Weezer, 'Weezer' (Geffen)

7
Weezer
Critical Mass
Label: Geffen

by Barry Walters

As one of the few '90s alt-rock survivors still flaunting their weirdness while going platinum, Weezer understand conflicting demands: The fans want another nakedly personal Pinkerton, while the suits keep craving the pop that packed 1994's Weezer, a.k.a. the "Blue Album." As a result, the quartet's new brazenly conflicted Weezer, a.k.a. the "Red Album," plays like fragments of three differently wacky discs.

The Jacknife Lee–helmed singles added to the album at Geffen's behest -- "Pork and Beans" and "Troublemaker" -- rally against conformity while supplying spiffy hooks. It's a tribute to frontman Rivers Cuomo's enduring underdog talents that this duality isn't a contradiction. The same can't be said of three self-produced cuts featuring lead vocals and songwriting from guitarist Brian Bell, drummer Pat Wilson, and bassist Scott Shriner. Seemingly designed to prove Weezer aren't just Cuomo's backing band, they suggest otherwise, evoking Tom Petty, Van Halen, and Limp Bizkit B-sides, respectively.

It's the five Rick Rubin– produced tracks that trump 2005's sincere yet crassly commercial Make Believe. Here, Queen-size ambition coats blatant corn. With overdubbed voices and multiple key changes, freely goofy tracks like "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)" satirize hip-hop's self-aggrandizement and illustrate Weezer's central theme: If a wimp believes in himself, he can truly kick ass.

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