Rivers Cuomo is not going to write another Pinkerton.
The Weezer frontman was in a dark place in the mid-nineties. He struggled with the success of his band’s debut album and the pressure to follow up while the band was still hot. This dark period of Cuomo’s life is found in Pinkerton, and the audience has to embrace what was given to us back in 1996. He wrote, sang, and played his heart out on those ten tracks, and that has to be enough. If a Weezer fan cannot accept this, he or she will not accept the band’s seventh album, Raditude. If he or she can, there is a lot of fun to be had from a record that turned out much better than anyone could have expected.
Raditude’s first single also kicks things off. “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” is catchier than H1N1. The fast pace demands the listener clap and sing along, as Cuomo details the beginning and salvaging of a relationship, name checking Slayer, Titanic, and Best Buy in the span of three-and-a-half minutes. A crowd-pleaser to say the least.
The one-two punch of “I’m Your Daddy” and “The Girl Got Hot” has no right to be as good as it is, if solely for the ridiculous titles. Live versions of both songs have found their way onto YouTube in the past few months, but the studio versions work well. The drum machine at the beginning of “Daddy” disappears eventually into another insanely catchy Cuomo chorus. There is even a MGMT influence found near the song’s conclusion (Weezer covers MGMT’s “Kids” on tour). If you liked “Keep Fishin’” from Maladroit, you’ll probably enjoy “Girl Got Hot”. It’s another song that gets stuck in your head and something to enjoy before your ears bleed during track number four.
Track four is “Can’t Stop Partying”, an abomination on the face of modern music. It isn’t funny, but yet it’s a joke. It’s a terrible fusion of rock and R&B. Jermaine Dupri produces and Lil’ Wayne raps (“It’s Weezer and its Weezy/Upside-down MTV”). On last year’s The Red Album, Cuomo let the other band members contribute songs, but on Raditude he goes outside the family on several occasions. However, while this song is a disaster, other collaborations work out pretty well.
“Put Me Back Together” gets an assist from All-American Rejects members Tyson Ritter and Nick Wheeler, and is an example of a successful collaboration. The song is definitely tailor-made for the current crop of Top-20 players, but at least it sounds like Weezer. Like most songs on the album, the title of the song tells the story. Raditude does not reach the lyrical depths of a Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan record, but hopefully the title and tracklist gave that away.
Hooks, hooks, and more hooks. “Tripping’ Down the Freeway” is another fun, bouncy, hook-filled song on Raditude. It almost makes you forget about the Eastern-influenced corn that is “Love is the Answer”. It’s dead-on-arrival, and like “Can’t Stop Partying” it damages the album’s credibility. If someone starts to bash Raditude and uses these two tracks for the crux of the argument, a fan of the album can only begin his or her response: “Yeah, but…”
The son becomes the father, and so Cuomo becomes Ric Ocasek on “Let It All Hang Out” (surprisingly co-written by Dupri). The former frontman of The Cars and producer of Weezer’s Blue and Green albums is found all over the song. It is impossible to hear “Hang Out” and not see Ocasek walking on water in the video for “Magic”. This isn’t a bad thing. It serves as a reminder that Weezer is a party band, much like their forefathers were in the eighties.
The album concludes with two inoffensive but unmemorable tracks in “In the Mall” and “I Don’t Want to Let You Go”. The former was written by drummer Pat Wilson, and references another ninth track on a Weezer album (“Holidays are/on their way”). That’s about all. The latter track is an okay song that treads dangerously close to Make Believe territory.
Information for Raditude started trickling out a few months ago. By all indications, this was going to be terrible. From the album title, song titles, live YouTube videos, and reported collaborations, it seemed doomed from the start. Then the first single was released, followed by a good video. Then the album itself starts, and you can get your nerd on.
Raditude is not for anyone looking for anything serious. It’s goofy; it has slick production, and it doesn’t hold a candle to the first two classic Weezer albums. But here’s an idea: Let Raditude serve as your fun, Saturday-night record, and Pinkerton can become the soundtrack to Sunday morning, when you regret the fact that you couldn’t stop partying. Problem solved!
And hey, it is actually sort of rad.