What do Eddie Rabbitt, Slayer, Rick Astley, Terence Trent D’Arby and Rob Base have in common? Their hits are all shouted out in “Heart Songs,” a ballad in which Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo pays loving homage to the chart-toppers of his youth. (“These are my heart songs/They never feelwrong,” he coos.) Since 1994, Cuomo has been the reigning auteur-genius of power pop, but his musical fluency is wide-ranging, and on Weezer’s sixth album he’s determined to cram everything in. The album toggles maniacally between styles, climaxing with “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn),” a satirical mini-epic that switches genres every eight bars, from hip-hop to mock-baroque choral music to Coldplay-esque falsetto balladeering.
Cuomo deploys this excessin the service of a time-honored theme: the midlife crisis. The nerd-boyangst that Weezer perfected with 1996’s Pinkerton has spawned a wholegeneration of emo rockers, and Cuomo, closing in on 40, is clearlyfeeling his elder-statesmanship. (“I gotta be a big boy/I gotta pick upmy toys,” he sings in the barreling “Dreamin’.”) He reminisces about his teenage high jinks, frets about the safety of his future children, and laments his expanding waistline and receding hairline. It’s rich, often funny material, but in Cuomo’s ambition to make a career-sweeping tourde force — telegraphed by the band’s choice to return to estimable producer Rick Rubin — he badly overcooks the musical porridge, layering on overdubs, packing songs with key-change modulations and meandering instrumental codas, and generally refusing to hone and self-edit. Only the buoyant single “Pork and Beans,” with its rousing singalong chorus and biting lines about hiring Timbaland to get back on the pop charts, has the rigor and punch of Weezer’s best. It’s the lone heart song in the bunch.