I was way too easy on The Green Album last year. Seriously, 3 and a half stars? What the fuck was I thinking? I vow to take "Maladroit" much more seriously.
That being said, this comes out 364 days after the Green Album, and I am giving it an identical score. Does this mean it's better than the Green Album? Yes and no.
Maladroit by far has better songwriting and musicianship than the Green Album. Of course, that ain't sayin' much. There are more songs on here - finally a Weezer album with more than 10 tracks! This still only leaves the running time at 34 minutes - it seems that Rivers is afraid to write a song longer than three minutes, nowadays. This kills me, since some of his best songs are the longest ones [i.e. Only In Dreams, Across The Sea, The Good Life]. While all 13 songs are more than competent pop tunes [with the exception of "Possibilites" - I *still* hate that song], they all are missing that magic that Rivers graced the band's first two albums with.
Instead, these songs seem to be more of an evolution from the Green Album than of anything before then. From "Hash Pipe" comes "Take Control." "Island In The Sun" mutates into the bossa nova-meets-guitar rock feel of "Burndt Jamb." "O Girlfriend" evolves into the absolutely incredible, intensely personal "Slave." This is a surefire hit single.
Speaking of singles, "Dope Nose" is a fine one, cramming enough Skynyrd-esque southern rock into a little over two minutes. "Keep Fishin'" is another song immediately pegged for single status, with it's shuffle beat switching to a 60's pop feel for the chorus, making the song extremely memorable.
One song that is able to harken back to pre-Green Album days is "Slob." This song, initially debuted on the band's small club tour in the summer of 2000, is nothing short of breathtaking - at least on the bootlegs I have of it. On album form, it gets too much of a studio polish [seriously, Rivers - tone down that reverb on the vocals]. It's a letdown from what it could have been, but it still shows that Rivers and company still have it in them - maybe the next album?
My biggest disappointment with this album comes with one of my favorite songs on the disc - "Death and Destruction." This slow-grooved 6/8 track could have been turned into a "Only In Dreams" for the new millennium, had the band explored it and rocked it out for a few more minutes. It is uncharacteristically emotional in the vocal line, and the only other track on the album thaty can stay on par with it is "Slob." Unfortunately, as with many of the tracks, the song is cut short before the three minute mark, squelching the band's burst of creativity. I *know* this song could have been something special...
I could continue to go on and describe the rest of the songs, but odds are you already know if you're going to buy this or not. I will say that it's the best material that the new Weezer has put out - it still doesn't hold a candle to the first two albums, though, and I'm pretty sure everyone will agree with that. Until Rivers gets up enough guts to re-explore the areas outside of the verse-chorus-verse pattern, this is the band that we will have to live with, and these are the albums that we'll have to blare out of our car stereos all summer long. As with the Green Album, there is no jawdropping opener here, or a stunning closer. But the content within is an improvement tenfold on the band's output last year. While the album's name may be "Maladroit," the band themselves definitely are not.