Weezer is one of the few ‘90s bands still pumping out music today, releasing their jaw-dropping 13th album this week, “Weezer (Black Album).” But it is just another tepid release in the band’s rocky and immensely frustrating discography.
Weezer broke out onto the alt-rock scene with their self-titled debut, better known as the “Blue Album.” The album’s mix of geeky lyrics, powerful guitar riffs and irresistible hooks made it one of the most critically-acclaimed albums of the ‘90s. They followed it up with the more experimental “Pinkerton,” another critically-acclaimed record with a darker mood and more introspective lyrics. Both albums carried monumental cultural influence, providing inspiration for many of the alt-rock groups of the 2000s. While it was more divisive than the debut, “Pinkerton” made it seem as if Weezer were well on their way to becoming rock legends.
This sentiment quickly vanished as Weezer spent the next decade releasing a slew of mediocre (“Weezer (Green Album),” “Weezer (Red Album)”) — or downright bad albums (“Make Believe,” “Raditude”). It was not until 2014, 18 years after “Pinkerton,” that Weezer put out another quality record, “Everything Will Be Alright In the End.” Sharper lyrics and solid instrumentation separated this album from years of disappointing releases. Their next album, “Weezer (White Album”), was even better, boasting excellent hooks, lively production and clever writing. It felt like Weezer was back, until the band released “Pacific Daydream” just a year later in 2017. This album wiped away the trademark Weezer sound, opting for bland, glossy and overproduced pop that crushed any recent improvements from the band.
Weezer was busy this year, releasing a fine covers album, “Weezer (Teal Album),” a few months before the “Black Album.” This new studio album blends Weezer’s typical sound with that of “Pacific Daydream.” It is not straight pop, but it also certainly is not alternative rock. The “Black Album” name doesn't fit themes of this album, as it is not particularly dark or moody. Weezer actually puts humor first, with mixed results. There are some funny moments, but they are far less impactful or entertaining than the humor on past efforts.
As far as standouts go, the only one that comes to mind is the fun and catchy “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” the lead single for the album. As the name suggests, the song is about respecting people who work hard in menial jobs. The song’s release was accompanied by a music video featuring Pete Wentz as an Uber driver, complementing a pretty funny lyric from the song’s chorus, “Leave a five star review and I’ll leave you one, too.”
The worst song on the album is its closer, “California Snow.” It is an absolute trainwreck, sounding like a dreadful mix of electronica, hip-hop and rock that would have fit well on Fall Out Boy’s terrible latest record, “Mania.” The combinations of genres fails at every level, the lyrics are cringeworthy and Cuomo feels the need to annoyingly shout "Woo!" throughout the song’s runtime. A nerdy, middle aged man should never start a song with the lyrics, “When I play guitar it’s sick, woo/This is the definition of flow, woo.”
“High as a Kite” would be the album’s best song if it were not for an unbelievably irritating hook. “Zombie Bastards” is too silly, even for an album that isn't trying to be serious. It is catchy, but the ridiculous subject matter robs it of any greater significance, and it feels out of place on this record. “Byzantine” features elevator-music background instrumentation and a strangely paced lyrical delivery that are a nice change of pace. However, the concept quickly grows old, and the song overstays its welcome.
Lyrically, “I’m Just Being Honest” is one of the best songs on the record. The first verse is about Rivers listening to a demo from a fan and being honest, telling them how much it sucks. In the second verse, Rivers tells a significant other that he liked her hair better before her haircut, to which she responds, “Hope you like sleeping on the floor.” But the song’s bland instrumentation ruins what could have been the album’s best track.
The “Black Album” as a whole is forgettable. For an album that apparently took the band years to complete, the bland production and vapid lyrics make it feel as if Weezer phoned this one in. Although it is by no means worse than “Pacific Daydream”, the “Black Album” leaves little hope for Weezer’s future. It is impressive that the band has lasted this long, but it might be time to wrap things up.
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