Weezer hasn't changed much over the past decade. Since the self-titled Blue Album and "Undone (The Sweater Song)" brought the group to prominence, leader Rivers Cuomo has specialized in articulating teenage tumult and all of its attendant longings, lusts, and awkwardness. Often mistaken to be the travails of a geek (by rock critics, who divide the world between rock and roll he-men and nerdy guitar freaks, typifying the insanely talented and successful Cuomo as such), his lyrical protagonist is an Everyman who resonates beyond pen and paper (or computer) origins.
The difference is the subtlety with which Cuomo expresses his emotions. While early discs such as Pinkerton offered neurotic, quirky songs, the new Make Believe finds him screaming out "Hold Me," his anguish puffed up into broad, hard rock strokes. It makes sense, really. As a rock band cut from Cheap Trick cloth, Weezer has always aimed at the widest possible audience. When the rock mainstream shifted from alt-rock to rap-rock, and now emo and metal, the group went along devotedly. (Did you really expect Weezer to turn into some weird-ass indie band à la the artsy-fartsy Arcade Fire?) It has only made the group slightly more accurate, if somewhat less interesting, in detailing the suburban white-boy experience.
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Weezer is a fun band, more melancholy and yearning than dark and intellectual, and Make Believe has plenty of sing-along material, from the raging "Perfect Situation" (complete with woo-ah's) to the football chant "We Are All on Drugs" (the logical successor to "Hash Pipe"). "We are all on drugs/Never get enough," riffs Cuomo as he seduces his impressionable fans. As catchy as those numbers are, the less so-called ironic tracks hold more lasting appeal. "Freak Me Out" finds him confessing, "City streets at night/Can be so intimidating/I'm not the toughest guy" in a quiet, meek voice. On "Peace" he sings, "One more tear/Falling down your face/Doesn't mean that much/To the world." Such admissions, bold and unafraid of ridicule, stay with you long after the stomping joke-single "Beverly Hills" is played out.