There is something to be said for Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo, who has taken his band to the top of the charts and quite possibly become the most admired nerd of the past two decades. With that, it seems ironically fitting that the band has placed their tongue-in-cheek ’70s rock ballad about celebrity “Beverly Hills” as the lead off track to their latest album. Make Believe marks the band’s return to catchy-yet-meaningful songwriting that many had dismissed as but a memory following the release of 2001’s Green Album and 2002’s Maladroit.

With twelve tracks that clock in at just over 45 minutes, Make Believe is near marathon-length for a band that managed to keep albums short and sweet for the vast majority of its career. While some selections seem all-too-reminiscent of past cuts, the album’s low points are few and far between. Cuomo and the gang fluctuate between hopeless love songs and crunching power ballads. Make Believe’s definitive standout, “Hold Me” finds Cuomo meticulously crying his way through lovelorn lyrics, conjuring images of a lost little boy amidst a swelling sea of guitar and bass. Whispered lyrics and damn-near creepy hooks make “Freak Me Out” the black sheep of the disk, the calm before the lyrical storm that is Make Believe’s grandiose finale, “Haunt You Everyday.” The end track seems reminiscent of such past Weezer album closers as “Only in Dreams” and “December,” with its crescendo of guitar and vocal wailing. Still, mid-disc “We Are All on Drugs” proves itself to be the lackluster follow-up to 2001’s “Hash Pipe,” as the boys recycle an uninspired guitar riff, attempt to rock out and instead fall flat with lyrics that border on sophomoric.

While many may pan the disk for such less-than-stellar attempts as “Beverly Hills” and “My Best Friend,” the majority of Make Believe holds up as both a successful throwback to past albums and a step forward towards smarter, more mature songwriting. Perhaps most importantly, Make Believe finds Cuomo triumphant in finally clearing his name and regaining his integrity following that whole Mary-Kate and Ashley cover debacle that left Weezer on my musical shit list for the better part of the past four years.
[Aly Comingore likes to use Word Thesaurus to make her feel smart]