Weezer are an odd band.
They never seem really comfortable with wherever they find themselves in the world of music. They became darling’s of the alternative / college radio world with iconic songs like Buddy Holly and Undone The Sweater Song, but have always oscillated between being super poppy and commercial and obtuse or experimental to the point that even their die-hard fans struggle to love everything they put out. Rivers Cuomo has all but disowned their most popular album Pinkerton (their second from 1996), possibly because it didn’t do as well as their debut (Weezer aka The Blue Album) in 1994, but maybe because their were lawsuits flying left and right and his main foil in the band bassist Matt Sharp left (or was pushed depending on which version you favour. The reviews were savage ‘One of the Worst album of 1996 declared Rolling Stone, which must have been embarrassing when the same magazine’s readers voted it the 16th Greatest Album of all Time in 2002.
Rivers return to college, depression, Muppets, good records, not so good records, massive hits and comparative flops, bus crashes, it’s been a bumpy ride. Rivers Cuomo is at his best a genius. Not at his best he can be very annoying and despite owning all their albums I certainly don’t listen to them all.
Would this new record Pacific Daydream would be a return to form? Well that really depends on what you preferred version of Weezer’s ‘form’ is. Some people really like the darker and experimental material on Maladroit or Hurley, but the biggest audience for them is for the quirky Indie dance floor fillers like Pork & Beans, Islands in the Sun, etc. Pacific Daydream heavily towards the latter of these two aspects, without kicking goals in an obvious way. Goals are nonetheless kicked.
It is a love letter to California. The songs shimmer and gleam like the sun reflecting off the waves, you can hear them blasting out of a radio at sunset and almost feel the sand between your toes. Mexican Fender is about a summer romance, and a knock off name brand guitar. They even have a song called Beach Boys which is about remembering the feeling of the band rather the band themselves. Beach Boys is a real ear worm, in that the first time I heard I was like, oh yeah that’s alright, but have spent days singing it to myself and playing it on repeat. It’s no El Scorcho, but it might be Gone Fishin’.
Feels Like Summer, and it might be unfair to say this out loud, sounds like they looked at the charts and listened to these young Twenty One Pilots and decided ‘we can do that’. I really like it, but structurally, sonically and lyrically is pretty close to the balaclava wearing flavour of a few months back.
Even when the lyrics are a little sad, or lonely, they are covered in sugary musical hundreds and thousands and are delicious. Songs like Happy Hour and Weekend Woman almost seem slight at first but the more you hear them the more glorious they become. Both those songs use a lyrical device about being in the drudgery of the real world work day (something Rivers probably hasn’t had much first hand experience with in 20+ years), but that longing for that thing at the end of the day (or week) that keeps you going, the thing to strive for, to push through your work day or city traffic to get to, to make life worthwhile.
QB Blitz opens with possibly THE most Weezer opening lines ever.
All of my conversations die a painful death you see
I can’t get anyone to do algebra with me
The chorus mixing Star Wars references with the confusing for non-Americans title phrase. A QB Blitz is an American football team when the Quarterback is rushed from all sides. Sweet Mary lives up to it’s name and is the most delicate song here, and can’t resist a gorgeous power pop chorus. Even the couple of slightly more pedestrian songs like Get Right and La Mancha Screwjob are only slightly more pedestrian and still glisten and beam a magnificent positivity, immaculate production, amazing harmonies and arrangements and songs that universally start strong and get stronger.
So have Weezer released a good Weezer album?
Not really. They have released a great Weezer album.
Very possibly they have released my favourite Weezer album.
Review by Ian Bell