Weezer takes a step backward on ‘Pacific Daydream’
Charlie Kenney | Friday, November 3, 2017
When I listen to Weezer, I listen for ‘90s nostalgia.
I think their debut “Weezer (Blue Album).” I think “Island in the Sun.” I think Rivers Cuomo in a music video grossly overplayed on MTV. I think ‘90s nerd, garage-band rock.
Weezer’s recently released album “Pacific Daydream” is the opposite of all of these things. It’s a grand effort by Weezer to interweave California, electronic pop with their vintage, quintessentially ‘90s sound. It’s them trying to perfect the beautifully imperfect music that made them a household name.
It’s a bit unexpected as well. Weezer didn’t leave their style and sound behind in 1999. 2005’s “Make Believe,” 2009’s “Ratitude” and even 2016’s “Weezer (White Album) are unmistakably Weezer. They no doubt fall short of the band’s superlative 1990s albums, but they at least paid homage to it. “Pacific Daydream” is not a continuation, it’s a jump.
The tracks on the album are filled with synthetic background fluff and electronically altered vocals instead of rugged guitar riffs and imperfect percussion. The foremost culprit of this is the early-released single “Feels Like Summer.”
The song opens with a chorus of techno voices chanting “Na na na na na” in a wispy sort of way, alluding to the celestial element of the album’s cover. It sets the mood of the song immediately. The rest is dominated by Cuomo’s synthetic voice and the “Na Na’s” that constantly hum over it in the background.
The lyrics that Cuomo croons aren’t particularly inventive or meaningful also. The chorus “Yeah it feels like summer / Yeah it feels like summer to me,” takes up nearly the entire running time of the song and doesn’t inspire much other than occasional singing along — not because it is catchy, but because it is easy to remember.
“Feels Like Summer” is not an outlier. It was the first song to be released, and, in doing so, it set the bar for all of the following tracks — a bar that was incredibly low.
All of the songs seem otherworldly compared to Weezer’s typical down to earth, recorded-in-a-garage feel. I’d like to think that it’s a result of being in the industry and taking advantage of the resources at hand, but, if it is, then Weezer does it significantly worse than other band in the same situation.
There are, of course, some tracks that are a bit better than others.
“Any Friend of Diane’s,” the album’s last track, despite its airy feel, contains some typical guitar melodies and lyrics. Weezer lyrics are normally odd and off putting. It’s something to be expected. But in “Any Friend of Diane’s” they seem more out of place than normal.
On the ending track of the album, Cuomo awkwardly sings, “Working at Papa John’s, I was making good bread / Got a 20 dollar tip on New Year’s.” In doing so, not only does he clumsily try and transform a story into a song, but he drops an incredibly uncomfortable corporate reference. It’s a song that, overall, is a standout on the album, but, as evidenced by its obvious flaws, the term standout doesn’t mean much on “Pacific Daydream.”
As poor as the album is, its creation makes sense. Weezer is one of those ’90s bands, like “Third Eye Blind” and “Smashing Pumpkins,” who just weren’t able to carry their anti-establishment momentum into the new millennium. That’s why Weezer tried to adapt in this album and make the shift from “Say It Ain’t So” to 2010’s pop.
It’s a noble effort. Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bell and Scott Shriner are just trying to make an honest dollar like all of us. This venture just falls a bit flat.
Album: Pacific Daydream
Label: Atlantic Records
Favorite Track: “Any Friend of Diane’s,”La Mancha Screwjob”
If you like: OK Go, Pixies, Third Eye Blind
Shamrocks: 1.5 out of 5