Weezer, "Weezer" (Geffen)
On "Make Believe" (2005), Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo was glum and despondent. But here, on the band's sixth CD, he trades self-pity for bravado, contemplating middle age with an album full of adolescent kiss-offs.
This disc relies on familiar formulas: twitchy, sing-along choruses, lyrical and musical in-jokes and affable vocal harmonies. But it also feels disjointed and indulgent, packed with stylistic U-turns. "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)" is the kind of "Bohemian Rhapsody"-style epic that high school drummers compose during chemistry lab.
There are a few other clunkers, including the schmaltzy ballad "Heart Songs." But the gauzy, wistful "Dreamin'" is likely to please longtime fans: Its genial chorus, ripe with teenage unease, could power a thousand Senior Skip days.
AMANDA PETRUSICH, NEW YORK TIMES
Foxboro Hot Tubs, "Stop Drop and Roll" (Reprise)
These punchy, punky garage-rockers are actually Green Day. Yep, blowing off steam between '04's "American Idiot" and their next big album, Billie Joe Amstrong & Co. cut loose with a blast of vintage rock 'n' rebellion. With hot-rod riffs and '60s-radio harmonies, the Tubbies provide a summertime gem, nodding to such heroes as the Kinks and the Kingsmen. The songs are short; the snarled-lip lyrics are sublime. Good to see Green Day having fun again.
SEAN DALY, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES
Jewel, "Perfectly Clear" (Big Machine)
That Jewel's strong seventh album is her "country" record is, of course, ludicrous; she has been country for years. It is just a short, mournful-fiddle-assisted hop from the coffeehouse folk with which she made her name to Nashville's more contemplative wing.
And so the ways in which "Perfectly Clear" is more country than her 1995 debut album "Pieces of You" are small, more a function of gestures and nods than of wholesale conversion. Jewel wrote every song here save one, and producer John Rich (of Big & Rich) has done little to hammer down her well-worn eccentricities: wordiness; imperfect rhymes; a sharp, assured voice that collapses for effect.
Her brand of country is gentle; making her a genre star would require adrenalizing it. And while the most blatant attempts at shoring up Jewel's credibility should be the least successful, the opposite is true. On "Loved by You (Cowboy Waltz)," she yodels, compellingly (it's a skill she often displays live). "Anyone But You" boldly revisits country's early-'70s pop moment; Jewel is lovely on it, her voice breathy and bittersweet. And "Till It Feels Like Cheating" recalls the blues-inflected sound of Julie Roberts. It's the best song here. It is the one Jewel did not write -- and it sounds the least like her.
JON CARAMANICA, NEW YORK TIMES