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 stumbled along between both extremes, though it did take some chances that occasionally paid off. No, the problem with Make Believe wasn’t that it took chances. It’s that it took them only occasionally, and then slipped right back into safe-mode, regurgitating what Weezer had already done so well and so often better.
Where the band chose to prick — such as the lead single, “Beverly Hills,” whose stomp seemed 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 did so with full gusto, making the kind of statement that showed they were willing to offend a few fans with a new direction. And then they’d 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 was not just that it only contained a small number of great songs. It’s that it was punctuated by simply “OK” material, among which are a couple really awful songs (the aforementioned “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, after isolating what registers as “good” and even “great” (see below), it can still be a satisfying listen. Weezer would probably have been 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 did, 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 felt 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 was an album that likely still satisfies few, and will more often than not simply turn people off in general.
For whatever reason, ‘Make Believe’ broke up into a number of very distinct categories:
This is Such a Pity
Freak Me Out
The Damage in Your Heart
The catchy, but perplexing:
We Are All on Drugs
The simply subpar:
My Best Friend
The Other Way
Haunt You Every Day