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[DGC/Interscope; 2009]

By ; November 12, 2009 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

About halfway through the cringe-inducing “Can’t Stop Partying,” I had a revelation about Weezer, one that made both Raditude, their terrible new record, and all of the band’s divisive output this decade suddenly comprehensible. I now understood why, ever since the band returned from its first-ignominious-then-career-making hiatus following ‘96’s Pinkerton, a clear trajectory downward became visible, with the once charmingly neurotic and ordinary geek Rivers Cuomo methodically becoming something else – someone else. You see, when trying to explain how the same band that produced songs like “In the Garage” or “Tired of Sex” could in just a little more than a decade inflict upon the world the brainless, cloying, and infantile dreck that is Raditude, all you need to remember is that their frontman and principle songwriter is no longer Rivers Cuomo. He now plays Rivers Cuomo as Michael Scott, of NBC’s “The Office.”

Once this gem of analytical providence struck me, it became far easier to comprehend Raditude (which, it should be noted, was named by Rivers’ buddy Rainn Wilson, AKA Dwight from “The Office”). But the moment of clarity wasn’t when you’re thinking, either, during Lil Wayne’s quarter-assed drawl of an imitation of a rap verse that enters at the song’s midway point. Instead, it seized me right before that calamity, when Rivers didactically, “ironically” moans the song’s title for the 2nd chorus. He intones the hook like some sort of ghostly robot (and, by the way, the song isn’t so different from “Monster Mash”) and, after listening to it for about 2 minutes and realizing there were two minutes more, my mind rebelled. This can’t be what it sounds like, I thought; He went to Harvard – he can’t be this utterly batshit! And that’s right around when Weezy tumbled, nearly unconscious, out of the closet and into the, erm, “Party.”

Wayne’s verse is terrible, mind you, but more than the song’s “We Are All On Drugs”-level shittiness, what makes it so educational is the sensation that overcame me then, and my realization of the only other times I’d endured such a strain. The only other times in my life I’ve felt the befuddling mixture of shame, schadenfreude, and loathing for both myself and all humanity that Raditude provokes have all involved watching what some people call cringe-comedy. You probably know exactly what I’m talking about just from the name, but for clarity’s sake – the work of people like Larry David of “Seinfeld”/”Curb Your Enthusiasm” or Ricky Gervais, creator of the UK’s “The Office” and executive producer on its US counterpart, starring one Steve Carell as middle-management fool, Michael Scott. Only once I realized that, like Michael Scott, the Rivers Cuomo of Raditude is not a figure to connect with, but rather to gawk at, did I see the record for what it really is: a bad joke.

Cuomo has, of course, always had a sardonic or detached sense of humor, and he’s always been one of our few, rare pop-star intellectuals (a title whose worth is self-evident). In short, to see him write a song or record with the meaning of his very act of writing it in mind is nothing new (consult his extended conversation with himself that is “El Scorcho” for more). But not only were Weezer’s songs better back then, the lulz were, too. Too much of Raditude’s appeal, if it can be said to have one, is based on an attempt by Cuomo to play on both sides – to produce utterly focus-grouped and soulless tripe (the type of songs you hear and immediately know the kind of movie that will use it for a trailer) while, at the same time, wink and smirk with those enlightened few who understand that he’s deconstructing pop or, like an uncool Warhol, complicating our understanding of “product” by embracing its essence. Or some other nonsense.

You see, he’s trying to be a meta-pop-star, and every airbrushed, force-fed, and sterilized note on Raditude is simply an intellectual exercise: “I’m Your Daddy” isn’t embarrassingly stupid, because Rivers gets that he’s so old he could easily be your daddy; it’s “stupid” and “embarrassing.” And, along with the single “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To,” this is one of the two songs on this entire record that privileges the immediate, physical experience of listening to music above the tedium of acknowledging Cuomo’s many veiled witticisms. Literally everything else here – from the parody of machismo that is the Neanderthalic “The Girl Got Hot” to the All American Rejects-like “Put Me Back Together” (and just guess who Cuomo wrote it with), to the positively Nickelodeon “In the Mall” – it’s all just a swirling abyss of self-aware bullshit, a hideous pastiche of countless tongues jammed forcefully into countless cheeks.

And there, standing in its center, wide-eyed and grinning, is Rivers Cuomo, the beloved head of your local Weezer-Mifflin branch.


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