Disclaimer: I’m not related to Rivers Cuomo or the rest of Weezer, and I never related to their music, either. As a high-school freshman, I once claimed to like the “blue album” to impress a girl (didn’t work). Their sophomore magnum opus, Pinkerton, was only recently dropped on my desk by a co-worker (still digesting it). To date, my favorite Weezer song is “Keep Fishin’” (I’m a sucker for Muppets).
In short, I’m not a diehard Weezer fan, and their sixth LP, the self-titled “red album,” has just about made that impossible. Weezer is bafflingly awful: Cuomo and his crew have made an album completely devoid of charm, wit, and originality. This is what “autopilot” sounds like, and it’s not pretty.
The record opens with the bland but otherwise harmless “Troublemaker” — but the first sign of legitimate trouble comes with “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Theme),” which tortures the famous folk melody for six whole minutes before dumping it in a cornfield. As if to outdo that, Cuomo later steals the chorus from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and sings “Everybody get dangerous/boo-yah!” over it.
“Boo-yah” is about as inspired as the lyrics get, unfortunately. In between resurrecting ’90s slang and multiple references to underwear, Cuomo ditches “clever” — bypasses “tongue-in-cheek” completely — and jumps straight to “eye-rolling.” Pop culture shout-outs are everywhere (the limp ballad “Heart Songs” waxes nostalgic about everyone from Slayer to Debbie Gibson), but they only succeed in stamping an expiration date on the disc. Adding to the stale taste is the ’90s riffage that dominates the album — hell, “Thought I Knew” could easily be an Uncle Kracker track.
It’s hard to tell exactly why this record exists. Is this a love letter to long-time Weez-heads? A new creative direction? Contractual obligation?
My bet’s on the latter. Like a bad movie sequel, Weezer’s completion of the “self-titled color-album trilogy” could be a franchise-killer. At least the color’s appropriate this time: Red means STOP.