- The Washington Times - Monday, May 9, 2005

Weezer

Make Believe

Geffen Records

In between classes at Harvard, where he’s a 34-year-old “non-traditional” student, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo writes a lot of songs, most of which we’ll likely never hear. That’s because, unlike the pathologically prolific Robert Pollard, who hustles songs to school before they’re potty trained, Mr. Cuomo holds back more than he releases.

The saving grace of such comparative stinginess is that, when the ‘90s post-grunge veterans of Weezer do go public, you feel like you’re getting Mr. Cuomo’s very best — even when, as with 1996’s break-up concept album “Pinkerton,” life seemed at its very worst.

In a time when too many songwriters push the technologically spacious CD into the margins of boredom, Weezer albums are never cluttered, and they err on the side of simplicity. “Make Believe,” the band’s fifth, is power-pop at its best.

From the kickoff beat and guitar crunch of “Beverly Hills” (Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock N’ Roll” sprang to mind) to the piano-ballad walk-off, the album has hooks the size of canyons and a careful balance of nerdy-coolness and nerdy-earnestness.

“Beverly Hills” is typical nose-thumbing Weezer; it dresses down Hollywood and boarding schools and other aristocracies of beauty and birth. No news bulletin there. Two more moments of affectation: the synth-pop cheese of “This is Such a Pity,” which sounds like a tossed-off concession to the current new wave resurgence; and the metal-styled “We Are All on Drugs,” a well-intentioned warning to zonked-out users.

Blame those missteps, in part, on producer Rick Rubin, who generally fills “Make Believe’s” tanning bed with too much fake sunshine.

The rest of the album is pure heartbreak, sung in major keys that belie Mr. Cuomo’s essential dread. “One more dream/vanished up in smoke,” he sings on “The Damage in Your Heart.” First-person confessions come raw and quickly: “I have many fears about rejection” (“The Other Way”); “I don’t have a purpose” (“Peace”); “I am terrified of all things” (“Hold Me”).

In fleeting moments, “Make Believe” expresses unalloyed joy, such as the heavy-metal-Monkees stomp of “My Best Friend,” but you’d be hard pressed to distinguish it from Mr. Cuomo’s moping.

Closing song “Haunt You Every Day” is, for Weezer, an unusually epic offering. Mr. Cuomo, singing about some wretched state of romantic ambivalence, combines pop piano with lead guitar licks copped from Slash’s work on Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain.”

A bridge too far?

Not really, because with Weezer, we don’t have to sit through two cycles of “Use Your Illusion” to hear it.

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