First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2005, Volume 12, #6
Written by T.J. Simon
Twenty years ago, producer Rick Rubin single-handedly revolutionized hip-hop by incorporating into the mix crunchy, rock-oriented guitar licks. In targeting a pop (read: Caucasian) music audience, this innovative approach achieved its intended result of thrusting the underground genre into America’s mainstream. As producer of Make Believe, Rubin made an attempt to transform the hard-edged power pop of Weezer’s 35-year old Rivers Cuomo into something marketable to today’s youth, but regrettably, his sanitized production style has left a shiny glow upon the band, one that will make fans beg for the rough spots that they’ve come to expect for over a decade.
This is most apparent on Make Believe is the first single Beverly Hills, which brazenly borrows heavily from both Joan Jett’s rendition of I Love Rock ’n‘ Roll and Queen’s We Will Rock You. It’s a catchy piece of hit-worthy pabulum built to appeal to the masses — right down to the Peter Frampton-styled voice box embedded within the track’s musical bridge. Like most ear-candy, however, it’s the kind of song that is immediately infectious but quickly becomes tediously annoying.
Unfortunately, that’s just the beginning, as throughout Make Believe Rubin never lets Weezer be Weezer. In fact, things are so polished that fans of the four previous releases hardly will recognize the band. On Perfect Situation, one can maintain a glimpse of Cuomo’s quality rock songwriting through Rubin’s glossy production, but this hint is never satiating. This Is Such a Pity finds Weezer emulating The Cars — apparently in hopes that young audiences won’t notice — but the awkward result is like squeezing a modern hipster into a suit from 1980. By far the album’s most cringe-worthy track is We Are All on Drugs, which undeniably is the musical equivalent of an after-school special. It’s a well-meaning, but poorly-executed public service announcement that must have been the result of a judge’s order that is sealed in some distant courtroom.
Despite these problems, today’s alt-rock radio listeners likely will find something to enjoy on Make Believe. After all, songs like Pardon Me and My Best Friend are easily better than most of the garbage littering the airwaves today. However, long-time Weezer fans are certain to loathe this album in its entirety.
Of Further Interest...
Make Believe is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box