Oh, the suspense of a new Weezer album. Is Rivers Cuomo still one messed-up little rock auteur? Will he write a batch of crunchy pop-punk gems, reporting from his tortured private world about the fun he imagines the rest of us are having? Will he ever find true love? On Make Believe, the answers are yes, yes, and wake the fuck up. Make Believe is a breakthrough for Weezer, a bold step into the world of the two-word album title, with twelve songs running 45:15, positively epic by their standards. But most important, Cuomo’s songs are his most plaintive and brilliant since Pinkerton, with couplets such as “I may not be a perfect soul/But I can learn self-control” narrating the latest kinks of his journey into full-fledged humanhood. Not since Brian Wilson has an L.A.-pop mastermind gotten such musical mileage out of wanting to be an ordinary guy, not realizing that his psychosexual freakitude is exactly what makes him one.
Make Believe kicks off with “Beverly Hills,” the single that revisits the dork narrator of old Weezer songs like “My Name Is Jonas,” ten years older but no wiser, graduating from comic books and twelve-sided dice to watching the E! channel. It’s a thunderous tune, with an awesomely terrible 1970s wah-wah solo that must have been sampled from Jeff “Skunk” Baxter. The sad love songs that follow — “We Are All on Drugs,” “Hold Me” — build on self-loathing hooks (“I know that I can be the meanest person in the world”) and huge pop flourishes. The best is “Pardon Me.” It sure is weird to hear Cuomo go back to his old “Buddy Holly” voice, summoning up all his strength to belt, “I apologize to you/And to anyone else that I hurt too.” Um, Rivers, is this a twelve-step thing? Nobody’s mad at you, honest. In fact, after listening to Make Believe, we love you more than evs.