Weezer’s fifth album is being hyped as a comeback, a return to the band’s early nineties sound. And it is … almost.

A quick Weezer history:

Eleven years ago, Rivers Cuomo’s group debuted with the “Blue Album,” which featured a string of hits like “Say It Ain’t So,” “Undone – The Sweater Song” and “Buddy Holly.” Their follow-up, “Pinkerton,” was then little heard because of a freakish lawsuit from a company named Pinkerton Securities.

Nevertheless, the album has become a cult favorite, considered by many one of the best discs of the nineties. While no one can pin down what emo is, nearly everyone points to the sensitive lyrics and power chords of “Pinkerton” as one of the pseudo-genre’s best examples.

After several years off, Weezer re-emerged in 2001 with the Green Album and then “Maladroit” in 2002. Though each had solid singles (“Island in the Sun” and “Dope Nose,” respectively), the band seemed to otherwise be phoning it in.

On “Make Believe,” Cuomo returns with renowned producer Rick Rubin in tow. It begins with “Beverly Hills” – an infectious slacker anthem to livin’ it up. But “Perfect Situation” is where it starts to feel like old Weezer. Cuomo’s voice fluctuates in just the right pitches to melt the hearts of every swooning, four-eyed hipster. The chorus is vintage Weezer: “Oh, Oh.”

“Peace,” like much of the album, is built around a killer guitar riff. “This is Such a Pity” is Weezer, ’80-style.

The ironic “We Are All on Drugs,” though, toes that line of catchy and intentionally annoying: “I want to confiscate your drugs.” It’s also hard to excuse “Pardon Me,” which makes Cuomo sound like he’s on step nine of an Alcoholics Anonymous program.

How you feel about “My Best Friend” probably decides where you come down on Weezer. If you can put up with a chorus like “You’re my best friend and I love you” for the sake of some power chord stomp, then enjoy.

“Make Believe” easily falls short of “Pinkerton” territory, but it’s in the ballpark. Weezer fans can celebrate; Cuomo appears to have plenty of hooks left in his bag of teenage whining … even if he’s now 34-years-old.

– Jake Coyle, AP Writer
Keith Jarrett

With this double-CD, Keith Jarrett makes a triumphant return to the solo piano concert format – albeit with a new twist – that won him acclaim as one of the greatest improvisers in jazz. It is his first solo concert album since 1997’s “La Scala.”

Jarrett’s solo performances have always been distinctive because they are completely improvised – he would treat each concert as a blank canvas, with nothing planned beforehand, likening the experience to “tightrope walking without a net.” This release is even more remarkable because in late 1999, shortly after he resumed performing following a battle with chronic fatigue syndrome that sidelined him for several years, Jarrett had expressed doubts that he would return to playing solo concerts. Jarrett had given two solo recitals in Japan earlier that year but was dissatisfied with the results, finding the experience too physically demanding. Instead, he decided to focus on his Standards trio with drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Gary Peacock that offered a more supportive environment.

But in 2002, Jarrett returned to Japan for another attempt at solo concerts, and this time he was satisfied enough with the outcome to release this double-CD, offering more than two hours of music, with the first 13 tracks comprising his entire Oct. 27 Osaka performance and the last four featuring highlights from his Oct. 30 Tokyo concert, which will be released in full on a DVD this fall.

Jarrett’s previous solo concerts featured extended continuous spontaneous improvisations – for example Part I of “La Scala” is nearly 45 minutes. In contrast, his Osaka performance is built around 13 shorter improvisations – ranging in length from 1:13 to 13:33 – which as Jarrett observes in his liner notes “are discrete pieces drawn from each previous piece” and evolve in a linear manner. The new format suits Jarrett well because his improvisations are more focused and restrained.

Jarrett’s multi-million-selling “The Koln Concert” recorded when he was only 29, was a work of youthful exuberance with an overemphasis on his dazzling technique, full of powerful driving rhythms interspersed with tender romantic moments. “Radiance” is the work of a more mature artist who has experienced pain as well as joy and has mastered the use of silence, nuance and a “less is more approach,” drawing on his rich experience of playing jazz standards as well as classical repertoire.

Throughout “Radiance,” Jarrett holds the listener’s attention with contrasting moods, styles and textures. For example, a lyrical pastoral segment evocative of 19th century romantic classical composers (Part 6) is followed by an abstract frenetic dissonant improvisation that is more in line with contemporary classical music (Part 7). The brief Part 11 draws on Jarrett’s bebop roots, while Part 12 offers the ecstatic hard-driving rhythms so typical of his earlier solo concerts.

Above all, Jarrett hasn’t lost the capacity to amaze. Just listen to Part 8 – a beautiful hymnlike melody full of dynamic contrasts that sounds so polished and complete it’s hard to believe it was composed on the spot. Jarrett has not only shown that he can return to solo performances, but has come up with an album that ranks among the highlights of his illustrious career.

– Charles J. Gans, AP Writer
“Gimme Fiction”

On their last album, “Kill the Moonlight,” Spoon seemed to fill the big shoes critics fitted for them after their excellent (but uneven) first two discs: “Girls Can Tell” and “A Series of Sneaks.”

“Moonlight” was an undeniable breakthrough – a totally cohesive record of late-night cool, stripped-down rhythms, handclaps and primal howling. Though its sleekness overshadowed many of the songs’ one-dimensional aspects, “Moonlight” landed the Austin, Texas-based band on dozens of top-ten lists in 2003.

“Gimme Fiction” is an inevitable letdown, but ultimately a rewarding straight-ahead rock album, displaying Britt Daniel’s growing songwriting talents.

It begins with a descending guitar riff reminiscent of the opening to “Hot Fun in the Summertime.” The song, “Beast and Dragon, Adored,” reveals itself a damper celebration and apparently has something to do with liking dragons.

Daniel sings about a feeling that’s taken over him: “I got to believe it comes from rock and roll.” This is exactly what Spoon is about; the groans of “ooo” and shouts of “yeah!” are almost self-aware rockisms – a kind of postmodern Kinks.

Spoon serves up their specialized blend of piano-paced tempo and bursts of ripping guitar on “I Turn My Camera On” and “My Mathematical Mind.” Daniel and drummer Jim Eno can set a groove better than anyone, but these songs don’t go anywhere.

Only midway through the disc does Daniel showcase more rounded tunes like “I Summon You” and “Sister Jack.” On the later, Daniel repeats “Sister Jack!” about two dozen times, but you might not notice it, as you’re likely busy exclaiming, “This song is awesome.”

It’s these moments that pin such high hopes for Spoon – one of so few bands that exhibit a pedigree of ’60s and ’70s rock, but sound all their own.

– Jake Coyle, AP Writer

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