Weezer returns triumphantly with beach-themed self-titled album
Jimmy Kemper | Thursday, April 7, 2016
A few years ago, critics scrutinized Weezer as just another washed-out, creatively-dead band, lingering on the fumes of a career that burnt out a few decades ago. Then, everything changed with 2014’s “Everything Will Be Alright in the End,” frontman Rivers Cuomo’s equivalent of turning around a class with an all-nighter paper after an entire semester of messing around. Like most all-nighters, though, it wasn’t perfect, lacking the cohesiveness and just plain fun that had encapsulated Weezer’s best works.
Cue April 1’s eponymous “Weezer (The White Album).” Stripped of the anxieties and desperation that came with creating a “redemption” record after a decade or so of critical misfires, Weezer has finally returned to doing what they do best: having a great time.
I’m going to leave the vague comments about the color white as a symbol of rebirth or the glaringly obvious allusions to the Beatles for the pretentious kid in the front row of your introductory writing classes. Because honestly, this record has much more in common with Brian Wilson than Paul McCartney. On “The White Album,” Cuomo and the gang are done with classes for the summer, heading to the beach and jamming to the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds.”
From the very first track, psychedelic rock vibrations are everywhere. The introduction to “California Kids” sounds like it could have come straight out of the Beach Boys’ recording studio with its cawing seagulls, airy guitar riffs and crashing waves — all leading up to the swirling “Pet Sounds”-esque harmonies of the chorus in less than a minute. This Californication pervades throughout the whole album, forming the thematic unity lacking in “Everything Will Be Alright in the End.”
The music of “The White Album” never feels gimmicky or overdone, however, as the noise extends beyond this surf rock influence, delving into the grungy, ‘90s power pop sound that defined Weezer’s two biggest albums, the also eponymous “Weezer (The Blue Album)” and the sadder, more introspective “Pinkerton.” This fusion of California fun and classic Weezer goodness is no more apparent than on the album’s second track, “Wind In Our Sail.” This song jumps between poppy piano melodies and euphoric, high rising, guitar-driven choruses on a dime. Combine that with Cuomo’s nerdy lyrics that only he could pull off (“Breathe in the salt / Slicing waves at 40 knots / Cumulonimbus in the sky / This is what we’ve waited for”), and we’ve got ourselves a great Weezer track.
It’s not necessarily a return to form, though, as Weezer has always had the geeky motifs and rocking power chord structure; it’s just been buried in the sand underneath Lil Wayne collaborations and Hurley-from-“Lost” concept albums. Thankfully, we’re well past that part of the band’s history now, as Weezer is finally acting their age.
Speaking of acting their age, Cuomo demands that of potential mates in the quirky “L.A. Girlz,” throwing that in among references to Lewis Carroll’s “Jaberwocky” and the 2014 film “Whiplash.”
Then there’s “(Girl We Got A) Good Thing,” which takes all of the whacky lyricism, shoves it into a tambourine-and-electric-guitar infused melody and comes out rocking as Weezer’s best summer jam since “Island in the Sun.”
Just about every track on this record is awesome. At times, “The White Album” sounds like a greatest hits album, except it’s all original material. Neither does it overindulge in this great sound, coming it at a remarkably tight 34 minutes.
In short, “The White Album” is a love letter to the Weezer of the ’90s, mixed with some shameless Beach Boys riffs. It’s Cuomo embracing his inner dork, full of oddball lyrics, a jamming nostalgia trip with the best of intentions and an all around great time.
Tracks: “(Girl We Got A) Good Thing,” “L.A. Girlz,” “California Kids”
If You Like: Foo Fighters, Beck, Pavement