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Weezer - Weezer (The Red Album)

Weezer, Weezer

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

WEEZER’S sixth studio album – the third to be called Weezer – plays like a pick ‘n’ mix of their finest moments – and that’s not a bad thing.

Ironically, it’s the first to feature all four members contributing songwriting credits and singing lead vocals. But fans anticipating a new sound or a change of direction can rest assured, this is still the sound of the Weezer they know and love.

Weezer, or The Red Album as its been dubbed, is brimming with classic anthems, whether it’s the feelgood vibe attached to the Jacknife Lee produced lead single Pork And Beans to the quieter introspection of acoustic slow-burner Heart Songs.

There’s even two very effective cover versions of The Band’s The Weight and Talk Talk’s Life Is What You Make It.

In America, the album received an indifferent response from critics but has proved another massive hit for the band themselves, proving that they know what fans want and deliver it in spades.

And you sort of know you’re going to like it from the opening salvo of Troublemaker, a fun, rollicking mix of cheeky lyrics, lively drums and summery guitar licks. It’s an effective party starter that lays out the album’s determination to entertain.

The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn), which immediately follows, marks Weezer at their most experimental, squeezing in sombre piano notes, heavy-metal leaning guitar riffs, rapped vocals, police sirens and a dazzling array of tempo changes. It takes a little getting used to but looks certain to become a cult favourite among fans – and deservedly so. It looks set to become the Bohemian Rhapsody of Weezer’s back catalogue.

Pork And Beans contains all the contemporary sharpness of Jacknife Lee’s kick-ass production values combined with a distinct Weezer sensibility that draws favourable comparisons with their Buddy Holly material. It’s full of sly pop-culture references such as “Timberland knows the way to reach the top of the charts, maybe if I work with him I can perfect the art”.

Heart Songs is an album highlight, an intimate acoustic recording that affectionately namechecks the artists and records that have influenced Rivers Cuomo, while there’s a fiery rock sensibility surrounding Everybody Gets Dangerous that picks things up in suitably emphatic fashion.

Dreamin’, on the other hand, reverts back to the experimental, clocking in at a mighty six minutes and combining the sun-drenched melodies of The Beach Boys with the psychedelia of The Beatles, some birds tweeting, and a rock opera crescendo to draw it to a close. It’s probably the least successful song on the LP, but by no means a disaster.

Guitarist Brian Bell lays down some gruff vocals on the otherwise breezy Thought I Knew, a reworking and re-recording of a song he recorded with his former band The Relationship, while it’s bassist Scott Shriner’s turn on the darker Cold Dark World, a really retro-leaning effort that contains shades of the Stones.

Automatic, meanwhile, finds drummer Pat Wilson on vocal duties and he displays a nice style that’s as smooth and radio friendly as Rivers Cuomo. It’s a straightforward rocker and suitably rousing stuff.

The last original recording on the LP takes the form of The Angel And The One, a passionate slow-builder that finds them at their most mature – employing epic choruses, keen vocal harmonising and a sense of togetherness that’s reflected in the collaborative nature of the songwriting as a whole.

As for the cover versions, the better of the two is arguably their laidback take on The Weight, which is ripe for singing along to, and shot through with classic American rock values (whether it’s The Band’s source material, or even the folk-rock of Dylan).

But their beefed up and ever so haunting take on Life Is What You Make It is worth hearing, even though die-hard Talk Talk fans will probably be lamenting its conception. The guitars are great, while the pounding nature of the drums adds a distinct touch.

So, to sum up, it’s best not to let some of the American comments put you off: this is a red hot return from Weezer that delivers everything you could wish for and more.

Download picks: Troublemaker, Pork And Beans, Heart Songs, The Weight, The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn), Thought I Knew

Track listings:

  1. Troublemaker
  2. Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations On A Shaker Hymn)
  3. Pork And Beans
  4. Heart Songs
  5. Everybody Get Dangerous
  6. Dreamin’
  7. Thought I Knew
  8. Cold Dark World
  9. Automatic
  10. Angel And The One
  11. Weight [bonus track]
  12. Life Is What You Make It [bonus track]