Sound Bites

Posted: Thursday, June 05, 2008

Weezer, "Weezer"

Rest easy slacker geeks - Weezer have gotten it right once again.

Plowing through another set of snarky power pop, Weezer's self-titled sixth studio disc is a bit audacious without skimping on what makes this band great - popping riffs, infectious choruses and an almost silly nostalgia for youth.

Frontman Rivers Cuomo relinquishes lead vocal and songwriting duties here and there, which may turn off some fans, but Weezer remain smarter than most acts and Cuomo and his mates still pen some of the best power pop ditties you're likely to find.

Opening track "Troublemaker" is a kicking tongue-in-cheek knock on rock star misconceptions: "I'm gonna be a star and people will crane necks/to get a glimpse of me to see if I am having sex/and studying my moves to try and understand/why I am so unlike the singers in the other bands."

Lead single "Pork and Beans" is already pleasing fans of previous hits, "Everybody Get Dangerous" tackles the risks of youth that we manage to survive and "Heart Songs" is Cuomo's sweet ode to his myriad influences that references everyone from Gordon Lightfoot and Bruce Springsteen to Rob Bass (yes, really) and Kurt Cobain.

Other standouts include an homage to boyhood escape on "Dreamin'," diverse, pulsating rockers in "Thought I Knew" and "Automatic," and the gloomy synth freak-out of "Cold Dark World."

With their most challenging disc since 1996's "Pinkerton," it would seem Cuomo and Weezer have grown up a bit - but thankfully not too much.

Gavin Rossdale, "Wanderlust"

Gavin Rossdale made a pretty big splash with his music before becoming the envy of men everywhere with his marriage to ultimate rock girl Gwen Stefani.

The former frontman for Bush, whose 1994 debut "Sixteen Stone" was one of the more popular discs of the 90's, returns with his first solo outing, "Wanderlust," and the result is a decidedly mixed bag.

While his raspy voice and soaring choruses echo his finer '90s moments, Rossdale settles for overly slick production and the result makes the disc quite derivative (maybe we can blame that on mercenary producer Bob Rock, who somehow managed to make even Metallica sound too slick).

"Wanderlust" succeeds in its simpler moments. Disc opener "Can't Stop The World" is a melodic rocker with a knockout chorus and lead single "Love Remains The Same" is a lush ballad that works well with Rossdale's rasp, as do dynamic tracks like the escapist "Drive" and the electro-charged doom of "Future World."

Where the frustration sets in is on tracks like the muddy "This is Happiness," which is just plain sloppy but contains one of the catchiest choruses on the disc. And there's the rub: each song does boast a moment where you take notice before it retreats into dry repetition.

I won't even get into it with "Another Night In The Hills" - which lyrically seems a bit beneath Rossdale's typical stream-of-consciousness style: "She likes her cocaine/right on the membranes/She's one to give favors/to the movers and shakers."

Gavin Rossdale offers a respectable effort but rests on his laurels a bit too much on "Wanderlust."

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