Of The Nerds
By Chris Nelson
You gotta love Weezer. After a five-year layoff, they return not with an opus out to explain the hiatus via some sort of major artistic development, but with a 28-minute, 10-song romantic pop album that includes two gems that handily best their early geek anthems "Buddy Holly" and "Undone (The Sweater Song)."
go ahead, call it a retreat. By appearances, it's just that. When we last heard from them, they had just released Pinkerton (1996), the darker, scruffier and less commercially successful follow-up to their 1994 self-titled hit debut. Bassist Matt Sharp left in '98 to focus on his other band, the Rentals, and was replaced by Mikey Welsh (ex-Juliana Hatfield). Meanwhile, guitarist, singer and songwriter Rivers Cuomo simply holed himself up and wrote piles of songs.
What he and the whole band have returned with looks awfully familiar. As with their first album, ex-Cars leader Ric Ocasek played the role of producer. The cover, a plain photo of the band against a bold green background, recalls the spare, blue-background shot on the debut album. Even the official name of the new disc, Weezer, is the same, though the lime background here has earned it the widely-used nickname The Green Album. "Photograph" (RealAudio excerpt) one of the album's two standout tracks, a sing-along rocker about taking risks in the name of love closes out on a lyric about heading back to square one: "If you blew it, don't reject it/ Just sit drawing up the plans and re-erect it."
But you can also approach this album's unabashed pop-rock embrace as a statement of faith against the tide of nü-metal that has come to dominate rock radio since Weezer went into hiding. Listen, for instance, to the pulsating "Don't Let Go," in which the singer assumes that tried-and-true romantic position: "I'll be down on my knees/ Begging for that girl to stay," Cuomo sings to a luring melody. Behind him, drummer Pat Wilson beats his kit with a power just shy of Dave Grohl's Nirvana pounding, as Welsh holds down an unassuming low end and Cuomo and second guitarist Brian Bell grind away with the perfect dose of distortion.
Not everything is quite so straightforward. The slightly metallic first single, "Hash Pipe" (RealAudio excerpt), may or may not be sung from the vantage of a transvestite hooker, while the elliptic, midtempo "Crab" stymies as well: "Crab if you need it/ She put her knickers on"? But the addictively rousing "Simple Pages" (RealAudio excerpt), the album's second gold-medal-winner, has every right to dominate the airwaves the summer. "Kick it on back, kick it on back, kick it on back to what you know," Cuomo sings in a cascading rhythm, "Gimme some love, gimme some love sugar, on the hard rock radio." Well, Mr. Programmer? Go ahead, give 'em the love. They deserve it.
[Mon., May 21, 12:00 AM EDT]