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Weezer: Maladroit

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Weezer's career has been fraught with bizarre contradictions, but on their fourth album, Rivers Cuomo and company reconcile catchiness and curmudgeonliness better than ever before. Madly prolific but loath to release an album more than 35 minutes long, Cuomo scatters his neuroses and creative excesses all over the new Maladroit, a disc that feels simultaneously messy, sprawling, and perfectly compact. Alternating wide-open power-pop records (Weezer, The Green Album) with more neurotic and experimental material (1996's equally underrated and overrated Pinkerton), Cuomo again opts for music as therapy on Maladroit, scolding himself on the epic "Slob"–"I don't like how you're living my life"–and longing for happiness on the shimmery "Burndt Jamb." Surprises lurk around every corner here: For example, "Love Explosion" wallows in the paranoia that's accompanied Weezer's fame, while almost incidentally serving as Maladroit's most hummably ingratiating song. Musically, the band steers away from shiny pop, exploring blustery terrain throughout classic-rock-informed material like "Take Control" and "Dope Nose." But for all its chunky, rocking charms, Maladroit's final contradiction is that it's a collection of two- and three-minute songs that individually and collectively reveal their strengths slowly. These days, it takes several listens to grasp the complexities of a Weezer record, which is testimony to Cuomo's evolution as a songwriter and an icon. Maladroit may not be easy to love at first, but the effort it requires is part of the payoff.