“Maladroit”: In Defense of Weezer’s Mindless Shredder

The Blue Album and Pinkerton: ask someone what their favorite Weezer album is and you are most likely to receive one of these – the band’s first two albums – as a response. In fact, depending on the day of the week, either one of those melodic masterpieces sit at the top of my list as well. The pure pop bliss of Blue and the raw, emotional rock of Pinkerton are things that everyone seems to agree on. It’s only once you begin to dig deeper in the band’s catalog that people begin to riot.

Maladroit is Weezer’s fourth album (released in 2002) and is also the one that I perpetually hold as their third best of all time, even when compared to their last two impressive outputs: Everything Will Be Alright In The End (2014) and The White Album (2016). Let me get this out of the way first: I totally understand why many dislike or outright hate this album. Some of the most memorable lyrics include, “Cheese smells so good/On a burnt piece of lamb,” and “Streamline/Mainline/Fall together/Get up.” So, not exactly on par to the likes of, “You say it’s a good thing/That you float in the air/That way there’s no way I will crush/Your pretty toenails into a thousand pieces,” or “Words and dreams and a million screams/Oh, how I need a hand in mine to feel.” Many songs lack nuance and become predictable. Also, what’s up with that album cover?

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, because what many see as faults I see as key components to Maladroit‘s success. The simple, sometimes nonsensical, lyrics provide the listener with an easy starting-off point, making it easy to catch on and sing along. The songs are loud, stay loud, and only provide brief moments of levity before continuing to pummel you into submission. The album cover is weird, but one of my favorites in Weezer’s discography. This is due to its fantastic use of miniatures and how it is in no way indicative of the songs within. Do not judge this album by its cover: what appears as easy-listening is actually waiting to consume and destroy you.

In terms of sheer ferocity, Weezer hadn’t sounded this powerful since Pinkerton and haven’t even come close today. Rivers Cuomo, the leading man, is one hell of a guitar player and Maladroit is his technical showcase. Pinkerton is, of course, much more melodic and emotional in its approach, pushing grown men to tears with a single stroke of guitar, but Maladroit lives in the wild. This is riff-heavy guitar music that takes no prisoners. Just check out the guitar solo for “Dope Nose:”

Maybe I have this opinion because I can’t play guitar, but this solo slays. It’s technically impressive, more so because it only clocks in at fifteen seconds. This is the beauty of the record as a whole; the songs rarely clock over three minutes and the immediacy is rewarding.

Maladroit also marks the arrival of Weezer’s current and longest-running bassist, Scott Shriner. Many attribute the album’s raw rock aesthetic to Shriner, noting that he used to – hilariously – play bass for Vanilla Ice’s backing band. I’ve seen those who don’t like the album blame Shriner, but he has since proven himself to be a winning member of the band. He is a jack of all trades – playing bass, keyboard, guitar, singing – and a force to reckon with. Adoring fans describe him as “devastating” with good reason. Not wanting to shy away on his debut, Shriner comes out roaring on this record, tearing up his bass the entire time. My favorite example of his phenomenal bass playing on this record is during stand-out, “Burndt Jamb.” The bass line is catchy and melodic, while also being raw and raucous. There is a good reason why Scott has been with the band for fifteen years.

This record also allows drummer, Pat Wilson, to really let loose. He tears up his kit with an energy that is instantly contagious. Sadly, this has become a rarity on the more recent Weezer records. It feels like Pat was given the freedom to make his parts his own, adding his own flavor to songs that may have fallen flat without his inflections (ie. Death and Destruction). When driving in the car, this is one of my go-to albums for when I want to drum along on the dashboard.

In the midst of all the hard rocking, Maladroit also spawned one of Weezer’s greatest and most light-hearted music videos: “Keep Fishin'” – featuring the Muppets. I remember flipping channels one lazy morning and coming across this video by chance. I didn’t know who Weezer was at the time, but I certainly knew who the Muppets were and I was hooked. “Keep Fishin'” is one of the best songs on the record, pairing punchy verses with a soaring chorus, and only gets better when paired with the hilarious Kermit and Miss Piggy. Seriously, if you’ve never seen this video, watch it immediately:

Maladroit will always hold a special place in my heart. It was my entry point to Weezer – and alternative music in general – and my love and adoration of the band has only grown with time. Everything on this record sticks. The melodies, simple and fun to sing lyrics, guitar lines, and drums all come together to form something immediate and memorable. Years can pass without listening to many of the songs on this album, yet I remember even the tiniest details. Rivers and co. are in the midst of a resurgence, two killer albums back-to-back – a rarity in this post-Maladroit world – have been released and I am very much looking forward to their next move: the rumored “Black Album.” However, I don’t think Weezer will ever be able to capture something as off-the-cuff and fun as Maladroit ever again… but I’d like to see them try.

 

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