Skip to main content

74. Weezer - Make Believe (2005)

It's not easy to admit that one of your favorite artists has made a bad album. Initially your hopes are so high, they will buoy you up for awhile. When you start to sink, you try to stay afloat by telling yourself that the album is one of those that takes time to reveal its charms, that in a few months you'll love it. But when that doesn't happen, you realize that you've been deep-sixed.

This was my experience with Weezer's last album, 2002's Maladroit. After releasing two stone-cold classics and one solid power-pop gem maybe the law of averages doomed the band to a let-down. Maladroit was unfocused and uninspired, musically and lyrically.

Thankfully,on Make Believe everything feels fresh again. There are several factors that might have contributed to this, but I've boiled it down to two main reasons:

1) It was produced by Rick Rubin. Can I just take a couple of moments to marvel at this guy's output? Consider that he has produced great work from LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, RUN D.M.C., Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Jay-Z, and Public Enemy. Word has it that he has recently worked with both Neil Diamond and Dixie Chicks. To put it simply, he's gonna be a legend someday.

2) The lyrics actually say something. Both 2001's green album and Maladroit suffered from generic lyrics. Unlike the latter, the former benefited from a fast pace and producer Ric Ocasek's melodic sheen. Though Make Believe's songs still come off a bit on the non-specific side, they at least convey genuine feeling.

The album kicks off with Beverly Hills, fueled by handclaps and wah wah guitar solos. The album's review in Entertainment Weekly said the band was too old to take on easy targets, but to me it doesn't sound ironic when lead singer / songwriter Rivers Cuomo sings "my automobile is a piece of crap / my fashion sense is a little wack." Instead the song fits in the outsider mentality that Cuomo's fostered on Weezer's first two albums. It's a song about wishing to belong, and it seems oddly sincere.

The other obvious single, We Are All On Drugs, could also suffer if viewed ironically. To me, it seems to be simplistic social commentary. At any rate, you're not likely to hear the song in ads for Alavert or Advil or Paxil or Viagra.

I guess the reason I'm willing to take these songs at face value is the complete honesty that permeates the rest of the album. As Cuomo himself says on My Best Friend, "I speak sincerely." That song may or may not be about masturbation, but elswhere on the album Cuomo twice admits he's "insane" and also owns up to being selfish and mean and shy. Thankfully, he's looking for forgiveness (Pardon Me, which may be for his beleaguered bandmates), peace (Peace), and comfort (Hold Me).

My two favorite songs are Damage In Your Heart and This Is Such A Pity. Both songs mourn failed relationships. The former, with its harmonies and power chords, could have slotted easily on the green album. This Is Such A Pity sounds so much like The Cars it's amazing that Ric Ocasek (who produced Weezer's two self-titled albums) didn't have a hand in its creation. It's all skipping guitar, chugging bass and synth flourishes. Cuomo lowers his voice a couple of registers and there's even an Elliot Easton-esque solo. The Killers would die for this song.

Somewhat like their fellow geeky Star Wars fans, it's probably time for Weezer fans to admit their beloved artist will likely never again reach the heights of their early work. But there's also reason to hope. On Make Believe the melodies and perfomances are tight and focused and the sequencing is nearly perfect. That's enough for me. And, had any of the twelve tracks on this album appeared on Maladroit it would have easily been the standout. I can admit that now.

Grade: B
Fave Song: This Is Such A Pity

Comments

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Popular posts from this blog

Big Bad Eddie (Is Sweet Edward Now)

I wasn't surprised this week when I heard the news that Eddie Van Halen had left our mortal realm. For one, 2020 has been such a parade of awful news that nothing terrible is shocking anymore. For another, I knew Eddie had been reckoning with cancer for a long time. And for yet another, we're all just visitors here, but Eddie was especially so. We were lucky to get him for as long as we did. * With the inordinate number of monumental musicians we've lost since David Bowie's death in January 2016, it feels like my music writing has been approximately 75% eulogies. These essays have developed a predictable formula wherein I detail my personal history with that person's music. I fear the familiarity of that risks diminishing their impact, so for Eddie I wanted to honor his sense of innovation with my own. But there's a reason that formula came about. Ever since I was a teenager, the primary goal of my writing has been discovery. In the process of writing, I learn w

REO Speedwagon: Nine Lives (1979)

Where We Left Off: With Kevin Cronin back on lead vocals and Bruce Hall replacing Gregg Philbin on bass, REO Speedwagon were finally building sales momentum with two successful albums in a row. * Nine Lives  was released in July of 1979. The title was likely a reference to the fact that it was the band's ninth album (if you include You Get What You Play For ), as well as the fact that they'd survived a level of turmoil that would have been the end of a band with less fortitude. There are also nine songs on the album. Perhaps the most interesting and puzzling thing about this record - both in sound and in presentation - is how much it represented a swerve away from You Can Tune a Piano... .  You'd think that having finally hit on a successful formula REO would want to repeat it. But on the whole the music on Nine Lives abandons the countryish pop rock of the previous record in favor of a faster, harder sound, way more "Ridin' the Storm Out" than "T

REO Speedwagon: Life As We Know It (1987)

Where We Left Off: Wheels Are Turnin' was REO Speedwagon's third consecutive multi-million selling album, producing the #1 hit "Can't Fight This Feeling." * Produced by the same team as Wheels Are Turnin' (Cronin, Richrath, Gratzer, and David DeVore), Life As We Know It was recorded while when Kevin Cronin was going through a divorce. He says making the album was a welcome distraction from his family falling apart. At the same time, his relationship with Gary Richrath was fraught with tension. That set of circumstances played a huge part in the album's lyrical content, and knowing the record was the last one for the band's classic line-up makes for an intriguing listen. For example, it's commonly held that "Too Many Girlfriends," a tune about someone running too hot for too long, is Cronin taking a shot at Richrath. This is most evident in the self-referencing line, "he better find the one / he's gonna take on the run