Album Review: Weezer – Weezer (The Black Album)
It has become the case that to presume to know what Weezer will do next is a fool’s errand. The days of Rivers Cuomo’s palette containing only a fuzzy guitar, some genius melodies and a clutch of smart lyrics are long gone. So are the times when their electro-pop dalliances were an aside to the main event. Even releasing albums on any kind of normal schedule seems to have become a thing of the past, after their cover of Toto’s Africa – itself something that started as a bit of online tomfoolery, and involved serving fans a dummy by unexpectedly releasing a reworking of that band’s other hit Rosanna first – resulted in the surprise release of the ‘Teal’ covers album. A bit of fun it might have been, but following the disappointingly left-field electro of 2017’s Pacific Daydream, it didn’t do much to stop the ‘What the hell are Weezer doing?’ question turning from one of impressed wonder to genuine confusion.
Does the ‘Black Album’ change this? It does not. Where its colour predecessor, 2016’s ‘White’ album, was a fairly straightforward blast of summery guitar-pop, here Rivers is firmly, and by his own admission, intentionally going the other way to Electro-Town. Rather unhelpfully, he’s also described it as “Beach Boys gone bad,” an assertion that, no matter how well-intended, invites nothing but the worst interpretations of his words.
It shouldn’t be such a problem. Rivers is, after all, one of the finest songwriters of his generation. But here, on tracks like Can’t Knock The Hustle, Piece Of Cake and High As A Kite, the smartness and deceptive simplicity is lost under a wash of electronic beats and un-catchy melodies. A song like Living In L.A. should be a brilliant, clever observation of life in La-La Land; Zombie Bastards should be an absolute blinder, particularly on this particular shade of self-titled album. Sadly, neither hit the mark.
Admittedly, this is a certain reaction to its ‘White’ companion, a negative image of that album’s more classic ingredients. And that’s fine – we are nothing without bold artists prepared to push their own limits and tickle their own creative fancy. But perhaps, sadly, the most damning criticism one can make of Weezer here is that they sound boring. The nudge-wink humour, the OTT choruses, the sense that you’re hearing something that will worm its way into your very bones and attach itself to fond memories whether you want it to or not is absent. And in that sense, so are the vital elements that make Weezer capable of genuine greatness.
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