Weezer

Over the past few months, the most burning question in rock & roll has been: What the hell is up with Weezer? After their 1996 album, Pinkerton, a nifty little grunge-pop song cycle that nonetheless fizzled on the radio, it looked like Rivers Cuomo and his "Buddy Holly" boys had gotten their asses abandoned to the Buzz Bin of history. Except that unbeknownst to anyone over the age of twenty-five, Weezer not only kept hanging in there, they continued to hold a Rasputin-like grip on their fanatical, ever-increasing cult of emo kids and suburban punks, until their triumphant comeback tour last year shocked the music biz by selling out the big rooms from coast to coast. As the die-hard Weezer kids rose out of the woodwork to pump their fists and sing along with "Undone (The Sweater Song)," the only other sound you could hear was multiple jaw-floor collisions — and maybe also the sound of Sponge, Nada Surf and Better Than Ezra frantically paging their agents.

Weezer — a. k. a. the Green Album — proves that the band was smart to wait out the lean years. They actually took the time to make a totally crunk geek-punk record, buzzing through ten excellent tunes in less than half an hour with zero filler and enough psychosexual contortions to buy Cuomo's shrink another hot tub. Original bassist Matt Sharp has long since departed to make his own techno records with the Rentals, which certainly seemed like a good career move at the time; otherwise, Cuomo assembles the old lineup to bash out 1994-style crunch-guitar nuggets like "Don't Let Go," "Hashpipe" and "Simple Pages." In the five years since Pinkerton, Cuomo has gotten more oblique about his girl troubles — there's no "El Scorcho" or "Pink Triangle" here, which is a shame. But with the surging final ballad, "O Girlfriend," taking that crucial millimeter of a step toward maturity, Weezer deserve a huge hand for making the world safe again for frayed cardigans and nerd glasses, not to mention paving the way for the now-inevitable Gin Blossoms reunion tour.