We don’t wish any romantic disasters upon Weezer per se, but would it hurt frontman Rivers Cuomo (who is, by all accounts, happily married) to find some fresh inspiration — or a new rhyming dictionary? Lyrics that once seemed cheeky and slyly referential back in the halcyon days of their 1994 debut (think ”Buddy Holly”) and 1996’s Pinkerton (”El Scorcho”) have become tiresomely Seuss-ical on their sixth outing, Weezer. Clearly, a band that has named a full half of its releases eponymously — this one is unofficially dubbed the Red Album — isn’t big on mixing things up.
Still, it feels odd that a 37-year-old man — a Harvard-educated disciple of Vipassana meditation, no less — relies on such Cat in the Hat couplets as ”I’m such a mystery/As anyone can see/There isn’t anybody else exactly quite like me,” from album opener ”Troublemaker.” His sharp sense of melody is undeniably intact, but the remedial rhymes on the bombastic mini-rock opera ”The Greatest Man (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)” mar an otherwise intriguing musical experiment. First single ”Pork and Beans,” a cheeky ode to individualism, builds on the most shredding guitar hook they’ve had in years, even if the chorus —”I’ll eat my candy with the pork and beans/Excuse my manners if I make a scene” — is just…odd. ”Heart Songs,” a sweet fanboy love letter to musical heroes, fares better, and it’s nice to hear other band members take over lead vocals, as guitarist Brian Bell and drummer Pat Wilson do on the kicky pop nuggets ”Thought I Knew” and ”Automatic,” respectively.
In the end, however, there is simply not enough here that distinguishes the band from any of the countless suburban-garage imitators it’s no doubt spawned. Surely Weezer must have learned something in the previous 15 or so years that could bring a touch of new artfulness to what they do? Perhaps it’s unfair to ask that our pop stars show some great evolution as they age (and Cuomo’s quickie makeover — goodbye, horn-rims; hello, mustache! — doesn’t count). But if we’re still paying attention, it probably means we want to see them learn and grow. After all, we’re getting older too. B-
DOWNLOAD THIS: Watch the video for ”Pork and Beans” at vh1.com