Album Review: Weezer's 'Black Album'
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE 405 (NOW DEFUNCT)
Time after time again, my undying love for Weezer has been tested to the limits—so much so that it has become too one-sided to bear. I don't typically think of myself as a glutton for punishment, but with each passing record, it seems I possess some unchecked desire toward sadistic insanity. Up to this point, I've listened to, struggled through, but somehow found some sort of value in every one of the band’s albums—yes, even in Raditude. In the heat of the moment, this relationship may seem like a forgiving one, but from the outside looking in, it’s manipulative to the highest degree.
Struggling to surpass my own denial of what the band has devolved into, Weezer consistently threatens to dethrone their infamous collaboration with Lil Wayne, and yet, I somehow find myself running back to the band that once charmed the masses in the ‘90s. Songs like “Only In Dreams,” “My Name is Jonas,” “El Scorcho” and even some later cuts like “Hash Pipe” and “Perfect Situation” really tapped into middle-school me and many others who grew up with their music.
While we still have those songs among others, to cherish forever, Weezer releases crap like 2017’s Pacific Daydream and then to make matters worse—a half-baked covers album—in other words, a painfully unaware attempt at hijacking a good meme aimed at poking fun at the band. Though it was amusing for a hot second, 2018’s The Teal Album was a clear cry for help—a wail of desperation to remain relevant in the age of memes and streams. At this point—dejected and near hopeless, I was somehow willing to give the polarizing collective another chance as the world anticipated the release of Weezer’s latest record, The Black Album. But they inevitably screw that up too.
First off, but briefly, who in the hell thought it was a good idea to preview some of the album in a custom map for Fortnite (called Weezer World)? Waving a fleeting flag within the zenith of current pop culture will not make your music relevant again, I promise. Now that is out of the way, let’s get to the music. Though the band’s dreaded move toward poptimism and simpler song structures on Pacific Daydream were ghastly and all but convoluted their power pop image that was resurrected with The White Album, it was a sound that had the potential for better results. But to no one’s surprise, such potential was chucked out the window. With The Black Album, Weezer TRIES to experiment with different sounds, only to achieve results that are staler than before and of course, bumbling lyrics that are as dorky than anything they’ve ever written.
With The Black Album, Weezer once again sounds insufferably uncomfortable with the notion of aging by devising the musical equivalent of getting hair plugs. Just like how hair transplantation is a surgical technique for desperately aging men where hair follicles from “other” parts of the body are removed then relocated to a balding spot, it sounds as if Weezer is borrowing from the more unflattering moments of their discography, blunderingly implementing them in a mish-mash display of pop rock and passing the end result off as something fresh and experimental. But listeners will not be tricked by a compilation of tracks lacking in quality and spat out at the end of a conveyer belt.
Beginning with “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” a garbage can brimming to the rim with putrid funk rock, listeners are reminded that Cuomo is almost 50, is white and can speak Spanish? “Hasta luego, hasta luego / Hasta luego, adios.” The track “Zombie Bastards,” one of the album’s lead singles, tries to make Ukeleles cool again (but were they really?) and is somehow a lesser version of something Twenty One Pilots would produce. That’s embarrassing. Brandishing an us-versus-the-world mentality, the track’s lyrics are equally awkward and tries to deliver a no-fucks-given sentiment that feels especially flacid at this stage of Weezer’s career.
Not all is lost with the band’s latest attempt at salvaging their careers. In fact, “High As A Kite,” the third single released, possesses a slightly Beatles-esque, but classic Weezer character that harkens to the band’s better beginnings. Genuinely one of my favorite songs of the year so far, this considerably depressing ballad contains some of Cuomo’s best lyrics in a long while, “When I'm high / And I'm giving up the / nightmare chase, woah woah / And all I wanna do is blow my mind, woah woah / All I wanna do is blow my mind.” Unfortunately, the album’s lone bright spot is screwed over by one of the worst tracks on the album, “Living in the L.A.” A stale and static pop number that falls into the trappings of everything the band has been drawn to the past couple of years, Cuomo once again croons about a girl (please stop calling women girls) that he cannot obtain—surprise— and compares his yearnful loneliness to living in Los Angeles. How creative—next!
With the track “Piece of Cake,” listeners are bombarded with a bunch of “Do-do-do-do-do-do-do / Do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do / Do-do-do-do-do-do-do / Do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do”—enough said.
Though it features a killer bassline and the band’s best attempt at self-awareness, the track “I’m Just Being Honest,” is a bit too ironic to be taken seriously as Cuomo speaks of people who just can’t accept the truth. If this is what you hold to be true, Weezer, hear me out—you are getting old! The song “Too Many Thoughts in My Head” is nothing special other than just another reminder of how weird it is to hear Rivers Cuomo spew the word “bitch.” “The Prince of Everything” is a forgettable and dishonorable ode to Prince that is currently causing him to toss around in his grave. Ok, maybe it’s not that bad as the chorus is infectious and the lyrics prove to be not as cringeworthy as many others on the album. Nevertheless, what seems to be a solid track is almost completely ruined by yet another “Do, do, do, do.” Stop it with the do-dos.
The closing track of this album, “California Snow” is a god-awful, albeit appropriate way to conclude a bad album. An abomination to the ears, moments like these make me wonder if Cuomo and company are actually trolling us or are simply out-of-touch with who they are. In all seriousness, who actually wants to listen to Weezer dabble with trap beats and hip-hop production. Absolutely no one. Considering the above, “California Snow” may actually be the worst song they've ever produced (maybe behind “Can’t Stop Partying”) and ought to be put out of its misery as soon as possible. How? I’m not sure, but someone, please anyone—do something.
Given the band’s current trajectory, This Black Album may be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back. I don’t know if I can go on subjecting myself to this torture and fruitless defense of this band. Weezer, for the love of God, for the good of all humanity, if you cared about making good music again or even your image—go back to square one. Stop giving a crap about fitting in and please come to terms with your age. Otherwise, drop the act and consider retiring from making music altogether. Even after this complete dud, part of me continues to hold out hope of there being a secret chest containing an album or two that harkens to the heyday, but we all know that this reality exists—only in dreams.
THE 405 RATING: 1.5/10