Everything Will Be Alright in the End in many ways could have been Weezer’s last album. Asides from the very resolute sounding title, the album neatly rounded off a 20 year career, featured Ric Ocasek production like their debut, and featured a sound that was a frank and honest reminder to their fans that had stuck by them for so many years and been let down so many times. The message was that Weezer still understood their fans, and could still make a good album. Not to mention, the album concluded with the phenomenal The Futurescope Trilogy, which was a pretty damn high note to finish on. It would have been sad, but if 2014’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End had been the final Weezer album, it would have made sense. But here we, two years later and we find Weezer shattering that legendary ‘could-have-been’ story with their 10th album…Weezer (The White Album). Did it deserve to be shattered? Let’s take a look.
Multiple things need to be taken into consideration with Weezer (The White Album). Many of the key features that so many fans and critics took umbrage with on Weezer albums of the late 2000s; professional songwriters, pop producers, and highly polished sound, are all on display here once again. And while that may sound like a deterrent, it can actually be safely said that this time around, it benefits the album, rather than impedes it. The studio songwriters are few and far between (its mostly pure Rivers Cuomo stuff), producer Jake Sinclair respects and understands the intricacies of Weezer (he once played in a Weezer tribute band), and the polished sound…well here it is necessary. For you see, while the Weezer (The White Album) strives to be a recreation of the classic ’90s Weezer sound (but hey, hasn’t EVERY one of their albums been delivered to us with that same intention?), it first and foremost wishes to be a summery California record. Specifically, a Beach Boys album. In all honesty, this really isn’t so surprising for Weezer. Despite sonically sounding worlds apart, Weezer and The Beach Boys share a number of similarities; each have a reclusive, misunderstood genius, an album relatively ignored on release but now universally hailed a masterpiece (Pinkerton and Pet Sounds), a scrapped opus (Songs From The Black Hole and SMiLE), and above all, a massive appreciation for classic pop melody. Cuomo has always said Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys were massive influences, but on this 10th album, it’s more than just influence for it is now tribute, with many track titles echoing Beach Boys titles of old (California Kids, L.A. Girlz, Endless Bummer). Ultimately, what all of this equates to is an album that is easily one of Weezer’s best, and proof that the relief of Everything Will Be Alright in the End was not just wishful thinking.
Yes, it is easily to have gripes with this album and to get cynical. The album is now their fourth self-titled release, which each time it occurred seemed to suggest a forced rebirth of sorts, the opener California Kids has an introduction that is just one or two notes off being the opening to Pink Triangle, the fact that Cuomo got song-writing inspiration from getting a Tinder account, and that Cuomo’s lyrical choices are just plain obtuse and bizarre (Charles Darwin, the Beagle, Gregor Mendel, the entirety of Thank God For Girls). However, with the assistance of better songs this time around, Weezer earn themselves the right to make a couple of odd choices, as the positives outweigh the negatives greatly.
The delightfully poppy (Girl We Got A) Good Thing is an obvious stand-out, with its wistful melody and jaunty piano instrumentation positively bristling with summer excitement and joy. A pop song this delicious and carefree has not been seen in Weezer’s discography since Island In The Sun. Also, that cool (yet brief) guitar solo is the stuff that plasters smiles to faces for long times. King of the World sees Cuomo return to his geeky self-aggrandising philosophy that may not have always worked in the past, but remembers this time to include a fun power pop chord progression and (most importantly, humility to counter-balance things (you wouldn’t think it looking at the title though). Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori meanwhile features a far better chorus than you’d expect from such a title (plus, a reference to Radiohead’s Paranoid Android…remember when Weezer covered that song?).
Last year’s singles Thank God For Girls and Do You Wanna Get High? appear here, and while both enjoyable, for an odd reason they just don’t seem to fit with the rest of the album. Do You Wanna Get High? dips into self-parody far too greatly with its circular and overdriven guitar hook (even for a band as self-replicating as Weezer), and on the other end of the spectrum, Thank God For Girls is a batshit insanity opus worthy of Sparks, featuring immaculatly polished production and a torrent of free association lyricism so confusing that Cuomo himself had to come out and explain each line on Genius Lyrics. But as stated previously, they do both have their pleasures, even if they seem a tad at odds with the whole conceptual package.
The emotional highpoints of the album hit late but spectacularly. First is L.A. Girlz, which is undoubtedly one of Weezer’s finest singles. Crunchy and loud, yet sorrowful and melancholic with its 6/4 time signature and impassioned vocals, L.A. Girlz is an open and heartfelt plea for a dear lover to be more mature and accepting (“sweeten up your lemonade”). Sure, the litterings of references to Alice in Wonderland, The Divine Comedy, and the film Whiplash, can be distracting, but the main focus of the song never strays and hits hard, especially during the impassioned climax, where Cuomo wonders whether his affections are worth anything at all, repeating the line “does anybody love anybody as much as I love you?” in multiple intensities in the hope to try and get a clear answer. Then there is the wistful closer Endless Bummer, beginning as a plaintive acoustic strum-a-thon with backing vocals pulled directly from Island in the Sun, Cuomo admits that despite all the joy he has had, he’s feeling “bummed out”, lonely, and that he yearns for the summer to end. All this ends with an aurally perfect conclusion as the rest of the band and the electrics faintly come in, before breaking into a rocking coda and a delightfully bittersweet (yet still explosive) guitar solo.
There is a tendency to over-praise mediocrity when it comes on after a long period of disappointment. But make no mistake, Weezer (The White Album) is an honest-to-goodness solid album that knows its intentions, executes them well, and succeeds in being an enjoyable slice of pop/rock, in spite of it being in many ways an obvious retread of Weezer’s sound. The difference this time around is that Weezer know just when to dial it down. If this album was released back in the 1990s or the early 2000s, it is not hard to imagine this album being held on the same pedestal as their untouchable debut. While the the apologetic fanservice of Everything Will Be Alright in the End would have worked as the perfect conclusion to Weezer, Weezer (The White Album) makes it clear that Weezer have a future now.