New Weezer CD lacks geek touch

Pop-punk love songs are fast becoming a music staple, and Weezer’s third album – simply titled Weezer – submits to the sure-fire popularity of the band’s catchy retro style.

The new album rarely strays from blueprint pop, keeping with the geek-rock formula that Weezer has helped develop. Comparisons to early Elvis Costello are hardly anything new, and nothing seems to have changed for the band. The only direction Weezer has moved with this album is backward.

Weezer gained a spot in the limelight with its first album, also titled Weezer, which affectionately referred to as “the blue album.” It featured a simple blue cover with a picture of the band’s members. The new release bears a simple green design with the band members once again posed on the front cover – an obvious attempt to turn back time.

The songs on the new release move with the same straightforward catchiness of past favorites such as “Buddy Holly,” and contain the same kind of stilted charm.

The new songs are not bad, and superficially the album is a cohesive 30 minutes of memorable pop-punk, complete with handclaps and harmonies. The most incongruent of songs, “Hash Pipe,” somehow showed up as the album’s single and pulses with a hard, grungy riff, while the other songs stay reined into the field of pop, either upbeat or ballad-style, but otherwise carbon copies of each other.

In trying to emulate past work, Weezer returns from the studio with such a perfectly calculated set list that the unrestrained energy of the band is greatly compromised.

Pinkerton, the band’s first follow-up to “the blue album,” displayed experimental flourishes of a band developing creatively. But the album failed commercially. Weezer does not take any chances with the new release, but stands firmly in place.

Singer-guitarist Rivers Cuomo, credited as the sole writer of the entire album, plods forward with the usual theme of thwarted love. Songs such as “Don’t Let Go” and “O Girlfriend” illustrate the theme. Cuomo succeeds in putting on the same geeky charm that has won over fans before and likely will continue to do so. His cultivated geek-boy fashion is hardly new or original, but it holds the same power it did when the band began.

Oddly enough, the songs lack the shy, personable touch that helped Cuomo score before with hits like “Undone” and “Say it Ain’t So.” The prefab pop-punk tracks on the soundtrack to Josie and the Pussycats, voiced by ex-Letters to Cleo singer Kay Hanley and written by a think tank including such producers as Babyface, carries more raw personality and vivacity than some found on the new Weezer (Geffen), which often sound downright uncomfortable.

The band, which played a sold-out show at American University’s Bender Arena earlier this year, will take its new set on the road this summer. There are reports that Weezer will put on a secret performance at the WHFS’ HFSstival, held Memorial Day weekend. The radio station announced that the secret performance will take place at in an undisclosed location for about 300 ticket winners.

Although the new release lacks the power exemplified by Weezer’s past records, the new songs still carry a nugget of potential. It is possible that in an unbridled, live setting the true personality and charm of such simple yet catchy pop tunes could finally break the surface.

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