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Weezer (The Red Album)

"Make Believe" may have put Weezer back on top of the charts, but in many ways it further alienated a fan base calling for a true sequel to their self-titled debut and its follow up, "Pinkerton". Many accused lead songwriter Rivers Cuomo of "selling out" by writing a set of radio songs, especially the hit "Beverly Hills". Others pointed fingers at producer Rick Rubin for pushing the band towards an overly mainstream sound and even Rich Costey for a loud, muddled mix. It is with this in mind that Weezer recorded the follow up to "Make Believe", another self-titled album dubbed "The Red Album". Initially recording again with Rubin, he was quickly dismissed in favor of the band producing themselves and later bringing in Jackknife Lee, who also worked on R.E.M.'s "Accelerate" album. In many ways, this album mirrors "Accelerate" in that it's a "back to basics" approach both lyrically and musically. Lyrical standouts include lead single "Pork and Beans", which responds literally to demands given to Cuomo at a meeting with Interscope Records over the need of a radio single - including suggestions that he work with "Apologize" producer Timbaland. "Heart Songs" details Cuomo's love of songs from his youth, including his first time hearing Nirvana's "Nevermind" album. Musical standouts include opener "Troublemaker", closer "The Angel and the One" - possibly the best closing track since "Only in Dreams" - and "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations On a Shaker Hymn)", named after a Facebook group created in Cuomo's honor, which combines multiple genres of music into one multi-movement track. For the first time on a Weezer studio album, other members of the band contribute lead vocals, and this is where the album stumbles a bit. Rhythm guitarist Brian Bell's "Thought I Knew" is unremarkable and bassist Scott Shriner's "Cold Dark World" is by far the weakest track. The only bright spot is drummer Pat Wilson's "Automatic", with Rivers substituting on drums, which features the only, albeit quite short, guitar solo on the album. The album as a whole, including several deluxe bonus tracks like "Pig" and covers such as "The Weight" by The Band, is a worthy purchase. While it is not a rehash of their first two releases, as many fans have desired, "The Red Album" is their most solid release both musically and especially lyrically since that time. Along with "Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings" from the Counting Crows and "Accelerate" from R.E.M., this is one of the strongest "revival releases" this year, reminding us how great this band can really be.


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