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Artist: Weezer
Label: Geffen Records
Length: 13 tracks/33:43

Many words have been written about Rivers Cuomo, the creative workhorse behind Weezer. With the release of each new Weezer album, dozens of entertainment magazines analyze Cuomo and his band. But Weezer is not a trend. Trends don't last ten years and write timeless melodies. Weezer deserves all the press they have received because they are original and vital.

In May 2001, Weezer's Green Album was released after the band took a six-year hiatus. But the much-anticipated album was lifeless and bland, a collection of mediocre and overproduced songs. Maladroit, the fourth album from Weezer, puts the band back on its successful path.

Maladroit is raw and loud, free and energetic. It contains some of the most memorable songs Rivers Cuomo has ever written—songs which can stand up to his earlier classics.

"Slave," "Slob," and "December" are better than anything on the Green album. They combine the melodies of Weezer's debut album with the rawness of their second album, "Pinkerton." Maladroit is explosive and has melodies that draw the listener in instantly. Radio single "Dope Nose" and the bouncy "Keep Fishin'" will also demand multiple listens.

Unfortunately, Maladroit also has its share of filler material. Unlike the compact ten songs on Weezer's previous three albums, Maladroit carries 13 tracks. "Take Control" and "Burndt Jamb" are b-side quality tracks that were allowed on the album. Both are fun and have solid beats, but don't add to the album.

Another weak area on Maladroit is Rivers Cuomo's increasingly quirky lyrics. "Go and bust rhymes real slow/I'll appear, slap you on the face, and enjoy the show," Cuomo writes in "Dope Nose." The lyrics wouldn't be as frustrating if they came from someone else, but there are high expectations for Cuomo, who has written touching anthems like "Only in Dreams" and "Butterfly." While some fans like Weezer's sophomoric and pessimistic vein, others long for the band to make a truly artistic statement that both camps believe Cuomo is capable of creating.

Songs such as "Death and Destruction" tap into such depth. "I can't say that you love me/so I cry and I'm hurting/So I learn to turn and look the other way," cries Cuomo over beautiful and unconventional chord progressions. Songs like this summon visions of Brian Wilson at his Pet Sounds peak.

Maladroit is a positive sign for Weezer fans, and rock fans in general. Rivers Cuomo is one of few rock stars with whom substance prevails over style. Weezer's Maladroit shows that the band's focus is back on great music and less on the frivolities of business and production.

Jon Singer  6/16/2002

Weezer fans the world over eagerly awaited the release of Maladroit, wondering if it would be another under-30-minute serving of punk-pop like the Green Album, another hard-edged future cult classic like Pinkerton, or another fun near-novelty record like the classic self-titled debut.  Survey says: it's none of the above.  Maladroit can't be immediately compared to any of its predecessors, but one thing is for sure: with its alternately sad and exuberant songs, mile-wide hooks, and loud rock-n-roll guitars, it's definitely Weezer.

A few tracks stand out instantly, especially lead single "Dope Nose."  I'm still mystified as to what exactly the lyrics mean ("Cheese smells so good on a burnt piece of lamb"???), but that doesn't much matter when you throw in a video that strives to depict Weezer as the rock royalty that they have the potential to be and the best "whoa-oh-ohhhhh" hook this side of Howard Jones' "Things Can Only Get Better" (and yes, for many of us, that's really an achievement!).  "Take Control" is another highlight thanks to its chunky guitar riffs and instantly memorable chorus hook, and the punk/power pop of "Possibilities" is a minute and fifty-nine seconds of pure adrenaline.  Yet if I had to pick one track on the album that epitomizes what Weezer does best, I'd have to go with "Burndt Jamb," a song that juxtaposes a jangly guitar riff (a riff that's as close as Weezer will ever get to lounge, by the way) with melancholy lyrics like "Make me happy for one moment of my lifetime / I'd be there."  The album closes nicely with the hopeful "December," featuring the line "Only faith can bring to life one who falls by the wayside."

Maladroit is tough to pin down lyrically.  It's the first Weezer album to include lyrics in the liner notes, so perhaps the band wants to call attention to their words, which may or may not be a wise move.  Some songs, like "Death and Destruction," are beautiful on the surface but are limited by lyrics that simply don't demand much from the listener ("I can't say that you love me, so I cry and I'm hurting").  Another problem is that the subject matter of Weezer's lyrics doesn't seem to have changed all that much over their body of work.  Rivers Cuomo writes good heartbreak songs to be sure, but one wonders if after four albums he isn't capable of making any larger statements lyrically.  But then again, if Weezer's lyrics suddenly turned overtly confessional or political, it just wouldn't be Weezer.

Musically, the most striking feature of Maladroit is the numerous lead guitar riffs that punctuate nearly all of the album's songs.  They're the kind of virtuoso licks you expect to hear on a Monsters of Rock compilation or The Best of (Insert Any 80's Hair Metal Band Here).  Filtered through the band's keen sense of irony and almost any current listener's post-grunge sensibility, the riffs sound a little over-the-top and maybe a bit anachronistic, but given Weezer's individuality, they're a somewhat surprising musical element that definitely works.

I also can't help but notice the brevity of the songs.  At 3:08, "Slob" is the album's longest track, while three songs come in at less than two minutes, and all but two are under three minutes.  The shortness of the tracks helps keep the songs fresh and-at least in my mind-reveals some Ramones influences.

With Maladroit, Weezer cements its reputation as one of few bands in the current alt-rock universe with true talent, versatility, and an individual identity.  All in one album, Weezer can be humorous without the sophomoric potty humor of a band like Blink-182, or they can be serious and introspective without the brooding self-pitying and self-importance of a group like Staind.  The success of Green put us all on notice that Weezer is back-Maladroit tells us that Weezer is here to stay. 

Matthew Luter 7/11/02



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