Around 14 years ago, before a Physics lesson, a lad called Karl Smyth gave me a cassette that he’d recorded for me (FILE-SHARING!) with albums by bands that I hadn’t really heard of before on it. This was during my formative years as a music fan, because it was only really in 1995 that I started to listen to much music, so Dookie by Green Day and Weezer by Weezer were two albums I hadn’t heard at all, but Karl’s tape changed that and put them front and centre in my life.
Both sounded pretty much perfect to my teenage ears, and they still do all these years later, particularly Weezer’s debut album. I loved the follow-up Pinkerton just as much, even if it is a slightly more flawed collection of songs, it’s still packed full of great music, and The Good Life was a staple of my own mix-tapes that I used to give people to introduce them to bands. It even featured in my Spotify play-list for my last afternoon in my old job last month.
But then Weezer went on hiatus while Rivers Cuomo went back to college. When they returned five years later, something had changed. The Green Album (by the way, I stubbornly refuse to retrospectively call their first album ‘The Blue Album’, which is like calling the first Star Wars film ‘ A New Hope’) was as close as they would ever get again to their old sound, but it was worryingly dumb, while Island In The Sun just didn’t sound like Weezer at all. It sounded like Sugar Ray (not that I mind Sugar Ray…)
There were signs of recovery in next album Maladroit, because while it didn’t sound anything like Weezer, its rough edges and spacey jams showed that they were at least trying. Follow-up Make Believe didn’t even have that going for it, and it took ‘dumb’ to a whole new level on singles Beverly Hills and We Are All On Drugs, which begged the question of whether Cuomo was making fun of frat-boy rock or just making frat-boy rock.
And then there was The Red Album. By reverting back to another self-titled album, were Weezer bouncing back to their best? Nope. Red had some decent enough songs on it, like single Pork And Beans and the lovely Heartsongs, but it also had some absolute garbage on it, not least the ‘experimental’ The Greatest Man That Ever Lived, which isn’t just the worst Weezer song ever released, it’s close to being the worst song of any kind ever released.
So, it’s safe to say that my hopes for new album Raditude were not high. That it was named Raditude did little to dispel my fears. But yet, I like it. I really like it. And it’s still incredibly dumb, with song titles as esoteric as I’m Your Daddy, The Girl Got Hot and I Can’t Stop Partyin’. The latter even features a guest rap from Lil Wayne, so should really be the most soul-crushing event of the year. But it’s not, it’s catchy and it’s fun, and the same goes for almost all of Raditude.
Why do I now forgive Weezer for the things that have annoyed me about them in the last few years? Are the songs on Raditude just better than the Red Album or Make Believe? Perhaps, or maybe I’ve just stopped being so precious about wanting them to get back to what they were on their first two albums. After all, 14 years on from that mix-tape, I’d rather listen to Raditude than the frankly dull 21st Century Breakdown…