Maladroit sits in a funny place in my adoration of Weezer. They were my first musical love. A band that could produce three (almost) perfect albums; a band that I want to know everything about; a band that sounded like my brain on record. This album was a bit of a side track.
Maladroit came out a month or so after I first saw them live at Brixton Academy, still one of the best shows I’ve been to. I was on a bit of a high from the gig and I remember enjoying every moment of the album immensely. It had everything that made The Blue Album, Pinkerton and The Green Album so good. Massive choruses, inventive guitar parts and a sense of fun. And it fucking rocked. This was Weezer as a 80s heavy metal band. The chugging chords (“Take Control”), the wailing guitar solos (“Fall Together”) and the aggression. It was the most ballsy Weezer have sounded on record.
I think this may have been one of the reasons why a lot of Weezer fans had initial reservations about Maladroit. Tracks like “Take Control” and “American Gigolo” didn’t sound like the Weezer of old. I don’t think River’s rapping on the latter helped their cause – this vocal delivery style is also heard on the amazing album 5 demo “Mo Beats”. I would also say Maladroit was the beginning of the end for Weezer. Whereas, on the supreme The Blue Album and the even better Pinkerton, River Cuomo’s lyrics felt personal, but also universal, here (and at times on The Green Album) he seemed to be talking nonsense, or was just using words that rhymed , with no thought to the emotional impact. There were definite signs of the frat boy, partying Weezer that would release the painful Raditude and Hurley later in their career, which isolated the thick-rimmed glasses wearing proportion of their crowd.
There are still moments of where the good old Weezer seeped through. “Keep Fishing” is a classic Weezer. More remembered now for its Muppets-themed video, it is a tour-de-force of sing-along chorus, pathos and brilliant backing vocals. I really think the backing vocals are one of Weezer’s best assets and the do-wahs in the chorus are no exception. “Slob” features some of the more impassioned vocals on the album. Rivers sounds in pain throughout and the nostalgic line “And I drank some of granddaddy’s beer” still hits a nerve with me every time I hear it. Another positive about the album was that the awesome guitar solos were back. 2001’s The Green Album is pure pop rock perfection but its minimal guitar solos were a big let-down after the highs of “Tired of Sex” or “Falling For You”. On Maladroit they’re back in full force. “Dope Nose”, “Burndt Jamb” and especially “Fall Together” see Rivers and Brian Bell turn their amps up to 11 and let loose. If Weezer had stuck to their rule of 10 (their first three albums only contained 10 tracks) and Maladroit had finished on crunching riff and solo of “Fall Together”, it may have found more favour with fans.
Due to its slight inconsistencies and incoherence of musical styles (interestingly Maladroit means awkward in French), Maladroit will never be anyone’s favourite Weezer album, but I do think it is their most under-rated.