At this point it’s safe to say that Weezer has no interest in recreating Weezer (The Blue Album) or Pinkerton. On their seventh studio album, Raditude – a title suggested to Rivers Cuomo by The Office USA’s Rainn Wilson – Weezer turn in a well-shined, radio-ready pop album by a group of once underdog, now nerdily iconic rock ‘n’ roll jokesters to mixed effect.
Here, Rick Rubin has been replaced behind the boards by Jacknife Lee and Butch Walker, and songwriting co-credits go to such diverse characters as hip-hop producer Jermaine Dupri (Let It All Hang Out) and members of The All-American Rejects (Put Me Back Together). The trumped up self-righteousness and faux badassery Cuomo touted so heavy-handedly on 2008’s Weezer (The Red Album) takes center stage, and the beats are polished to mirror-like shinyness.
The opener, and first single, (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To, is a bouncy, frolicking indication of what the rest of the album has in store. Cuomo sings about finding love and all the ups and downs and awkwardness that come along with it, with such pedantic lines as, “We watched Titanic and it didn’t make us sad,” and “I took you to Best Buy / You took me home to meet your mom and dad.” But the melody’s catch and the beat here is so danceable, you don’t mind that it’s aped from The Cure‘s Close To Me.
The most buzz-worthy track on the album, and the biggest departure from Weezer’s usual sound is the synth-heavy, dancefloor slow jam, Can’t Stop Partying, which features a bizarre – but not unlikable – guest appearance by rap superstar Lil’ Wayne. During a thumping half-time breakdown, Wheezy sings, “Okay, bitches / Weezer and this Wheezy / Upside-down MTV / Please don’t shoot me down, because I’m an endangered species.” Despite the obvious this-isn’t-the-Weezer-I-love complaints, Can’t Stop Partying may just be destined to become a Weezer classic.
Love Is The Answer is hardly a Weezer song at all, with its Hindi chanting and sitar drones, but it works beautifully. In a rare serious turn on the album, Cuomo brings a bit of his meditative philosophy into the music, and sings, “There will come a day when we transcend all our pain / Until that day, take it easy on yourself.” This one should have been a complete misfire, but instead it comes across as this decade’s We Are The World.
Hidden within all the variation and departure from formula, there are a few tracks here that sound quite a lot like the Weezer of yesteryear. The Girl Got Hot could have easily been written during the Pinkerton days with its sing-along arena-ready chorus and driving post-grunge rhythm. Even the subject matter is decidedly Pinkerton-esque: Cuomo tries to woo a formerly plain, now surprisingly hot girl (he compares her to Kiki Dee) with an “eagle feather in her feathered hair,” at a rock ‘n’ roll show. This hot girl would certainly fit among the likes of the lesbian in Pinkerton’s Pink Triangle, or the redhead of “shred the cello” fame in El Scorcho.
Tripping Down The Freeway opens with Cuomo singing, “I told you that you had put on some weight / You went out with somebody named Kevin Green,” and continues with a bizarre story of hot and cold love with the same reckless abandon as 2008’s Get Dangerous. This one also features the first all out guitar solo of the album – and six tracks in, mind you – Cuomo’s best since the game-changing Maladroit, in which he allegedly made guitar solos the new black. Let It All Hang Out, and the ridiculous track, In The Mall (a somehow more nerdy answer to In The Garage?) also deserve mention as being near returns to form.
Overall, this one’s largely forgettable, and plays primarily as a jokey – if not well produced – one-off continuation of The Red Album. It serves as neither a welcome step back or as much of a step forward. Let’s take the obvious: There’s an airborne dog on the cover and Rainn Wilson supplied the title. We couldn’t really have expected greatness, could we?