... if Weezer had made Make Believe 2 I would have stuck with them, gone to see them live, and waited another three years for another okay album with terrible reception. But now all they're going to have is critical and commercial popularity. Yep... it's quite a shame.

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