As is perhaps inevitable with any band that’s built a 15-year career and an eight-album discography, fans have been grousing that “Weezer should go back to being Weezer” for years now. With its last release in 2008, its third self-titled disc or “the Red Album,” the alt-era survivors and emo progenitors made a partial detour from the arena rock of recent years to return to the willfully nave, exuberantly bouncy, heart-on-sleeve pop of their first self-titled disc and 1994 debut–though even gems such as “Heart Songs” weren’t enough to please the grousers.
The only thing that could make them happy, it seems, would be “Pinkerton, Part 2.” But bandleader and primary songwriter River Cuomo would be the first to tell you he could never really return to the troubled period of his life that produced that uniquely soul-baring epic, even if he wanted to.
With the wonderfully titled “Raditude,” Cuomo appears to have stopped worrying about his history and fan base and begun to simply indulge his love for and mastery of pop song craft, in particular as it’s practiced on the pop charts circa 2009. Though his nasal voice and the band’s essential guitar-bass-drums attack will always mark his latest collection of songs as Weezer product, Cuomo could well have sold some of this material to, say, Lady Gaga (the band has been covering her “Poker Face” live of late) or any number of current hip-hop, R&B or pop chart-toppers (Cuomo also wrote a tune for Katy Perry). Guest producers include Polow Da Don,; Weezer has fleshed out and glossed up the poignant and brilliant “Can’t Stop Partying,” a collaboration with Jermaine Dupri first heard on a 2008 demos collection, with a much snazzier groove and a cameo by Lil Wayne (Weezer and Weezy, side by side!) and “I’m Your Daddy” is the best R. Kelly song that Kelly never wrote.
Of course, Weezer being Weezer, there also are some songs that couldn’t have been done anyone else, in particular “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” and “Put Me Back Together,” as well as a mind-boggling detour or two, including the sitar-powered Bollywood jam, “Love Is the Answer.” It all combines to make what may be the most uneven and inconsistent album of the group’s career, yet it also is one of its most entertaining and just plain fun.