After the “Beverly Hills” debacle of a couple years ago, this writer didn’t hold much hope for the future of Weezer, who appeared to be riding on their solid and worthy 1990s albums’ reputations and riches, doing little worthwhile as of late. In the new millennium, Weezer, who had always walked that careful tightrope between schlock and Great Art, had fallen soundly into the schlock side, creating strictly gimmicky, heartless hits.
Not any more. OK. Well maybe still a little, but most of them are pretty great. And we can only say, it’s about time! Where’ve you been, men? And we do mean “men” in the plural, because perhaps the most exciting thing of all to say about this red album [Interscope], is that it’s not just lead singer/songwriter Rivers Cuomo’s moment in the spotlight.
Very few albums have one song that’s so good it makes a writer want to write a whole CD review because of it. And even fewer albums can say that that single song is sung and written by a supporting member of the band who doesn’t usually get the attention. But that’s the case with “Thought I Knew,” a tune written and sung by Weezer’s Brian Bell that should rightfully hold a spot in the Top 100 Songs of All Time, if this was a just world.
From his David Lowery-esque beginnings to the angrier chorus, “Thought I Knew” is musically invigorating, lyrically biting and smart, and original enough in composition not to sound like anything else you’ve heard before. If you’re not a Weezer fan, just buy this song from iTunes. It’s a dollar well-spent.
Also getting a chance to show off his talent is drummer Pat Wilson with “Automatic,” a solid pop song that, while maybe not life-changing, is catchy and imminently listenable.
If you are a Weezer fan, get ready: Rivers and Co. have more happy, quirky tunes—but this time, with heart. Yes, these are songs that once again make you feel something while also making you laugh. OK, so maybe this album isn’t quite as spectacular as their first three, but Weezer has gone back to proving they are artists. Just try and ignore that campy Village-People-ish CD jacket. Rivers as the Marlboro man? Brian as Barry Gibb? Ick.
Artistically, this is a great album of vocal and contextual experiments. “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived” is a set of noteworthy variations on an old Shaker hymn and quite brilliant, while still keeping its humor. “Heartsongs,” Rivers’ musical memories of the 70s and 80s, is sweet and sentimental without provoking the vomit reflex. But the real showpiece on this album is Rivers’ “The Angel and the One,” –the last track, and emotionally on par with greats like “Say It Ain’t So.”
Simply put, there is not a single offensive track in the mix. Take solace: Weezer is still with us, and they’re still artists. It’s just too bad about that cover.