It’s got to be a pain in the ass being Rivers Cuomo. On the one hand, he’s a talented songwriter and solid vocalist who happens to front the only band in the last 20 years that’s made half a go out of turning power pop into a steady career; on the other, he’s been dogged by ridiculous expectations for just about as long as anyone has known his name. Weezer’s 1994 debut was a fine album, offering a sweet burst of tuneful humor during a time when it was fashionable to be neither tuneful nor humorous, but to hear people talk about it now — or 1996’s Pinkerton, an album everyone hated when it came out — you’d think Cuomo spent his first few years as a recording artist as Lennon, McCartney, and Dylan rolled into one.
Cuomo didn’t help himself by quickly cultivating a reputation for being a mercurial weirdo, which a surprising number of people seem to equate with artistic genius — although that whole “genius” label hasn’t stopped embittered fans from picking each post-Pinkerton record apart while bellyaching about sellout moves like “Keep Fishin'” or “Beverly Hills.” If you count yourself among this crowd, everything you need to know about this album is summed up in its ridiculous, Rainn Wilson-provided title, but just in case you need to read the words, here’s a two-sentence review:
Nope, this one doesn’t sound like Pinkerton either. You bitches can go back in your holes, ’cause it’s going to be a long, long winter.
For those of us who have never bought into the Cuomo-as-genius myth and might in fact sometimes find themselves thinking he could be the most overrated songwriter of his generation, Raditude is a lot like the aughts’ other Weezer albums, only more fun. For some time now, Cuomo has been more concerned with penning killer singles than building cohesive albums, and in an ironic twist, Raditude ranks as one of the band’s most consistent records simply because it contains so many ready-made singles. It’s like an album full of “Beverly Hills” — song after song of hook-filled, unapologetic silliness. The Pinkerton holdouts will die a little when they listen to fluff like the Patrón-shilling Lil’ Wayne teamup “Can’t Stop Partying” or the repurposed Sugar Ray track “Love Is the Answer,” but those people are going to find something to complain about no matter what the band does — something Cuomo seems to have made his peace with, because he’s never sounded as unencumbered as he does here. But I think any effort to frame Weezer’s music in real analysis has always been a little misguided; “Buddy Holly” wasn’t meant to be taken seriously any more than “Beverly Hills,” and it’s foolish to think Cuomo has forsaken some sort of artistic integrity by trying to write hits.
Especially when the results are unabashed ear candy like opening track and leadoff single “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To,” a song Cheap Trick would cheerfully kill Cuomo to have written — or “I’m Your Daddy,” or “The Girl Got Hot,” or “Put Me Back Together,” or…you get the idea. Raditude isn’t quite as balls-deep in crazy pop goodness as its title wants it to be — by the time it arrives at its ninth track, the dreary “In the Mall,” it’s starting to run out of steam — but it’s still a lot of fun, and it represents Cuomo’s most successful attempt to shake off the disaffected young slacker so many people wish he’d never left behind. Quit your whining, turn it up, and pass the tequila.
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