Weezer - Weezer (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Weezer (2019)


“Sorry guys I didn't realize that I needed you so much
I thought I'd get a new audience, I forgot that disco sucks.”

-Weezer, five years ago

How quickly Weezer have forgotten the promises made on their 2014 lead single, “Back to the Shack,” where they vowed that they “belong in the rock world.” Despite having a whole song apologizing for their dancier experiments of Raditude and Hurley, particularly the embarrassing “Can’t Stop Partying” with Lil Wayne, Weezer returns with their sixth self-titled album (their second of this year), The Black Album, going back on all of the promises of “Back to the Shack” and incorporating dance elements into their music once again. The thing is, unlike, say, Fall Out Boy who I bashed last year for their dance album, Weezer has at least made a pretty competent dance album, and the rock doesn’t completely disappear on The Black Album the way it does on Fall Out Boy’s horrendous M A N I A album. The Black Album isn’t a bad album at all, but it makes it clear that Rivers hasn’t given up on searching for new audiences at the cost of alienating early fans.

Like all of the self-titled Weezer albums, The Black Album’s cover features all four members of Weezer against a single-colored background. While the Blue and Green albums featured Weezer’s members in fairly normal clothes, and the Red and Teal albums featured them in jokey costumes, it’s hard to tell if Weezer were going for comedy or seriousness with The Black Album’s cover, but the result is comedy as they look like they’re dressed in four BDSM style gimp suits for some reason. In fact, we have no way to be sure that the four people on the cover are actually Weezer and not just some people they hired on FetLife. Regardless, it’s a ridiculous cover that should have been thrown out from the get go.

The first track and single, “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” features the hook of noted white dude Rivers Cuomo singing “Hasta luego adios.” It’s a seriously catchy song about practically nothing that rides a pretty complex beat that gets stuck in your head like glue. This is followed by “Zombie Bastards” which, if it wasn’t about zombies, would probably be a pretty forgettable song. “Living in L.A.” and “I’m Just Being Honest” have the strongest, classic dance beats to them, even if the latter’s lyrics read like a dumbed down version of “What’s My Age Again?” “Piece of Cake” and “Byzantine” are mostly just filler, while “Too Many Thoughts in My Head” and “California Snow” are overly complicated dance tunes that collapse under the weight of their own pretentiousness. “The Prince Who Wanted Everything” is a pretty cute and self-reflexive song that’s a standout for the album.

Look, I don’t care if Weezer does rock, pop, EDM, polka, or folk-metal, what I care about is how genuine their music feels, and I haven’t gotten a genuine vibe from Weezer in a long time. It’s almost become legendary by the point, the story of Rivers going around with his little notebook trying to jot down why one pop song was successful and another one wasn’t until he figured out how success in pop music worked. It feels like Weezer has gotten this down to a mathematical formula, and the promise to return to their roots from five years ago feels like a pretty calculated move: with waning record sales, go back to the well (or the shack, as it were) to regain the original fans for a little while until you can figure out how to break into that pop/dance market you really want to crack. It’s not that The Black Album is a very bad album, just that it feels part of a larger calculus that’s so carefully planned out that it lacks any of the artistic spontaneity that their first two albums had, which is exactly what the band’s been missing ever since Pinkerton.