Has it really been fourteen years since the world first rocked out to Buddy Holly and Say It Ain't So? It doesn't feel like it, but nonetheless, 1994 was the year that saw Rivers Cuomo and co.'s self-titled, blue-hued debut album storm the music scene. Taking the usually serious, solemn genre of grunge, wrapping it around pop-rock riffs and sending it on its way was a matter of course for the LA-based band - even right up until their fourth album, the underwhelming (OK, pretty awful) Maladroit.
Since then, albums from the Weezer camp have been 2005's Make Believe and Cuomo's solo album of last year (a home-recorded collection of songs and demos dating back from as far as 1992). Although neither of these records caused a mainstream stir, at least the inclusion of Rick Rubin, Jacknife Lee and Rich Costey behind the production and mixing desks of The Red Album - the band's third eponymous, sixth overall record - boded well.
And the production can't be faulted, as there's just enough edge to The Red Album to keep the Weezer sound sharp, occasionally heavy. Indeed, it's songs like the mini-epic Greatest Man That Ever Lived (which incorporates a slack hip-hop bent, a harmony-twizzling ELO-style section and a menacing bass riff), the supremely-simple beauty of poppy rock 'n' roll number Dreamin', and the big, grungey chorus of Pork and Beans that save The Red Album from banality, although the dodgy mid-section veers worryingly close to Red Hot Chili Peppers/Jane's Addiction-esque platitudes at times.
There's also a pair of covers that would have been best resigned to B-sides here (a dreary version of The Band's The Weight, and a slightly more interesting take on Talk Talk's Life's What You Make It). There are flashes of colour on The Red Album, undoubtedly; but there just isn't enough of Weezer's usual songwriting intelligence, nor basic momentum, to carry it through sufficiently.