Opening The White Album I am overcome with that particular sense of apprehension that only putting on a new Weezer album can induce. Weezer's back catalogue is as mixed and unpredictable as it gets. It doesn't help that their fans are the most fickle people you will meet. They complain as much when Weezer experiment with their sound as when they don't. And all they really want is to recapture their lost youth and a particular era of music from the early to mid nineties.
The same could be said of the band themselves. Past attempts to recreate that sound have ended in failure, and, after a dreadful run of albums in the noughties, a petition demanding that the band break up so not to damage their legacy any further.
There have been many 'returns to form' in the past two decades. After 2001's Green Album promised so much came Maladroit and Make Believe. 2008's Red Album divided opinion but was experimental, including songs written and sung by all four members of the group, and incorporated elements from other genres. The expectations for a creative revival were dashed swiftly and spectacularly by Raditude (2009) and Hurley (2010), respectively embarrassing and forgettable.
2014's Everything Will Be Alright in the End was hailed as another return to form. So one can only predict that the new album will be either forgettable or embarrassing if the same pattern emerges. Looking at the song titles, it's hard to escape the feeling that a group of middle aged men shouldn't be singing songs like ‘L.A. Girlz’, ‘Endless Bummer’, and ‘(Girl We've Got a) Good Thing’, Even if it’s ironic/ post-ironic/ fauxronic. The continuing state of arrested development can't be healthy for either the band or their fans. It is troubling that main songwriter Rivers Cuomo claims looking up local girls on Tinder as an inspiration for the album.
The good news is that it's not embarrassing. It's a bit of a grower. Cuomo has cited The Beach Boys so often as a major influence on the album that I expected ‘California Kids’ to be a cover but it’s their own tune. ‘Wind in Our Sails’ gets better with further listening. ‘Thank God for Girls’ is not as bad the title might suggest and is a fun, enjoyable romp with an emotional undertone. ‘(Girl We've Got a) Good Thing’ is the most explicit nod to The Beach Boys on an album that comes across more like the latter period Red Hot Chili Peppers than Brian Wilson.
‘Do You Wanna Get High?’ is as bad as the title suggests, bringing with it flashbacks of ‘We Are All on Drugs’ from 2005's Make Believe. ‘King of the World’ opens with some talkbox guitar and is a decent tune, if not a memorable one. ‘Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori’ starts with a nod to Nirvana, and Weezer’s musical roots. ‘L.A. Girlz’ is an awful dirge. It's like a punk-pop Beady Eye. There is supreme irony on the plodding tune when Cuomo demands in the chorus that the Girlz "Please act your age".
The piano lead ‘Jacked Up’ is much more interesting with Cuomo singing falsetto over a simple rhythm before the guitars return in the b-section building to a wonderful false crescendo. It's an unexpected twist on an otherwise predictable album; Weezer feint towards an explosive flurry of guitars only to reprise the gentle opening bars again. A little more of that imagination would have really benefitted this record.
In spite of its appalling title, ‘Endless Bummer’ is a great finish to the album. It's a mostly acoustic tune and when the electric guitars emerge to play some harmonies towards the end, they fit around the song rather than overwhelming it. The last two songs are the most un-Weezer-y on the album, the only ones that do not sound like a bunch of lads trying to be something they're not, and they are much better for it.
It seems a waste of talent for this band to simply be trying to repeat the same album that they did in their twenties. Even worse that they continue to fail at it. There are eleven songwriters enlisted from outside the band, which is surprising as there are two band members with no songwriting credits but proven ability in that department.
Weezer is a mixed bag (both the band and the album). Overall, there are some decent tunes on here. It’s not bad, just not great, but probably the first time Weezer have done two decent albums in a row for 20 years. Now that the slide in quality has been halted hopefully Weezer can find their form again.