Early word on the sixth album from Weezer--and their third self-titled record, although fans, sensibly, are referring to it as 'The Red Album'--is that this is their 'experimental' record. Luckily, Rivers Cuomo isnt interested in penning his own jazz odyssey; for him, experimental is just finding cunning ways to nuance Weezers stock-in-trade--crunchy, candy-sweet guitars and vocal harmonies--with new pop tricks. The sardonic lyric of "Pork and Beans" hints at a new direction: "Timabaland knows the way to reach the top of the charts," Cuomo sings, "maybe if I work with him I can perfect the art". Actually, Timbalands not on board, but producer Jacknife Lee brings a variety of drum machines and electronics, and Weezer rise to the challenge with some generally inspired messing around. "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Theme)" sees Cuomo adopt a gangsta rap slur over screaming sirens, while elsewhere, the other three Weezer members take a turn at the microphone. But its Cuomos songs that are the winners--notably "Heart Songs", a tribute to the songs that "never feel wrong" that swoops from melodic schmaltz to grunge scuzz with a deft invocation of Nirvana. Skip to the bonus tracks, meanwhile, for a great cover of "The Weight" that takes The Bands original and drenches it in chundering guitars.--Louis Pattison
Weezer have been releasing records with varying commercial and cult success for 14 years, and their latest offering The Red Album is quintessentially theirs, but with a somewhat misguided twist. The noticeable difference with this, their sixth effort, is that it lacks a sense of coherency and direction, probably as a result of frontman Rivers Cuomo relinquishing overall control and making the creative process a free-for-all. This has worked in places, but overall the tracks feel unfinished and distract from the increased experimentation originally intended.
Like its predecessors there are that handful of truly amazing power-pop tracks which demand you sit up and pay attention, or dance around your room. Lead single Pork and Beans, alongside Troublemaker and Everybody Get Dangerous exemplify Cuomo's signature punchy cords and lyrics, drenched in satirical wit and geeky bravado. Flanking these musical powerhouses are several slow burners which benefit from a few listens. They are like a pleasant country drive you're quite enjoying, until you realise each hedgerow looks like the next and you are left wondering why you got in the car in the first place.
The saving grace of this album is The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations On A Shaker Hymn), with a glorious mish-mash of styles, ideas and genres that would sit most happily in an obscure Swedish prog set. If this is the future of the aging Weezer then the future is sounding good. That is if the band concentrate more on this type of intensive diversity, and less on the sort of mediocre meandering on the second half of the record. An album easily dismissed on first listen, this is actually better than you think. --Milly Lewis
Find more music at the BBC This link will take you off Amazon in a new window