Last October, Weezer dropped Thank God For Girls, their first new material since the release of the band’s ninth album, Everything Will Be Alright In The End, released in 2014. As per, it’s chorus is one that’ll burrow deep into your cerebral cortex and refuse to leave. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it also sounds excellent blaring out the car stereo as you speed down the motorway. However, its somewhat eclectic combination of rap and cannoli had my eyebrows raised – after such an excellent return to form on their last record, something here smelled suspiciously like a gigantic step backward. For anyone who admires this free-spiritedness; this goofy superfluousness – I have this to say: that’s an excuse that might’ve worked circa Beverley Hills, but, on album nine, Rivers Cuomo batted an unexpected home-run, and it was no accident either. Yes sir, since Weezer’s much-missed artistic relevance has reared its ugly head once more, there’s literally no excuse for these guys to get all sub-par on our asses again. 2001 happened people – let’s not let it happen again, right?
Now, the whole album’s come along almost six months later, and, along the way, the situation has seemed to improve exponentially. In November, Cuomo and co. put out second single, Do You Wanna Get High?, a rare success on Rivers’ quest to match his mid-‘90s angst (complete with crunchy keyboards). Next, in January, we got the tub-thumping King Of The World, glistening with Brian Bell’s lead-riff massiveness and Rivers’ well-honed knack for radio-friendly discordance. My personal favourite from this record came next – L. A. Girlz, a waltzing slice of beach-y grunge, as gleefully summery as it is hormonally brooding. As if it wasn’t already obvious, the gang cemented their resurged penchant for water-tight pop excellence with California Kids, this LP’s opener and based on a song written by Scott and Rivers for their Japanese-language side-project – it’s a banger. In truth, all these songs are bangers. They don’t have the requisite emotional injury and experimental quality that passes for artistic integrity – but sure, they’re bangers still.
And so there I was with five Weezer singles tucked under my arm, each as pleasing as the next – hell, I’d even decided to give Thank God… the benefit of the doubt after it’s four siblings had managed to get me so feeling so zip-a-dee-doo-dah. As is so often the case however, mathematics swooped in to spoil the fun for everyone – a cursory glance at the white album’s track-listing made me realise I’d already heard half of the album. No matter – I figured that if they could churn out five great singles, why not five more great album tracks, right?
Unbelievably, no – this album really is a horrid, two-faced terror. Not only are bits of it very weak, but their mediocrity bleeds into what you thought was safe material – bangers become, well, somewhat less banging. On the one hand, it’s an album threatening to be as good as the one before it and, by extension, the early-mid ‘90s. On the other, it’s bland, forgettable, boring, unadventurous, conformist – you name it. I’m talking Hurley standard (if you haven’t read my rank-the-albums feature for PearShaped, mosey on over and do so – it’s pretty comprehensive, if I do say so myself).
Let’s just take a deep breath for a second though – of the five new tracks, I did really love Summer Elaine And Drunk Dori (god only knows what it’s about, but it’s got a disgusting, ABBA-esque chord change between verse and chorus that I just can’t get enough of). That leaves four über-naff tracks on a ten-tracker – a 60% hit-rate then, and, objectively, not at all bad. But (and it’s a big but), Rivers Cuomo famously starts every new album project astride a mountainous heap of backlogged demos and songs with a personal archive that’s one of the most sought-after in pop music, the question does really begin to ask itself: just how can a nuanced selection of ten songs from a pile of over two-hundred-and-fifty only run solid for just over half its runtime?
Now, I know I can be a tad harsh on album reviews – blame it on the contrary lil’ Pitchfork bitch inside me if you must*. But I’ve read around on this one, and I think the general consensus is “meh” – which is harsh. At least half this record is semi-good.
But it’s same old, same old with this band isn’t it? Because even when it’s at its most internally comparable riotous, this record is not kicking up the same as stink My Name Is Jonas – it’s not as aggrieved as Butterfly, and it’s never as clever as Falling For You, or as catchy as Buddy Holly. The sad truth is that Weezer continue to battle their early-career successes; it’s made only sadder by the fact that just two years ago, their ambition had everybody wondering if they’d finally returned to full greatness. No matter, every new record released by Rivers Cuomo gives us a chance to dance and either love or hate it before resuming the foetal position, curled up and smiling with Pinkerton playing instead.