Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weezer - Raditude

Not even a year and a half ago, Weezer's overwhelmingly fantastic self-titled comeback release signaled a new era for the group, one that would see them holding nothing back and embracing every not necessarily tasteful ambition burning in the back of their collective head. Weezer was a mission statement, an epiphany, a grand declaration of enlightenment, the sound of a band simply not giving a fuck and choosing to indulge their wildest pop dreams regardless of what grouchy critics and fans might have preferred.

And as I hoped I would be able to say a year and a half later while initially freaking out over them, the freshness of "Heart Songs" and "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" has not faded one bit, yet sadly that of the group's penchant for the unpredictable has. Not much, though. While every announcement of a Lil Wayne guest appearance or zany promotional event or absurd cover choice no longer seems so "wtf????" but more "Oh, there goes Weezer just bein' Weezer," one cannot deny that they're at least trying to outdo themselves in the ridiculousness department. It's to Weezer's credit that these head scratching idiosyncrasies come across so naturally rather than as forced. When naysayers bemoan the fact that "The Weezer that I once knew and loved has been dead for years and they are not coming back any time soon," the victory is on the group's side, as they sound more content and settled into their identity as a band than ever before. The disappointment that many a Blue Album/Pinkerton fan feels no longer arises from having to deal with what they see as the band's failure to produce anything more than a soulless, watered down, bastardized, highly impersonal approximation of what made those albums so enjoyable, but rather from the complete lack of common ground shared between the sensibilities and tastes of these two parties.

And for those who by some unfathomable miracle continue to be consistently pleased by whatever directions the group chooses to take with its career... well, Raditude is, at the very least, ear candy of the most delicious order. Did somebody mention "parties"? Because this album certainly is one! After spending 2008 laying their ambitions for wild 'n crazy good times on the line, Raditude sees Weezer standing by its word and following through with those ambitions. Naturally, the album comes across as considerably less purposeful and audacious than last year's eponymous release. It more closely resembles, say, Long Player exhibit A in what will hopefully be a string of albums that, while presenting the listener with an adventurous batch of successful and/or failed modern pop explorations every time around (as Raditude further proves this era of Weezer to be all about), will inevitably find Weezer assuming the role of "hit factory," the newly embraced "songs about hot chicks and hanging out with your bros" vibe allowing them to knock out compositions in their sleep. This is exactly the sort of carefree, breezy quality that runs through these ten songs, resulting in Weezer's most blatantly summer friendly pop album since 2001's Weezer.

While the slightness of the album as a whole is an essential part of its singular identity within the band's discography, I can't help but feel that the promise of its first four tracks contrasted with the combination of redundancy and occasionally misguided experimentation in the second half builds up to a listening experience that is possibly even more schizophrenic than the style hopping of their self-titled red album. Make no mistake, there is a sense of cohesion running through these songs. Just glance down the tracklisting... "Let It All Hang Out," "Love Is The Answer," "Can't Stop Partying," "The Girl Got Hot." Even when the message of a song like "Can't Stop Partying" is more layered than it seems, the musical and lyrical positivity remains, as if everything in life should resemble a dog flying through the air or a band of 40 year olds titling an album "Raditude."

The four song opening run of "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To"'s high energy stomp, "I'm Your Daddy"'s anthemic new wave, "The Girl Got Hot"'s beer chugging frat rock explosion, and "Can't Stop Partying"'s general wtf-ness is a fine, fine way to let this record barrel out of the gates. However, just as you think Weezer is running amok from corner to corner of the pop music spectrum, they bring in the All-American Rejects' songwriting talents to remind you that not even half a decade ago, they were filling up albums with (what many listeners could not see as anything more than) indistinguishable mid-tempo guitar rock songs. The track "Put Me Back Together" is actually quite good, sporting a chorus that brings to mind the AAR's stronger hits. But it's nevertheless a sign of things being steered back towards more normal territory. "Tripping Down The Freeway," for instance, is built upon the same "Keep Fishin'" recalling drumbeat as "The Girl Got Hot," while the placement of the hooky "Let It All Hang Out" next to the similar but comparatively hookless "In The Mall" finds the former being short-changed on the first few listens. On last year's Weezer, "Dreamin'" was an anomaly on the album for sounding so similar to their more "classic" big guitar pop stylings of the past, yet this handful of Raditude tracks only creates a tension between the group's newfound adventurousness and their default "signature sound." However, even a straightforward rocker like "In The Mall" manages to squeeze in an atmospheric feedback/synth/mall PA system/heavenly chiming guitar chord break, not to mention the heavily treated guitar solo that follows, one of multiple surprising lead guitar parts to pop up throughout the album.

The one song that's really bound to fuck with the listenership is "Love Is The Answer." Sadly, for a song that includes some wicked sitar, Indian woman guest vocals, and yet another balls out guitar solo, it doesn't exactly do a whole lot. Eastern new age cock rock built around mantra-like repetition? Maybe they should leave that one behind permanently. Still, most of these criticisms are stemming from speculation about Weezer's future. Whatever I said about the "Keep Fishin'" drumbeat... forget it. It was nitpicking. Each of this album's ten tracks is a wonderfully singular entity unto itself. While my own sensibilities drive me to hope that Weezer still has much further to sink into total pop insanity and that this album will turn out to be a minor step in an even more unexpected process of evolution for the group, as a snapshot of this process, Raditude is the kind of weirdly perfect half hour pop record that every mainstream pop/rock act should be striving to make. Leave it to Weezer to possess the right amounts of experience, ambition, and humility to know just where to aim.

Rating: 9.3/10 on the Pitchfork Media scale.

Download Link: Vampire Weekend - Contra [2010]... great record.

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