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CDNOW.COM RESEŅA - M A L A D R O I T

As the career arc of geek-rock quartet Weezer -- now essentially the vehicle for lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Rivers Cuomo -- has unfolded, it has at times resembled another hipster cultural hallmark: the Star Wars series. After a quirky self-titled 1994 power pop debut, Cuomo took the reins of Weezer and led them to the Dark Side for 1996's Pinkerton, which, while originally received poorly, is now widely considered a masterpiece.

A full five years later, Cuomo released the second self-titled Weezer album, now known as The Green Album, a commercially polished but (shades of The Phantom Menace) emotionally detached collection. With the just-out follow-up, Maladroit, Cuomo and Co. are pulling an Episode II return to form, exploring the primal impulses that were missing from the Green Album.

Maladroit may literally mean weak or inept, but Cuomo's latest 13 songs (the most ever for a Weezer album; culled, it's been reported, from hundreds) are far from incompetent, though that isn't to say there aren't problems: There's some rehash of the flimsy fun of the Green Album, and the choruses here aren't as memorable as much of the group's '90s material.

That said, there's a darkness to Maladroit that will likely satisfy long-suffering Pinkerton fans. Produced by Cuomo, the album has a much denser, fuller crunch than any previous offerings. Highlights like "Slave" and "Slob" resound with ire, not irony, and "Possibilities," "Keep Fishin'" and "Love Explosion" are pumped up versions of Green Album hooks. Looks like Weezer is still a Force to be reckoned with.

Tony Ware
CDNOW Contributing Writer