Let me say from the start that I am not a Weezer fan. I didn't care for either of the singles from their first record that made them one of the big acts of the post-grunge guitar pop wave (although I could appreciate the cultural irony of the Spike Jones directed video for "Buddy Holly" that simulated a performance by the band is Al's, the hangout for the Happy Days kids), and although I heard the hardcore fans sing praises for the less commercially successful follow up "Pinkerton", I was never even curious enough about it to listen to song samples on CDnow.
Nevertheless, I find myself in possession of their last two records, last year's "Weezer" (often referred to as "The Green Album" to distinguish it from their debut, which was also eponymous). I don't know exactly why I bought them; there has been a disturbing scarcity of decent albums over the last year or so (although 2002 is showing more signs of life than 2001 did at this point), but I'm still not sure why I made the decision to pick up either of these discs. I suppose I bought the first one because I borrowed it from my boss, didn't mind it too much, and wanted to give it a real chance, and then I bought the second one because I didn't mind the first one, even though the first one never really grew on me liked I hoped it would.
I do like "Maladroit" better than its predecessor, only because I can actually remember some of the songs when I don't have the CD on the stereo. The problem with "The Green Album", in my opinion, was that it was such perfectly crafted pop guitar stomp that it failed to make a real impression; that is, it fit your brain's expectations for that genre so perfectly that there was no real need for your brain to remember any of it. A nice way to say this would be to call it an archetypal work, but I'm not going to be nice: for me, it was pleasant and listenable, but ultimately empty and boring.
"Maladroit" on the other hand is filled with the kind of hooks that get stuck in your head and won't get out. There's no real point in differentiating between the songs: the record starts off with the infectious roar of "American Gigolo" and only makes a couple of brief pit stops between there and "December", the closing track. If I had to choose, though, I'd probably say that "Dope Noise", "Burndt Jamb", "Fall Together", and "Love Explosion" are the standout tracks that set the tone for the rest of the record.
The lyrics are unexceptional, forgettable odes to teen life, covering all the usual subjects: not fitting in, getting dumped, unrequited love, etc. But the band's not trying to pretend that they're making Important Art here, so it's okay. The words are delivered with such sweet sincerity that it's almost possible to believe that someone went back to the 50s, snatched up a band used to singing about soda shops and school dances, and brought them back to our time and taught them about distortion and feedback.
The only weaknesses that "Maladroit" has come in the form of two songs sequenced near the middle of the record, "Death and Destruction" and "Slob". "Death and Destruction" is a slow, syrupy, mopey teen angst track that is completely antithetical to the tone of the rest of the record. It's just completely out of place, and it's a crappy song to boot. "Slob" is a re-recording of "Hash Pipe", the first single from last year's "Weezer", but without the humordark and anxious, with a serious undercurrent of self-pity. The trouble is that without the humor, "Hash Pipe" would have suckedjust like "Slob". Thankfully, these two misfires are right next to each other on the track listing, so you can quickly skip over both of them and get back to the good stuff.
The songs on this disc were supposedly chosen by the fans (via online polls), culled from a series of recording sessions that produced dozens of tracks, so you have to assume that the hardcore Weezerites (Weezerians?) are going to love this record. As for the rest of you, I'm not sure if I can enthusiastically recommend it, but if you need some anthemic guitar pop for your road trip back to college, "Maladroit" would probably be a good choice. And it would be a nice bonus if you could program your CD player to skip tracks 5 and 6.