Weezer

Weezer (Geffen/Interscope)

So, you want to be a rock 'n' roll star? No, you don't. In a post-everything pop culture, in which stardom packs all the allure of a 4 a.m. whore and rock stars come and go with the frequency of a ham radio signal, what you really want is something more enduring. What you want is to be a rock 'n' roll legend.

Fortunately, Weezer's provided a handy rock-legend how-to guide. Step 1: Release monster album that captures Zeitgeist of generation. Step 2: Question artistic integrity and follow said Zeitgeist capturer with self-indulgent "masterpiece" that becomes holy grail to indie-rock hopefuls. Step 3: Endure widespread fan-base desertion. Step 4: Fall off face of Earth. Step 5: Rise from ashes and reclaim modern-rock radio.

Weezer's smart, but not that smart. No, the band's legendary status is just another freak occurrence in a long line of freak occurrences. Traditionally speaking, pocket-protector rock is not a commercially viable genre -- or at least it wasn't, until the group's 1994 self-titled debut somehow sold two million units of quirky, metal-infused power pop to the masses. Still, too-clever hit videos had critics crying "gimmick," sending Weezer No. 1, Rivers Cuomo, spiraling into bearded reclusion.

Weezer: So you want to be a rock 'n' roll star?
Weezer: So you want to be a rock 'n' roll star?

And so the unlikely became even unlikelier. Pinkerton saw the band shedding its sunny skin, venturing inward on a dark journey toward singer-songwriterdom. It won Cuomo the critical respect he was after, but alienated much of his group's hooks-hankerin' audience, which was left wondering what in tarnation had become of its sweet geeks. Zero radio play, sluggish album sales -- Weezer was finished. Or so they thought.

During the ensuing five years, a cult bloomed around the beloved band. Emo-core outfits embraced them as one of the scene's forebears. Big love that helped coerce the Weez out of hiding -- nerve-addled club shows, last year's show-stealing stint on the Warped Tour, the sold-out Yahoo! Outloud Tour. And they hadn't released so much as a lick of new material.

Until now: Weezer. If the album title and cover art are familiar, so is the collection's producer, Ric Ocasek -- all clear indications that the four-piece has dropped the bulk of Pinkerton's dear-diary baggage/sonic assault and is back to its old snap-crackle-and-pop ways. Consider the ubiquitous first single, a tranny-hooker slice-of-life called "Hash Pipe." Boozy falsetto, bedroom grunts, chugging guitars -- infectious summertime naughtiness.

Thirty minutes divided by 10 tracks equals three-minute blasts of sugar-pop perfection. That's the math behind Weezer -- the hand claps of "Photograph," the "Baby Blue" guitar lead of "Glorious Day," the three-part harmonies of "Crab." Hell, even the love-as-war sentiment of "Knock Down Drag Out" and the irreparable heartbreak of "O Girlfriend" are oddly . . . cheery. Isn't this what we loved about the fellas to begin with?

Let's see: Band runs pop-art gantlet, emerging brighter, tighter than ever. So, you want to be a rock 'n' roll legend, do you? Take notes.

 
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