Alright, so I wanna start this by apologizing for not posting a Halloween-themed post. I wanted to, I really did; Halloween is my favorite season, and as far as I’m concerned the year is basically over with afterwards. But I couldn’t think of anything that wasn’t super derivative, painfully generalized, or both, so I figured it better to just not bother.
And thank god, because that frees up time and space to subject you all to my opinions on Weezer’s new album!
At some point Weezer announced a new album. I saw it on the internet, or maybe Facebook, and I felt that same combined sense of “oh good a thing I used to really like is continuing” and “well, sure, but I probably won’t like this very much” that I do every time The Simpsons is confirmed for another season. And this is even coming from a guy that defends their last album, Hurley, even if I never listened to it outside of the Hot Topic I was working for at the time.
As a brief aside, let me clarify a few of my stances: Blue is better than Pinkerton, Maladroit is better than Green (but they’re both good), Hurley gets some flak it doesn’t deserve, and Red, Make Believe, and Raditude are all indefensible dog shit with the exception of “Pork and Beans” which is their best single since anything on Maladroit.
So I listen to their new single, “Back to the Shack”, and it totally fucking sucked. It was some weird psuedo-arena rock with an obvious hook and even more obvious lyrics – why is it now cool to turn up the radio? where the fuck is this ‘shack’? yes, we get it Rivers, you used to play Fenders and now you play Gibsons because you’re full-on dad rock – and it really soured me on it. In the words of Jack Black: “so far, bad – off to a bad start”.
But then I took my fate into my own hands and listened to the whole album – again in the words of Jaybles, “better, closer, warmer”. I saw a bunch of people comparing it to Blue and Pinkerton, and while I was well aware it was never going to be that good (and how anyone came to that conclusion is a mystery), I hopped on Youtube and gave it a chance because I wasn’t about to drop a dime on this bitch until I knew for sure.
I was pretty surprised right away – “Ain’t Got Nobody” is actually a damn fine song, and probably the best album opener since “Don’t Let Go”. It’s bouncy, catchy, the lyrics are trite but pleasantly so, and everything was okay so far. I promptly skipped over “Back to the Shack” because that song is still awful no matter what, and let the rest of the album play.
I noticed a few things, and most of them relate to maybe why people are under the impression this album sounds anything like Pinkerton. There’s a lot of purely mechanical similarities – “Da Vinci” (a song that is okay at best) starts with an intro not entirely unlike “The Good Life”, “The British Are Coming” (a much better song, and likely my favorite on the album) begins kind of like both “Pink Triangle” and “Falling For You” at the same time, and the lyrics to “Go Away” might be the most sincere and inward-facing the band’s had in a while.
You’ll notice I’ve been harping on the lyrics a lot, and this is a big part of why Weezer seems incapable of making Pinkerton again. Look, I get that band’s lyrical subjects will change over time – how much of Superchunk’s last album was about dealing with the fact you’re kind of old but still playing to a lot of college students and isn’t that sort of weird? Shit, Bob Mould’s entire album was about that and you know how I felt about it. But a big part of Pinkerton‘s appeal is the naked emotional content. How many of you have cried while at least listening to one song on that album? (I’ll answer that for you – every person reading this has done that except for those that haven’t heard it or are dead inside.) Now, take your age out of the equation – do you have anything even remotely resembling the same connection to anything on Make Believe or, shit, even Green? I think “Hash Pipe” is a great fucking song but I won’t act like the lyrics move me to do anything other than look them up online because I’ve never been 100% sure what the hell he’s saying in it.
Rivers has decided over the past, oh, 15 years or so that Weezer needs to be a lot more vague and glossy. Remember all the squealing feedback on Pinkerton, or the weirdly chugging guitar tone on Blue, and how they would accompany Rivers’ nearly off-key wailing about his feelings? That’s why we liked Weezer, and Rivers kind of hates that. He once equated the lyrics on Pinkerton to getting really drunk and confessing a lot of things to strangers at a party (or something like that – look find the damn quote yourself if you’re gonna be like that), and all of Weezer’s recorded output since then basically mirrors that thinking: cold production, lyrics that illuminate emotional subjects while managing to avoid any depth or detail, the occasional meedly-meedly solo. “Go Away”, “Cleopatra”, and “Foolish Father” are the only songs on the album that try bucking this trend, and they’re all the better for it even if none of them are exactly great.
Look, it probably sounds like I’m shitting on it, and I’m really trying not to. Everything Will Be Alright in the End (and I am so glad I avoiding having to type that until just now) is not bad. It’s got something close to substance, nearly every song is at least catchy if nothing else, and other than the handful of tracks talking about how rad it is to be in Weezer (none of which are any deeper or better than “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You (Tonight)” it actually kinda feels like everyone in the band was on the same page and gave a shit.
And no, it doesn’t sound a goddamn thing like Pinkerton or Blue. It’s a little too crisp-sounding dad-rock to even be comparable. But you know what else was crisp-sounding dad-rock? Maladroit, and the older I get the more I realize that album totally rules. So congratulations Weezer, all you had to do was make a not-as-good version of your most underrated album to make me actually listen to your new stuff. That either says something about me, something about Weezer, or both.
To bring the Simpsons allusions full-circle, this is a much better attempt at getting people to give a shit about Weezer again than having Mr. Bergstrom come back out of nowhere and not have any dialogue. I just hope they don’t break up or anything before they get really awesome again, as a lot of this album has the stink of “well…this might be it” about it. Come on, guys. Just one more Green or Maladroit, that’s all I ask. You’ll never record the Blue Album again and that’s totally fine. Just make something cool.