Back in January, when Weezer mastermind Rivers Cuomo told fans to expect “longer songs, non-traditional song forms, different people writing and singing, instrument switching, TR-808s, synths, Southern rap and baroque counterpoint,” we should have taken him more seriously. The Red Album completes Weezer’s homage to primary colors, and despite a shockingly bad collection of lyrics, it could also be their best release yet. Only eight tracks of the expected ten have leaked so far, and the album’s not due to hit until June 3rd. However, these tracks confirm that, with the help of Rick Rubin and Jacknife Lee, Rivers Cuomo and Co. have set a creative high watermark for themselves by adding new colors to the familiar palette, complete with unexpected blind turns and trap doors.
Here’s our track-by-track rundown:
The “here’s your goddamned over-the-top pop song” track Pork And Beans, the album’s first single, was inspired by the label’s reaction to the first handful of tracks Cuomo delivered for the album. Geffen rejected the lot and told Mr. Buddy Holly to write catchier songs. Furious, Rivers went over the top, penning the single’s ridiculous lyrics with the label heads specifically in mind. He doesn’t leave much room to misinterpret the sneer in lines like Timbaland knows the way to reach the top of the chart / Maybe if I work with him I can perfect the art. The updated Weezer sound, a lot like the old sound. Fits right in with Hash Pipe and Beverly Hills. (Is that a good thing? Geffen seems to think so.)
The mischievous, bobbing pop of Troublemaker guarantees another instant-hit Weezer party jam- ungodly lyrics compensated for by super-catchy delivery, a fun, jumpy chorus and enough little trap doors to hold my interest. It’s self-serving, simple and rockin.
Like American Idiot and Knights Of Cydonia before it, The Greatest Man That Ever Lived is an overly ambitious clusterfuck of an attempt to write an “epic,” progressive anthem (complete with snare-roll interlude behind a choir of male voices). Fortunately for the band, it kinda works. The counterpoint harmonies are awesome, already drawing comparisons to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Then again, the entire thing could just be a patchwork of leftover riffs that never became full songs. It’s hard to tell.
The beautiful, corny Heart Songs is presumably an ode to the soundtrack of Rivers’ youth, nostalgically referencing everyone from Rick Astley and Terrence Trent D’Arby to Iron Maiden, and the addictive-as-crack vocal cadence is the reason this will undoubtedly be one of several tracks on the record to kick the shit out of radio this summer.
Driven by a slick, galloping riff, Everybody Get Dangerous is a fierce track with a mean delivery, a stadium sing-along chorus and, goddamned ridiculous lyrics aside, further reason to believe that Mr. Cuomo might have made a hell of a rapper in another life. Call me crazy, but I’d put my rebate check on the bet that Weezer and Beck could produce some of the most bad-ass party jams ever. Stay tuned for the Sympathy For The Devil call-outs at the end. There’s an unfortunate lack of solos on the album, and this track is screaming for one.
The Weezer anthem machine is really crankin’ em out here. Dreamin’ is easy, gorgeous and the closest thing the band has come to Jimmy Eat World’s trademark heartsick melody this side of Pinkerton. The counterpoint vocals are once again a highlight. Summertime singalong jam, sure to clog your FM dial in the next few months.
Thought I Knew– For a second I thought iTunes was fucking with me, planting some weird-ass Depeche Mode cover band song where the next track should be- until the vocals began. But the 80’s synth beat’s just another bizarre turn in the kaleidoscope landscape of The Red Album. Guitarist Brian Bell steps up to the mic on this one, sounding a hell of a lot more like fuckin’ Del Amitri than anything Weezer, but the chorus holds the piece together to deliver an upbeat, straightforward acoustic jam.
The lyrical idiocy is just too damned shameful to take on Cold Dark World, but the delivery’s catchy enough if you can get through the lumbering, uninspired chorus. It’s a shame that this is the last track (so far), because it leaves the listener underwhelmed. After hearing the eight songs that have leaked so far, I’m looking forward to the other two, Automatic (is it some kind of rule that you have to let the drummer sing one of his songs on the sixth record?) and Angel And The One.
The Red Album is undeniably Weezer, but the individual songs are so varied in both tone and structure that it’s difficult to view it as an entire piece. Granted, there are still two pieces of the puzzle missing, but it likely won’t change anything once they surface. Cuomo can write a hook like nobody’s business, and like just Dave Grohl, he’s moving ever-closer to perfecting the pop-rock anthem.
Weezer (The Red Album)
Available: June 3rd
2. The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations On A Shaker Hymn)
3. Pork And Beans
4. Heart Songs
5. Everybody Get Dangerous
7. Thought I Knew
8. Cold Dark World
10. The Angel And The One
11. The Weight (UK Bonus Track)
12. Life Is What You Make It (UK Bonus Track)
Reviews published prior to February 23, 2015 used a 1-5 star rating system.