Weezer Raditude [Deluxe Edition]

[Geffen; 2009]

Styles: Top 40
Others: All American Rejects, Maroon 5, Jermaine Dupri

At this point, it’s hard to tell what’s more pathetic: the fact that I so desperately want Weezer to make another great record, or the fact that it takes so little to convince me that each shrink-wrapped disaster the band pushes into the ever-shriveling world of music retail just might be the one. That anyone is even hopeful for another stunning collection of songs from Weezer is a testament to the power of their first two, the post-grunge power-pop of 1994’s The Blue Album and 1996’s Pinkerton, which exposed Cuomo’s Asian fetish and tortured Ivy-league psyche to the uncaring commercial masses over fuzz-blasted alt-rock. The band’s middle period, the “comeback” effort The Green Album and Maladroit, gave way to the current “big pop” sound, and at this point, it’s unfair to expect much of the band; they've been making bad albums like Make Believe and The Red Album for a lot longer than they made good ones.

Raditude, the band’s latest, comes with a title so silly it had to come from Dwight Schrute of The Office. I tried to stifle any urges to get excited, but collaborations with Lil Wayne, Jackknife Lee, Jermaine Dupri, and Butch Walker sounded so bonkers that maybe it would all somehow work. But let’s put any aspirations that the album is some sort of batshit-insane, rockist-baiting masterpiece to rest: Raditude is not a great album or even an interesting one. Lead single “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” makes clear -- with its garbage lyrics about watching Titanic, Mellencamp acoustic guitars, and canned arena-ready drums -- that the radio-pleasing formula employed by the band on their last two albums is in full effect. “I’m Your Daddy” furthers the idea, and when Rivers tosses out a Michael Jackson reference and sings, “This ain’t predictable,” it’s hard not to choke laughing.

“Love is the Answer,” with its hilarious Middle Eastern motif, aims for transcendence and lands on Shakira. It’s difficult to imagine anyone taking this stuff seriously, and its idiotic refrain of "Love is the answer/ You have to got to trust in the world," seems practically vulgar when coupled with lines from the next song, “Let It All Hang Out,” in which Rivers describes his boss as a jerk and the desire to go out with his “homies.” Sure, some suspension of reality is usually necessary to enjoy bubblegum like this, but Cuomo’s goofy white-guy appropriation of hip-hop slang feels disturbingly like frat boys thinking it’s funny to use the N-word because they like Chappelle’s Show. “Can’t Stop Partying,” the band’s tune with Lil Wayne, doesn’t make things better. It’s a dirge of a club banger, another tired bitching session about being famous. Wayne’s rap is lazy by his standards, but worth a chuckle, utilizing the obvious Weezer/Weezy connection and playing up the whole “alcohol and pharmaceuticals/endangered species” aspect -- but it’s not enough to redeem anything. It feels like Cuomo is mocking anyone who might care enough to listen, playing up every rockstar stereotype he can think of.

The album fares better on “Turn Me Round,” which finds Cuomo singing dismissive asshole lyrics slightly out of key over crunchy guitars and garage rock drums. It’s not great, but its sloppy vibe is a breath of fresh air, right down to the drunk-sounding hair-metal guitar solo. “Put Me Back Together,” a collaboration with Tyson Ritter and Nick Wheeler of All-American Rejects, somehow musters all the pop-punk charm the boys could come up with. It's cheesy, but the idea of a 40-year-old man singing "I’m alone/ In my room/ I don’t know what to do" is made more palatable by the C.W. prime-time back drop. “Run Over By A Truck” bites recent Spoon offerings to some success, its nagging piano run easing more ridiculous Asian girl-sex talk from the ever increasingly creepy Cuomo before breaking into a pretty awesome bridge. Cuomo sings all the songs, even the Pat Wilson pinned “At the Mall,” which is a wise choice, considering that The Red Album was weakened by contributions from the other members, but the growing sense that Weezer is now nothing more than a backing band for Cuomo is only solidified by this album: nearly every track is co-written by a producer, as opposed to a member of the band.

That Raditude will probably sell a bunch of copies is only depressing to 15-year-old me that spent hours learning “In The Garage” in a garage. Rivers Cuomo’s songs used to speak to that kid, giving dignity to Kiss posters, X-Men comics, and sweaters. It’s not Cuomo’s fault that he got tired of being the patron saint of geek rock, and no one is faulting him for moving on, just for leaving behind the sincerity that made his pop craftsmanship worth so much more than other down-stroking rockers. Listening to Raditude shows no signs that Weezer is going to deliver another heartfelt gem, and worse, it makes me wonder if it was all a front to begin with.

1. (If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
2. I'm Your Daddy
3. The Girl Got Hot
4. Can't Stop Partying (Polow version)
5. Put Me Back Together (Rich costy mix)
6. Trippin' Down The Freeway
7. Love Is The Answer
8. Let It All Hang Out
9. In The Mall
10. I Don't Want To Let You Go

Bonus disc:

1. Get Me Some
2. Run Over By a Truck
3. The Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World
4. The Underdogs

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