Rivers Cuomo polishes up with Lil Wayne and Lady Gaga, but it's hollow inside
Rivers Cuomo is a deeply weird individual. After the spectacular success of [a]Weezer[/a]’s 1994 debut album – which pretty much invented emo’s melodic wing – instead of embracing rock-star excess, the singer enrolled at Harvard, painted all his walls and windows black and set to work on a bafflingly opaque ‘space-opera’. In more recent years, his hobbies have included meditation and picking up “barely legal” (his words) cyber-girlfriends on Weezer.com.
So it’s a shock, in 2009, to find this awkward, crabby outsider hurling himself headlong into the world of blockbuster pop, penning songs for [a]Katy Perry[/a] and covering [a]Lady Gaga[/a]’s [b]‘Poker Face’[/b] live – a version of which appears on the deluxe edition of this, Weezer’s seventh album. There’s also a guest rap from [a]Lil Wayne[/a] on the synth-boosted track [b]’Can’t Stop Partying’[/b]. Meanwhile, tracks such as [b]‘I’m Your Daddy’[/b] come slathered in the kind of sugary guitar distortion last heard sellotaping together [a]Ashlee Simpson[/a]’s record.
Is it convincing? Not quite. It works when Cuomo’s skewering the hollowness of that world. [b]‘Can’t Stop Partying’[/b] does that job admirably, poking fun at ghetto fabulous stars who “gotta have the cars, gotta have the jewels”. Mostly, though, he plays it straight: these are big, dumb, glossy pop songs, delineating a weirdly phony world of open freeways, jocks, mallrats and parties where hot girls put their hands in the air like they just don’t care. You long for a riptide of geek rage to undercut the slickness, but those moments are frustratingly rare.
Cuomo is not critiquing pop, he’s immersing himself in it: doo-wop pastiche [b]‘I Don’t Want To Let You Go’[/b] finds him Xeroxing Diane Warren’s dog-eared book of romantic clichés: “The pain is killing me, but I can’t let it be”. Is this his authentic voice, how he really feels? It’s hard to believe.
The band are on more comfortable ground when they play to their traditional strengths. [b]‘Put Me Back Together’[/b] is magnificent, a heartsore tale of nerd romance to rank alongside [b]‘Buddy Holly’[/b]. This being Weezer, it also boasts a truly heroic chorus. And this album is full of them: colossal, gleaming hooks, buffed to a Botox sheen. But given what we know about Cuomo’s eccentric inner world, it’s hard not to find those dazzlingly perfect melodies kind of hollow.
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