This album is not a slavish imitation of an old sound but a fresh take on the kind of timeless, tuneful fun that pop music used to be all about.
By Jason M. Rubin
From the album cover, which give us the band hanging out on a beach, to song titles such as “California Kids,” “Wind in Our Sail,” “Thank God for Girls,” “L.A. Girlz,” and “Endless Bummer,” it’s clear that on Weezer’s 10th album (and fourth self-titled one), band leader and songwriter Rivers Cuomo continues to revel in his much-acknowledged love for the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. In a Pitchfork interview previewing the album last January (its release date was April 1), Cuomo spoke about one of his prime inspirations for the album:
Obviously my favorite band has always been the Beach Boys, and what I love about them most are the melodies and the chord progressions. I guess the harmonies too. And the orchestration. Can’t forget about the lyrics. So basically everything. I wanted to get that kind of vibe: beautiful tunes and sweet lyrics.
He succeeds in spades. The 10 songs on the album take up 34 minutes, a compactness that harkens back to pre-digital studio frugality. Each mini-masterpiece features Weezer’s classic combination of catchy hooks, witty lyrics, and infectious energy.
While the band’s previous album, 2014’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End, was produced by ex-Cars leader Ric Ocasek, a musical figure seemingly in close consonance with the Weezer aesthetic, the new album is produced by Jake Sinclair, whose prior clients include Taylor Swift, P!nk, and Panic! at the Disco. No matter: Sinclair’s production is as clean and fresh as beach air, and the band’s mix of guitar crunch and vocal harmony comes across unhampered by any attempts at over-engineered sterility.
Though still new on the shelves, the album has been anticipated since last October, when the first of five pre-album-release singles came out. That song, “Thank God for Girls,” has some amazing lyrics. The tune begins with an object of affection:
The girl in the pastry shop with the net in her hair
Is making a cannoli for you to take on your hiking trip
Then in the second verse comes the romantic dilemma:
I’m so glad I got a girl to think of even though she isn’t mine
I think about her all the day and all the night it’s enough to know that she’s alive
She says I give her sweaty palms she almost had a heart attack
The truth is that I’m just as scared I don’t know how to act
Then the bridge brings God into the mix, for better or worse:
God took a rib from Adam, ground it up in a centrifuge machine
Mixed it with cardamom and cloves, microwaved it on the popcorn setting
While Adam was like “that really hurts”
Going off into the tundra, so pissed at God
And he started lighting minor forest fires, stealing osprey eggs
Messing with the bees who were trying to pollinate the echinacea
Until God said, “I’ma smite you with loneliness
And break your heart in two”
And Adam wept and wailed, tearing out his hair
Falling on his knees, looked to the sky and said
Interestingly, the last line is sung exactly the same as the last line in the XTC song, “Dear God.” Other playful Easter eggs on the album include the words “Paranoid Android” (the title of a Radiohead song) in the lyrics to “Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori”; the line “As I gyre and gimble in the wabe” from “L.A. Girlz” comes from Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky. Of course, “Endless Bummer” is a pun on the Beach Boys’ 1974 platinum compilation album, Endless Summer. The literate and once-local (Connecticut) Cuomo also name-checks the following throughout the album: Darwin, Sisyphus, Hare Krishnas, Stockholm Syndrome, CVS, Prozac and Valium, Dante, and OCD.
Though Cuomo is the principal songwriter, singer, and lead guitarist, the rest of the band are full and strong participants. Rivers and drummer Patrick Wilson are original members, rhythm guitarist Brian Bell joined in 1993, and bassist Scott Shriner has been with Weezer since 2001. Bell and Shriner each add keyboards to the mix, as well as backing vocals; and Bell garners a couple of co-writing credits.
As mentioned before, though this is Weezer’s 10th album, it’s the fourth titled Weezer. Each of the eponymous albums has an aka title: their first album in 1994 was The Blue Album, their third in 2001 was The Green Album, 2008’s release was The Red Album, and this new one is known as The White Album — another wink at one of Cuomo’s influences.
While clearly inspired by the Beach Boys, Weezer sounds exactly like Weezer. The band members have their toes in the sand, but they aren’t wearing Brian Wilson’s influence on their sleeves. This album is not a slavish imitation of an old sound but a fresh take on the kind of timeless, tuneful fun that pop music used to be all about. I say, surf’s up!
Jason M. Rubin has been a professional writer for 30 years, the last 15 of which has been as senior writer at Libretto, a Boston-based strategic communications agency. An award-winning copywriter, he holds a BA in journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, maintains a blog called Dove Nested Towers, and for four years served as communications director and board member of AIGA Boston, the local chapter of the national association for graphic arts. His first novel, The Grave & The Gay, based on a 17th-century English folk ballad, was published in September 2012. He regularly contributes feature articles and CD reviews to Progression magazine and for several years wrote for The Jewish Advocate.