After listening to Weezer’s seventh release, you may want to describe frontman Rivers Cuomo with one word: demented. The bespectacled, Harvard-groomed crooner has a sadistic streak; that’s the easiest way to explain Raditude, an aggressively obnoxious 30-minute montage of FM-radio real-estate grabs, superficial genre-hopping, embarrassing diction — “friends” are referred to as “homies,” etc. — and the tragic song-title deployment of the phrase “I’m Your Daddy.”
It’s all especially cruel given Weezer’s history with critics and fans. There’s still a segment of diehards wandering in the desert, waiting for the return of the band that created 1996’s wounded masterpiece Pinkerton. Cuomo seems to hate these people, torturing them by marbling each of Weezer’s 21st-century albums with greater and greater strains of gross commercialism, insincerity, and excess. He even closes Raditude with “I Don’t Want to Let You Go,” a drum-machine-powered ballad whose lyrics mirror those of Pinkerton‘s heart-rending closer “Butterfly” if rewritten by a remedial reader.
But in Cuomo’s mind, the Pinkerton obsessives have shown a clueless lack of humor, while he’s been increasingly writing songs that double as elaborate jokes. It’s true that Weezer’s ’90s output was funny, but back then the punch lines were just clever enough to avoid triteness. Now, though, Cuomo operates at two extremes: the ultra-dumb and the ultra-meta. Both can be infuriating.
How to justify “I’m Your Daddy,” a strutting jock jam about wooing a “baby” on the dancefloor? How can we carry on if we take the anemic wannabe club-thumper “Can’t Stop Partying” — featuring Jermaine Dupri, Lil Wayne, and most nauseatingly, a Patron-demanding Cuomo — at face value? Where to turn when we realize that the only purpose of the Bollywood ululation on “Love Is the Answer” is to differentiate it from the version already recorded by Sugar Ray?
The answer to these questions and more is that Raditude is a concept album about, by, and for, total schlubs. Imagine a dude, mid-30s, starting to bald, a nine-to-fiver with Borat quotes on his tongue, cutting loose over some Jager at a nameless club with his buds. Imagine a kid, 17, whose world is ruled by Slayer and hormones, for whom every emotion is frustratingly mercurial except for the one he has towards that girl. Imagine an accomplished rock singer, settling into middle age, realizing that the only sure bet in music is that it feels good to make millions of people bop their heads to the same tune.
Accepted on these terms, Raditude might be enjoyed for what it is — extremely catchy, fist-pumping pop — and for what it represents: escapism. Still, its flaws are obvious; the second half sags, the ballads bore, and weirdly, it’s too short. Old-school Weezer fans won’t like it, and neither will blog-rock acolytes. But that’s the point. Raditude is the murderous revenge of the middlebrow.
WATCH: Weezer, “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” https://www.youtube.com/embed/HCoM1aAm8nU