Weezer (White Album) // Weezer
April 1st, 2016, Atlantic Records
- Last year, Pitchfork cutely tied an arbitrary ending survey to their Reader’s Poll that asked: “Should Weezer just go ahead and quit already?”, and a walloping 64% of readers apparently were done with the once acclaimed band’s shenanigans. That meant that 36% of people still held onto some hope that Rivers Cuomo would return from his 15 year long traumatic episode and write another “Pinkerton”, the exact album that publicly deflated his band’s trajectory as a “legitimate” rock band. I think this safely translates to mean that nearly everyone still holding onto Weezer was looking forward to a long overdue return to form, another “Sweater Song” that held true to a certain rock & roll aesthetic and kept up some integrity and enough seriousness in its execution.
- Everyone seems to imagine Cuomo would’ve turned out as a drastically different songwriter had “Pinkerton” been better received at its release, but what if this is where Weezer was going to go all along? “Beverly Hills” would’ve happened even if Rolling Stone lauded Weezer in its “Best Of” lists past 1997, and Ric Ocasek would eventually produce them back into minor success following one of the worst commercial albums I can think of off the top of my head. This marks “Weezer (White Album)” as yet another return to form, one that the band’s promised for a decade and a half, and finds Cuomo’s everlasting adolescence in regular autopilot while we all try to find the strain and emotional resonance behind his intentional awkwardness. Lyrically, “White Album” falls behind “Everything Will Be Alright In The End”, but the cringeworthiness is drastically lowered, which shines more light on the melodies. Melodies that, while not peak Weezer, get stuck in your head like pop songs should do, and they feel less strained and less prone to “guilty pleasure” mixtapes and more towards “sunny California vibes that you can listen to as interesting enough background music”. It’s certainly more memorable than anything they’ve done since “Island In The Sun” dominated airwaves back when I was 5. But, keep in mind, this is Weezer.
- I look at The Needle Drop to find Anthony Fantano’s favorite records from March, 2016, hoping to scavenge for good albums I’d missed out on. I’m drawn to a video on the sidebar that includes the words Weezer, The Needle Drop, and review in them. Having heard “California Girls” some months back, I can recall a faint musical light somewhere deep in my head, and after all, I’ve always perplexingly stood by those four nerdy guys from L.A.. Despite their consistent lack of delivery, every once and a while I’ll reminisce on middle school and “jokingly” play “Perfect Situation” and its one note play as a pop song about fame and pity.
Anthony starts the review but I get more interested in the comments (Youtubers LOVE Fantano), and I eventually click on the “more” tab of the video and scroll down to see a miraculous 8/10. This doesn’t add up with all the connotations that surround Weezer. Aren’t they a band that by now you can check reviews to see if the new album’s worth listening to? I’m busy trying to listen to the new M83 and Woods albums, and “unpacking” a new Weezer record sounds like it’ll just make me sad. Is this to show I need critical validity to listen to an album now? Unless someone tells me it’s important to listen to, I have no desire to check out Wiz Khalifa’s new album. Is that what music criticism is there for– the degrading 3/10 reviews just to reinforce our understandings and beliefs about an artist? Luckily, I still have enough faith in Weezer to play an album that, like or dislike it, I’ll be engaged enough in. I haven’t listened to “Cleopatra” since it came out, but I distinctly remember I was pretty into that single.
- What’s ironic and what’s so far past the point of irony that it can be viewed in a different light? There’ve been multiple times this year where one of my friends puts on “All Star” by Smash Mouth and we all ultimately get concerningly down to it. The humor of it connects back to some half memories of Shrek, the lack of Smash Mouths in 2016, and how demandingly catchy the song is. You probably won’t be able to find any essays on Smash Mouth the way you’ll find hundreds of lengthy opinions on the corporate pop of PC Music or even Carly Rae Jepsen. And that’s easy enough to understand on the surface; you could talk about coolness or aesthetic value, the intention and impact of the work, or the level of postmodernism that it happily seeps itself into. But really, have you actually heard many “rock” songs as catchy “All Star”? “3AM”? “Never Let You Go”?. They can be as one note as physically possible, but the combination of words and melodies are unarguably earworms that usually get stuck in your head much longer than you’d want. This doesn’t make them “good” songs, but does it at least stray them away from being “bad”?
At least with Weezer, there seems to be a shocking honesty to Cuomo’s songwriting- even if you really really don’t want him to be singing about Beverly Hills, it’s easy to believe that that’s what he wants to sing. “Thank God For Girls” follows similar suit, but the melody is catchy enough to go in and out of your ear (I genuinely mean this in a good way), and the ideas in the song are succinct and fleshed out enough to double take it as a (drumroll) critically good pop song. Absurd as that notion is, you start to understand the overlap between Anthony Fantano and your local commercial radio. If “White Album” is intentionally a return to form, as in marketed for its surprising quality, it’s both capitalizing on the retro value of objectively good pop songs, and providing a platform for Cuomo and co. to exist in 2016 with enough noticeable difference that their existence seems welcome in mainstream music.
- With or without any context around what Weezer is, what Weezer means, or what Weezer stands for, I liked this album.