City Paper is not for tourists
Rivers Cuomo is a believer. Chuck Klosterman puts it slightly differently in his new book, Eating the Dinosaur, when he argues that the Weezer frontman is utterly devoid of irony, but that’s simply the same issue viewed from the opposite angle. It’s one thing for Cuomo’s songs to say exactly what he thinks; it’s another for him to think exactly the things he writes about. What kind of man in his 30s still dreams of living in stereotypical Beverly Hills hyperluxury or sings lines like “Love is the answer/You have got to trust in the world” without the hint of a smirk? The answer is a rock star or a perpetual adolescent. Cuomo is both, and Raditude captures him in full flower on both counts. That it’s not an especially good album comes as no surprise, and although Klosterman doesn’t discuss why, a listen to Raditude suggests a simple answer: Cuomo doesn’t care about holding on to his audience. He’d rather grab the current generation the same way that Weezer’s debut grabbed the kids of 1994 than write music that still speaks to his original, aging fans. It would certainly help explain how Weezer can gradually progress its sound from album to album while managing never to mature. Signs of arrested development are all over Raditude. “In the Mall” is a metallic paean to teenage pleasures that everybody in the band is at least two decades too old for, while the strutting shuffle “The Girl Got Hot” has such a narrow conception of “hot”—“Satin tights, boots so white, leopard handbag,” etc.—that it sounds like it couldn’t have come from anyone old enough to vote. To a large extent, Raditude sounds like Weezer sticking to the popular teen tropes of the moment. “I’m Your Daddy” is equal parts Boys Like Girls and “My Life Would Suck Without You.” Lil Wayne makes an appearance on “Can’t Stop Partying,” one of two songs Cuomo cowrote with R&B uberproducer Jermaine Dupri. (Not Timbaland, but close enough.) The mid-tempo chug of “Put Me Back Together” is practically introspective by comparison, mining ecstatic joy from misery, though it’s still teen-y enough to pass for the Jonas Brothers. It also might be the best song on the album. Raditude’s two most interesting tracks, on the other hand, are relegated to a four-track bonus disc. “Run Over by a Truck” is a strange, wonderful little pop song with a skip in its heart and a tone of depressive apathy, and “The Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World” is classic power pop of the Richard X. Heyman variety, with wide-ranging harmonies and an unusually open vocal melody. Neither sounds much like the Weezer that its fans adore. But, Cuomo might counter, there are always new fans.