Some reviewers have expressed a measure of ambivalence about this new Weezer album, and understandably so: it downplays some of the things the band's audience has come to expect and treasure.
Weezer's first record was a kind of dream come true for a certain type of bespectacled nerd--- the sort who plays Dungeons & Dragons, reads comic books, and worships Kiss (the band whose emboldening machismo is only complemented, for such listeners, by a makeup job worthy of the X-Men). For a legion of these dispossessed and marginalized geeks, "In the Garage" was an anthem, and "Only in Dreams," "Buddy Holly," and "Undone" were catchy love songs that spoke to their eccentricities.
"Pinkerton," with a raw sound that aped, according to Rivers Cuomo, the Steve Albini recording style, was a different expression of love, but it was aimed squarely at the same audience. The comic book-reading, Kiss-loving D&D player is often characterized by morbid sensitivity: for such a person (I speak from experience), love provides an idealized exaltation, and is worth clinging to and preserving at all costs, but when it goes sour (as it always does), it creates the kind of hurt that endures, that scars permanently. "Pinkerton," by comparison to the debut, was a cut nerve; it was a hypersensitive adolescent's cry of pain at lost love. With its bitterness ("Why Bother?"), its fantasies of unreal and childlike love objects in galaxies far, far away ("Across the Sea") and its tearful tales of clinging to love even when it is unhealthy to do so ("No Other One"), the record's bombastic evocations of loss hit home with anyone for whom the loss of a love was a vision of the Apocalypse. Like the debut, in other words, it was an expression of the feelings of a certain very specific demographic---only it was generally sad, while the other was generally ebullient.
None of this is meant to insult Weezer's accomplishment: both records were and are wonderful, and could locate the geek in anyone who listened without prejudice. One need not play D&D oneself to empathize with someone who does, or to be moved by the strange innocence and vulnerability Rivers Cuomo projected.
Now the NEW record retains these qualities, but expresses them far less lugubriously. "Island in the Sun" is a more plain-spoken version of the fantasy offered by the debut's "Holiday"; "O Girlfriend" is a soft-spoken and beautiful lost-love plaint that trades in the fire-and-brimstone hysterics of "Pinkerton" for a simple and poignant expression of human loss. The songs, meanwhile, are streamlined, short, and focused, produced for maximum physical force by Ric Ocasek. The record packs a sonic punch, and gets from start to finish quickly. Complaints about its brevity are misplaced; the point of a great pop record is drop a flurry of hooks in rapid succession and leave the listener wanting more. The new Weezer record does just this. In short, it offers less idiosyncratic and individualized portraiture of geek culture, and more pure pop sense. Consequently, it will hit a larger audience and be embraced by those who were somehow put off by all the nerdiness of earlier albums. But it still adumbrates enough nerdy despair to remind the nerds that Rivers is one of them, and that he understands them.
The reviewer who mentioned the early Beatles was smart to do so, but wrong to say that early Beatles records are characterized by filler (filler? where?). Early Beatles records were full of hits, but some were sleepers, while some stopped time the moment they were first heard. Weezer's new record is a more modest echo of such an achievement. Some of its songs, like "Photograph" and "O Girlfriend," will strike the listener right away. The others will sink in sooner or later. Terrific record. Go buy it.