By Tyler Scruggs
There was a recent Rolling Stone interview with a few members of the deeply Californian alternative-pop group Weezer that inspired anything but confidence in the creative processes of the 23-year-old quartet. In it, they describe the piecemeal construction of their latest effort Pacific Daydream, out today, and the ever-changing climate of the music industry. Samples, looping, isolated recording, and even playful disdain (or at least frustration) towards fellow bandmates was made bizarrely clear in that piece, and it’s only exasperated on their eleventh LP.
Pacific Daydream is the follow-up to the surprisingly well-constructed, flawed, but nevertheless, Grammy-nominated White Album that put Weezer back on the map. Or, at least a map. Some nerd out there is going to argue that 2014’s Everything Will Be Alright In The End was the album that did that for them. To which I say: that album sucks, had exactly zero hits, and is about as comfortable as a Star Wars tee from Walmart. Their later effort still suffered many boneheaded Weezerisms (looking at you, “Thank God For Girls”), but the cheerfulness, earnestness and singular vision was a Dixie Cup of room temperature water that followed the dry, large pill that Weezer wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Though, earnestness was never something Rivers Cuomo ever particularly lacked. It’s clear now more than ever that this is his band and his alone, and the insistence in captaining Weezer as a band through the intense storm that is his lifelong search for the perfect pop formula (and the legend-creating mass appeal that follows) will always cement Weezer as an interesting band, but seldom an enjoyable or natural one.
Which brings us to their first single supporting Pacific Daydream, “Feels Like Summer”. Upon initial listens, it’s a gigantic step backwards for a band of 40-somethings and is, put simply, a Twenty One Pilots song with a Rivers Cuomo filter over it giving it the perfect Weezer touch, which is tragically out-of-touch. Influence isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I would never discourage Rivers from consuming as much music as possible, not that he could ever be stopped. But the major takeaway, and he’d tell you this himself, was that he’s simply disinterested in mining what made Weezer so particularly special in the 90s (one of the highest praises in the last two records) and wants to make modern music for modern audiences.
Their 2009 album Raditude came to mind often upon my first few listens. That album, and the eclectic band behavior of that era is a straight-up balls-to-the-wall-hoping-something’ll-stick effort to regurgitate the musical climate of the time, but in the opposite way from what they’re trying to do now. Raditude, no matter your thoughts on it, was Weezer injecting itself into the 2009 musical landscape at large, not assimilating with it. It’s jarring, energetic, and features a Lil’ Wayne verse at the height of his career.
Pacific Daydream’s hope, conversely, is that you’ll never notice you’re listening to Weezer in the first place, and simply wants to inject itself into your office’s Spotify playlist. And if that means crafting an album that sounds like Ed Sheeran fronting Foster The People, so be it.
With all that said, there are songs to praise on the record, just like nearly every ‘bad’ Weezer album. “Weekend Woman” sounds like a song written by a talented 47-year-old man, which sounds like a diss, but it’s really all Weezer needs to be these days. Weezer’s at their best when they’re acting their age. Or, they’re at least interesting when they’re actively combating the notion of being an ‘aged rock band’ by jumping on trampolines or climbing on the stage lighting structure, in hindsight almost mocking the bombastic nature of similar-era Jonas Brothers shows. “Sweet Mary” is also notable, if only for its maturity in contrast of the rest of the record. Say what you will about modern-day Green Day, but at least they’re not singing about picking up women on Southern California Piers anymore, but that’s what Weezer would like us to believe in the album opener “Mexican Fender”.
This notion is mocked in Pacific Daydream, by the way. In “Beach Boys”, a mostly nonsense song about being nostalgic for a band better than Weezer, it takes the album’s only real moment of self-awareness to pretty much shrug and say “Yes, we know you don’t enjoy this, but what are you gonna do about it?” It’s one of the more dire sins on the record, and rivals “Back To The Shack” as one of the biggest aggressions from the band against their hardcore fanbase.
Most frustratingly of all, is that they’re right. Weezer is a hollow band, glued together by nostalgic festival gigs and an endless river of pennies that turn into Spotify checks. Your only real means of defense is the measly thumbs down button on whatever app you’re using to check out this tragically 2017 album, but there’s a new Weezer record out. What are you gonna do, not listen to it?
Pacific Daydream by Weezer (3/10)