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There's no question that Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo has become a better, deeper songwriter with each of his band's four albums: Where he used to use shabby clothes as a clunky metaphor for congenial heartbreak, he now lets all his frayed edges hang out in chronicling his growing alienation from the social codes he used to try to crack. So how come Maladroit, Weezer's quick follow-up to last year's self-titled disc and a source of some righteously corrosive misanthropy, sounds so much like the Steve Miller Band?

The fundamentals are all here: The rainproof boogie riffs that propel "Take Control" and lead single "Dope Nose," "American Gigolo"'s mirage of a guitar solo, the falsetto woo-hoos that lurk in the background of virtually every song. In its slick guitar nontextures and absent emotional heft, The Green Album suggested Cuomo was tired of the messy guitar squall that endeared Pinkerton to a nation of emo kids; Maladroit proves that he's still as confused and weird but that's he's decided that sterile pop-punk scraping up against complaints like "Every time that I call you/You find some way to ditch me" better expresses the angst of a sad-sack multimillionaire rock god. Yo, Rivers: Take the money and run.

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Mikael Wood

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