Great albums most often prick at you and provoke you. Great albums challenge you by not being exactly what you’d expected. Unfortunately, sometimes bad albums do exactly the same thing. Make Believe stumbles along between both extremes, but it does take some chances that occasionally pay off.
The problem with Make Believe isn’t that it takes chances – it’s that it takes them only occasionally, and then slips right back into safe-mode, regurgitating what Weezer has already done so well and so often better. Where the band has chosen to prick – such as the first single, “Beverly Hills,” whose stomp seems infused directly from Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n Roll,” or the infectious, new-wave inspired and keyboard-heavy “This is Such a Pity” – they do so with full gusto, making the kind of statement that shows they’re not willing to offend a few fans with a new direction. And then they do something like “Hold Me,” which is such a lethargic and overwrought ballad that its only point of existence would be to fill floors at a high school prom. It’s truly terrible – easily the worst moment in the entire Weezer catalog.
Where past Weezer albums had contained a healthy dose of great material, Make Believe‘s worst offense is not just that it only contains a small number of great songs – it’s that it is punctuated by simply “okay” material, among which are a couple really awful songs (the afforementioned “Hold Me” and album closer “Haunt You Every Day.”) This lends the entire album the hit and miss feel of unreliability as a whole. However, isolating what registers as “good” and even “great,” it’s a satisfying listen. Weezer would probably have much better off releasing Make Believe as an EP consisting of the 6 or so most successful songs, leaving the rest in the vault to be developed more fully later or, more likely, simply forgotten. An EP, of course, wouldn’t have the impact that an album does, but it might have been a lot more satisfying.
Weezer wanted to make one of those albums that divided fans by doing something new, and that invites new fans into the fold. What it feels like, however, is that Weezer got cold feet halfway through the song selection process and decided to include some material they deemed “safe.” The end result is an album that will satisfy few, and will more often than not simply turn people off in general.
For whatever reason, this album in particular broke up into a number of very distinct categories:
This is Such a Pity
Freak Me Out
The Damage in Your Heart
The perplexing, but will probably be a huge hit because it’s so catchy:
We Are All on Drugs
The simply subpar:
My Best Friend
The Other Way
Haunt You Every Day
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