I wonder what it is about great debuts that inspire loyalty? Nas’ Illmatic is an undisputed classic, but virtually every album he’s released in the 20 years since has been uneven at best. I dig The Strokes, but have they had an album that comes close to their debut.
And that’s sort of the burden of Weezer; their debut was so great and important that virtually nothing else will measure up.
Which brings us to The Red Album.
So right off the bat, you’re sort of instilled with hope because Weezer’s previously self-titled efforts haven’t been half bad. Their debut (The Blue Album) is a musical touchstone for generations. And The Green Album has some pretty good tunes on it. The Red Album should follow form, right?
Well, let’s start with the promising signs.
First off, Rivers relinquished some of the songwriting duties on the album. That’s a good thing. On their first two albums Weezer had contributions by every band member. On The Red Album, every band member again makes contributions. Furthermore, each member gets to sing lead vocals on at least one song.
Another promising aspect is that there’s some experimentation in terms of songs and styles. There’s a ton of variation, which makes the whole affair sound pretty distinct from what we’ve come to expect from a Weezer album.
Also, this time around Rivers gets personal again. One of the hallmarks of the first two albums is that the lyrics feel so very real. It’s why those albums connected with so many people over the years. On The Red Album Rivers returns to writing personal lyrics.
Of course the reality is a pinch less promising.
As cool as it is to have every band member on lead vocals, none of the songs are instant classics. I’ll be honest; I’d forgotten that there was even distribution of the lead vocal duties.
And the experimentation doesn’t always work. Yes, it’s dope that the album doesn’t sound like a standard Weezer album, but there are also cons. “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” is a song that you’re either going to love or hate. The same with Rivers rapping on “Troublemaker.”
The personalization of the lyrics is equally a double-edged sword. While “Heart Songs” comes from a well-meaning place, it can be pretty cringe-inducing. It’s hard to criticize it because it is so personal, but…
The less said about the album cover the better.
The Verdict: As an album it’s very uneven. It has some highlights, but they are few and far between. It feels like the experimentation that a band would make on it’s second or third album, not it’s sixth.