Let's face it: One of the reasons Pinkerton became a cult classic was that it made some of us feel a little bit better about ourselves. Even teens facing years of unwanted virginity pitied the famous (yet still unpopular) Harvard student who fell in love with a lesbian. Ever since Rivers Cuomo wore his broken, bleeding heart on his sleeve for Weezer's sophomore album, hardcore fans have demanded nothing less. Following a few tequila-and-Ritalin-fueled singles, the standard message-board complaint was that the lyrics just weren't personal enough anymore. Read: Tell us about how screwed up you are. Better yet, remind us that you're still not cool.
As far as self-disparaging confessions go, Cuomo seems to be making an honest attempt on Make Believe. Perhaps in response to the countless journalists who cried "asshole," the notoriously difficult lead singer tries to make peace, stating, "I know that I can be the meanest person in the world." That's about as profound as the lyrics get this time around, but at least the music escapes the butt-rock riffage that sunk Maladroit. The vulnerable pop of "Perfect Situation" sets a more appropriate stage for Cuomo's quavering vocals. The ambiguous sincerity of "We Are All on Drugs" is just stupid enough to be funny. And they're cannier at displaying their influences than are some of their peers in geekdom. By merely hinting at homage to the Cars, "This Is Such a Pity" is the smarter cousin to Fountains of Wayne's embarrassing rip-off, "Stacy's Mom." The song is so likable, even the ultra-cheesy dueling-guitars break (close your eyes and watch the Flying Vs engage in aerial combat!) is forgivable.
Strangely, Cuomo's most straightforward attempt at proving that he doesn't belong at the popular kids' table fails outright. "Beverly Hills," with its riff cribbed from "The Joker" and lyrics about wanting to roll with the surgically enhanced, is as far removed from the average Weezer fan as Rodeo Drive is from Maplewood Mall. Cuomo reaches for that golden pity by reminding us he doesn't fit in among America's most exclusive residents. But just pointing out that his options are open to swimming pools and movie stars ruins his uncool cred. Still, if the fans get their wish, maybe he'll be living in Mom's basement by the end of the year.
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