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Maladroit (Interscope)

Not since the bug-eyed Ric Ocasek somehow landed in the sack with supermodel Paulina have rock geeks scored like Weezer did last year. Triumphantly returning from a five-year hiatus brought on by its slow-selling second album Pinkerton, Weezer sold out arenas, landed on scads of best-of lists, and earned another platinum record with Weezer.

Now, less than a year later, the band is back, seemingly out to make up for lost time. Instead, Weezer makes up for its status as second-generation emo forebears by infusing its songs with all the muscle and might that its maudlin offspring the Get Up Kids and Saves the Day lack. Some critics piled on Weezer for how detached its last album was, but after the emotional overload that is the Vagrant Records roster and the suffocating narcissism of nü metal, a bit of lyrical capriciousness is a relief.

And balancing the earnest with the off-handed has become Weezer's forte. "Dope Nose" is a bitchin' rock missive whose Joey Lawrence-esque "whoas" are as addictive as the song's subject matter. "Keep Fishin'" is Green Day's "Longview" as sung by the Hollies. Countered by the emotionally cauterized "Death and Destruction" and the pretty, pleading "Slave," it all makes for a breath of fresh despair.

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