We all know the story of Weezer. The band put out two amazing albums before going on a sudden five year hiatus. When they came back, they were an extremely safe radio pop band, and continued to go downhill with every successive album. Long gone are the angry lyrics and fantastic hooks of The Blue Album and Pinkerton. In their place are bland, uninspired pop songs seemingly written solely for the radio audience. Yet, Weezer fans continue to cling onto the hope that maybe, just maybe, the next album will be the one to get them back to their former glory. And no album of theirs seemed more poised to do this than The Red Album.
From the time of the album’s announcement, it was clear that this was going to be different. The band were experimenting again, Rivers was letting other members take lead and contribute to songwriting, and when first single Pork & Beans came out, it seemed like the band had finally gotten back to their roots.
It was a rocking track, taking all the distorted guitars and offbeat lyrics of The Blue Album and delivering them perfectly, without the overly clean production that ruined any potential songs like “Perfect Situation” and “Photograph” had. And it gave Weezer fan’s hope that The Red Album would be the one that would put Weezer back on top.
So, did it? Of course not, as you’ve probably deduced from the low average score (currently it is sitting at 2.8). That being said, The Red Album does show potential for the future of the band. When Red gets good, it gets really good, giving fans some of the best songs since 1996’s Pinkerton. When it gets bad, however, it delivers some of the worst music the band has ever made.
Let’s start off with the good. There is, of course, the aforementioned “Pork & Beans”, and the song directly preceding it, “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived”. Clocking in at just under six minutes in length, “The Greatest Man” cycles through several different musical styles with a great tongue-in-cheek attitude that lends the track a very humorous edge. All the band members get a chance to sing here, and the end result is one of the strangest, and most fun, tracks that Weezer has ever recorded.
Album centerpiece ”Dreamin’” attempts a similarly epic style, starting off as a Blue Album-esque pop-rock song, before descending into a strange “dream sequence” interlude with lead vocals by guitarist Brian Bell. It then builds right back up to the catchy chorus of “I’m dreamin in the morning / dreaming all through the night / and when I’m dreamin / I know that it’s alright” before ending with a seemingly tacked-on rock section that almost ruins the songs mood. That’s not enough to drag down the song entirely, though, and it ends up being the kind of fun, rocking sing-along that Weezer so excels at.
The last two great songs come at the end. Penultimate track “Automatic”, sung by drummer Patrick Wilson, is a fun piece of electro-rock with some nice, atmospheric guitars, and some cool robotic singing in the chorus. Final song “The Angel and the One” is Weezer at their most epic, building from an acoustic beginning to a grandiose finale of organs and joyous vocals.
It’s these songs that give us hope for Weezer’s future, but unfortunately the album is dragged down by its many missteps. Opener “Troublemaker” and the mid-album “Everybody Get Dangerous” both come off sounding like “Hash Pipe” stripped of all of the attitude that made it such a hit in the first place. And “Heart Songs” takes a nice concept (Rivers singing about the songs that have shaped his music) and turns it into an almost laughable attempt at R&B balladry. Its awful lyrics don’t do it any favors, with Rivers singing a chorus of “these are my heart songs / they never feel long”. Seriously? This, from the same guy who gave us the brilliant wordplay of “Pink Triangle”?
As the album reaches its second half, though, we’re hit by what are possible the two worst songs in Weezer’s catalogue, “Thought I Knew”, and “Cold Dark World”. Both are sung by other members of the band, and listening to them you can understand why Rivers never let anyone else take lead before. “Thought I Knew” is a rather generic ballad, with an embarrassingly bad laser-synth intro and drum machine, and “Cold Dark World” is a hilariously awful rock song with bassist Scott Shriner delivering the albums worst vocal performance.
So, by now you’re probably wondering why I gave a half-good-half-awful album a 4. Well, that answer comes in the bonus tracks, which are some of the best that Weezer has put out in a decade. “Miss Sweeney” is a Pinkerton-esque love song, with one of Rivers most subtle and nuanced vocal performances yet. It is truly the best track that the band has recorded since their 1996 masterpiece, and proves that they still haven’t completely lost it. “Pig” is an interesting conceptual song, detailing the life of; you guessed it, a pig. “The Spider” takes a similar concept, but applies it to, of course, a spider, and layers everything with wavering synths and acoustic guitars to make one of the most experimental songs the band has done. And “King”, another song sung by Scott Shriner, comes off far better than its album counterpoint, and closes out the disc with style.
So, 9 out of 14 songs are great. Pretty good for a post-pinkerton Weezer album, and a huge leap forward from the bands previous few discs. For all its flaws, Red Deluxe contains some of the best songs that the band have recorded in a while, and is, overall, their best studio album since 1996. If you’re a Weezer fan, then this definitely isn’t one to miss.