Release Date: November 3, 2009
It is on the verge of unthinkable that Weezer have been strumming power chords in our eardrums for fifteen years now, but alas it is the case. The Blue Album and Pinkerton seem eons ago, two albums that forever cemented Weezer’s importance in the music landscape for the time: The former an exercise in memorable, near-perfect power-pop, the latter a sophomoric seismic shift in sound dismissed by many initially, but later rediscovered as a cult classic and the potential ground zero for the birthplace of that genre they call “emo.” The 21st century hath wrought a grab bag of efforts by the band, from downright awful (Make Believe) to passable (last year’s The Red Album) to decent (Maladroit and The Green Album). With all of the frustrations that have come, every new Weezer album is still an exciting possibility for the prospect of a return to glory, or perhaps the unthinkable: Artistic development. Instead, we have Raditude, one of the most frustrating to decipher, polarizing albums of the year.
Maybe I’m simply reading between the lines too much. Maybe I so desperately want to find legitimacy in Raditude. I’m not entirely sure, but this is what Rivers and Co. have provided us this year: Ten tracks of mostly typical, mostly simplistic power-pop from the guys who basically own the blasted hyphenated subgenre. Rivers Cuomo is a damn Harvard graduate, yet instead of lyrical masterpieces, we get some of the most vacuous content this side of the Top 40. To recap thus far: Nothing groundbreaking.
Negative much? Well, here’s where the frustration starts to come into play. It is no secret that Cuomos loves pop music, and it would be ridiculous to think the power-pop sound of Weezer would just up and go away. That being said, going into the album cognizant of this, Raditude is pretty up to par. In fact, it is pretty sharp. The lengthily-titled “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” is a fantastic example of this, pulling out all the stops to deliver a quite humorous tale of teenage romance (I mean, look at the title), all set to foot-stomping drums, light and breezy guitar strumming, and an effectively infectious chorus. The overwhelmingly emotional inability to pull the proverbial trigger has never seemed so fun and funny.
After this, the opening track, things get a little less certain except for one simple fact: Almost every song immediately sticks with you. Power-pop tends to do that. The song titles and subject matter are a bit questionable at best (“The Girl Got Hot”? “In The Mall”?), but amidst all of this simplicity and borderline inanity is some humor and some legitimate humming to be had. “Put Me Back Together” is a halfway decent attempt at sincerity without sounding too cheesy or forced, as is the apropos closer “I Don’t Want To Let You Go”. There are no major attempts at grandiose this time around (à la “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived”) but Weezer dared to try something different by doing something that literally every current musical artist in existence has done: Have a song featuring Lil’ Wayne. The result is “Can’t Stop Partying”, a definite head-scratcher to say the least. Obviously, there is some sarcasm and irony being thrown at us, but it’s not like it’s even that amazing. On the other hand, I can’t get the damn song out of my head. Catchiness should never, ever be mistaken for quality, but maybe at the very least this can be considered a hyper-guilty pleasure. The only other break from the typical is “Love Is The Answer”, what with its Indian influence on a slow jam that sounds like something U2 might do in ten years. The cheese factor is too great to ignore here. To recap thus far: A few legitimate good Weezer-type songs, some okay ones, and a few groan-inducing ones. Or, nothing surprising.
The whole mindfuck comes into play when the following is considered: Is this all a joke? Is there something bigger at play here? We are hearing a near-40-year-old man sounding like a pubescent boy on half of these tracks, using words like “homie” that when you hear them, it is all too reminiscent of that one older relative that tries too hard to be hip and fly, too, son. Is there some riding metaphor here or is this just pathetic? Is this actually album through the lens of a teenage boy? Considering the artwork, the lightning-bolt album title font, the album title itself and its songs, it would not be a shocker. Better yet, is this an album of an über-intelligent middle-aged man realizing his dissatisfaction with the prospect of his newfound outlook on life, and the only way he can cope is to act and think like a child? That would certainly put a hell of a spin on it.
Whatever it is that I can’t put my finger on, this album just doesn’t seem like a big “fuck you” to its listeners. It just feels like there is something more than meets the eye. In the end, it has me coming back to it again and again. There is something to be said for that ability of an album. Raditude can be thought of as a complete entity way more than Weezer’s past efforts, at the very least. It might not be spectacular, it might not be the most sonically or lyrically complex album this year, and it might not be easy to defend, but dammit…it is a decent slice of, dare I say, fun, something Weezer always seem like they’re having. Put it on with the right set of mind and enjoy some solid pop jams and a few laughs.
Weezer - "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To" - YouTube