Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright In The End
Few bands occasion so much intense love and flippant dismissal (often from the same people, often at the same time) as Weezer. For over 10 years, since the release of the so-called Green Album, critics and fans held out their hopes for a new Weezer album to match the quality of the first two records, but really most of whom just wanted the band to get back to that early sound, an increasingly odd request for a band now decades older. (Even more ironically, the subtext for some of those reviews is that the famously uncool band wasn’t being cool enough, or, rather, that they weren’t being uncool in a cool enough way.) For their part, Rivers Cuomo and the rest of Weezer took a lot of this criticism in stride, just ignoring what they could and following their muse, releasing record after record of varying quality while experimenting with different styles and sorts of jokes. (Remember when they did a song with Lil Wayne?) But Cuomo’s always been the self-conscious type, keenly aware of what his audience expects from him, and after jumping back in with his core audience with a series of tours focusing on their early work, Weezer took the time to craft a new record that would ostensibly get back to their roots. On its face, it seems like all that badgering finally got to the band.
In actuality, Everything Will Be Alright In The End, Weezer’s ninth album, isn’t really a return to form by any means. It certainly talks like it—”Back To The Shack” blatantly apologizes to the fans and promises to get back to “rockin’ out like it’s ’94″—but nothing on here remotely apes the Blue Album or Pinkerton. Even the heartache of the rousing opener “Ain’t Got Nobody,” which on the surface seems like a kissing cousin to their lovelorn early days, is gussied up with crowd-pleasing hooks and big, arena-rock ambition that marked their post-millennial work. Instead, EWBAITE shrewdly attempts to court Weezer’s hardcore audience, not by tracing over their older work, but by marrying the game-for-anything creativity of their recent music and the weight and quirk of the early records. By and large, it succeeds wonderfully. The songs are consistently tight, catchy and memorable, generally falling on the right side of the funny/hokey divide, eccentric without veering into novelty. To be clear, this is a more calculated, occasionally fan-service-y album than we’re used to—with a wife and kids waiting for him at home, he doesn’t really “got nobody to kiss and hug me”—but this doesn’t really matter since the band’s playing to their strengths and working on the most solid set of songs they have in over a decade.
Cuomo once again shares songwriting credit on a couple tracks here, but they feel entirely in his voice, which lends EWBAITE a bit more personality and urgency no matter if he’s writing about himself, a character or how “The British Are Coming.” “Eulogy Of A Rock Band” is a small-scale epic more successful than the similarly minded “Heart Songs” from Red; the time-signature shifts lend “Cleopatra” a surprisingly effective twist, and “Go Away” puts Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino’s easygoing sincerity to good use in a duet. Meanwhile “Foolish Father” and “Anonymous” both end with those sorts of euphoric, reassuring crowd chants that indie bands are so fond of (the former’s reminds me of Sufjan Stevens’ “Chicago” oddly enough). If that sounds like a lot to squeeze into a 42 minute album, it is. In fact, most of the album finds Weezer more ambitious than they’ve ever been, but here it works because there’s a sense they’ve put a lot of effort into seeing all their ideas through. In other words, this is an album where a song called “The British Are Coming” is literally about Paul Revere, and it might be one of their best singles in years. Plus, it has the nerve to culminate in something called the “Futurescope Trilogy,” a near-proggy mini-suite that closes out the record, bookended with interlocking guitar-shredding instrumentals that surround “Anonymous,” a multi-segmented barn-burner that has little competition for Weezer’s most theatrical moment. Holding it all together though is Ric Ocasek, once again proving to be Weezer’s best and most natural production partner, just as he was on Blue and Green. He reigns in Cuomo’s whimsy and plays up his hooks (and his quirks), giving the album bite even when the band gets silly and letting the left turns bristle against the slick pop confections. If EWBAITE doesn’t come close to their best albums, it’s a reassuring reset button—their best since The Green Album or maybe even Pinkerton—and a hopeful push to a bold, new future. When Weezer are good, there’s no one quite like them, and Everything Will Be Alright In The End finds them better than they’ve been in quite a while.
I have a new feature up in the “Features” section. It’s called “Weezer and the Problem with Fan Expectations” and deals with what happens when an artist feels like they owe something to their audience.
UPDATE: It turns out this article was published in Popmatters. Here’s the link: http://www.popmatters.com/post/186936-weezer-and-the-problem-of-fan-expectation/
To be clear, I think EWBAITE is a very good record (review will be up shortly, sorry about that–been busy), their best in a decade, and this sort of uncomfortable tension between doing what they’ve always done and apologizing to their fan base I think helps fuel the record instead of drag it down, even if the fan-service aspects result in it feeling much more calculated than the average Weezer record.
Thanks for reading. I hope you are okay.
Weezer – Hurley
Since Weezer’s third self-titled outing (a.k.a. The Red Album), Rivers Cuomo has tried his best to avoid his age, a sort of mid-life crisis via pop music. On Raditude, he even donned the persona of a party-hardy frat boy, something that didn’t always wear too well. Yet, 2010’s Hurley, named for Jorge Garcia’s character on sci-fi show Lost, takes a bit of a different approach. Cuomo is still mainly concerned with writing the perfect, fun three-minute pop song but there is a nostalgic feel to Hurley. Opening up with the great “Memories,” whose squealing guitars consciously recall Pinkerton, Cuomo yearns for his past (albeit semi-jokingly). “Brave New World” and “Time Flies,” the latter of which hovers about on a delightful acoustic riff, share similar sentiments of growing up and moving on. Though this suggests that the album is personal and introspective—or perhaps an attempt to recapture the glory of their early work—Hurley is a modern Weezer record through and through, stuffed to the brim with pop hooks, romantic dysfunction, and songwriting collaborations. Luckily, many of these partnerships result in pleasant additions to the band’s catalog. “Ruling Me” and “Smart Girls” are effortlessly catchy, while “Run Away” and “Hang On” are surprisingly sweet. Not all of these songs work though: the one-joke “Where’s My Sex?”, while fun, borders on novelty, and the insistent “Trainwrecks” just becomes repetitive. Hurley isn’t a knockout and is unlikely to win back any fans disenchanted with the direction Weezer has chosen lately, but it is a rather solid collection of songs and far from an embarrassment.