Review: Weezer – Red Album [2008]

By Jonathan Zuckerman

Well it’s seven years later and you all know what that means, another self-titled Weezer album. Their latest, which operates under the moniker The Red Album, is a frustrating mish-mosh of awesome tunes and utter disappointments. It’s a tough album to wrap your arms around but fortunately there are a few songs that are good enough to keep you coming back.

Chances are you’ve heard the first single “Pork and Beans.” If not, I can tell you it’s a zany but catchy little ditty which shows that Weezer haven’t totally lost their touch fourteen years after their acclaimed debut. The verses are loaded with oddball instrumentation that leads into a hard-driving, four chord, chant-along chorus. This song is easy to love and accept. Surprisingly, the same can be said of “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived.” In theory it shouldn’t work: one of the most socially awkward frontmen of our time boasting about how great he is over an ever-changing array of genres. It starts with hip-hop and ends with grandiose pop-punk stopping along the way for acoustic rock, spoken word, and Beach Boys style harmonizing. Perhaps the two best songs are “The Angel and the One” and “Dreamin’.” Both songs sound like they would fit on 1996’s Pinkerton yet they don’t sound out of date. They blend classic Weezer style with the more ambitious sound they are going for in other songs. It’s too bad that the rest of the album isn’t as classic.

One cringe-worthy song is “Heart Songs.” In this song vocalist Rivers Cuomo sings about every song he’s ever heard that inspired him. I appreciate what he is trying to do but it mostly comes off as corny. The half-assed chorus (“These are my heart songs/They never feel wrong”) only makes matters worse. This song is followed by another misstep called “Everybody Get Dangerous.” It has a chorus that’s easy to sing along to complete with moronic backing vocals but it has absolutely no flair. It’s this album’s version of “Beverly Hills,” which means it will probably be a huge single. They try to extend the fun with a mock “Sympathy for the Devil” send-up when they should have just ended the song as quickly as possible.

While these songs are lackluster, what really kills The Red Album is a trio of songs in which the other three band members each take a turn on vocals. The songs aren’t bad, it’s just that they don’t fit in with the rest of the album. They could have gotten away with “Cold Dark World” but that’s probably because it was written by Cuomo. Putting all three of these songs next to each other was a terrible idea and makes the listener forget what album they put on. The deluxe addition of the album has four bonus tracks that didn’t make it to the album. These songs are quite enjoyable and would have made a lot more sense than some of the songs that are there. I understand that they are trying to be fair and let the other members shine but the way they went about doing it was all wrong.

I can’t whole-heartedly recommend The Red Album but I wouldn’t call it a failure. The better songs rank very highly among Weezer’s catalogue. If you are a devoted fan of the band then go ahead and get the album, and make sure you get the deluxe edition. The bonus tracks are worth it. If having the complete picture isn’t important to you then just download the good songs.

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