It’s no secret that the turn of the century heralded a decline in the quality of Weezer’s discography – songs like “Beverly Hills” didn’t really bring Rivers Cuomo’s perceptive, witty, and above all relatable best to bear. This latest “White Album” is their fourth self-titled studio album and the best of the bunch save their blue-backed debut. This time the record isn’t helmed by one of their production mainstays; the desk isn’t manned by The Cars’ Ric Ocasek, Rick Rubin, nor even Cuomo himself. Instead they opted for Jake Sinclair, a producer best known for his work with bands like The Vamps and 5 Seconds of Summer. Luckily just as The Libertines found success working with a straightforwardly “pop” producer on their most recent release, Weezer are able to capture the fundamentals of their sound, whilst delivering a truly enjoyable batch of songs. Fans of the band are not going to be disappointed, and if you are yet to fall into this group now is as good a time as any to see what the fuss is about… You don’t see every band hosting cruises for devotees, (yeah, they’ve done that).
The album goes from strength to strength with songs that are unmistakably “Weezer”. The opener, “California Kids”, slips the unmistakable “El Scorcho” vibrato lead into the end of each chorus – any Weezer fan will find themselves right at home. There is an unshakable optimism to this song, amongst others. In “King of the World” Rivers addresses his wife. He makes a heartfelt statement; that he is there for her and if it were up to him she wouldn’t be saddened by any of the troubles that she encounters – and all this swathed in catchy melodies. He goes as far as to propose that they would ‘ride a greyhound all the way to the Galapagos’, it’s surreal and charming. Likewise, “Wind In Our Sail” makes use of nautical imagery to deliver a revelatory sense of positivity. It’s safe to say the album contains its fair share of “pop” songs. However, these tracks often draw more from 60s and 70s influences than the naughties or whatever we’re calling this decade, (the teens? I refuse to say the teenies). One of the most pronounced examples of this is “(Girl We Got A) Good Thing”. The song’s chorus is reminiscent of the Beach Boys, whilst the verses chug along like a Slade verse smothered in layers of crunchy distortion. Such songs walk a fine line between being uplifting and excessively twee, but for the most part they stand up to scrutiny and are complemented by a good roster of less sentimental cuts on the record. Despite how approachable the “White Album” is, Weezer somehow bring a degree of class to proceedings, showing just why they are such a mainstay in the pop-rock / alt-rock genre.
The album isn’t without its share of whimsical humour and commentary. Weezer have retained their youthful humour despite their advancing years and Rivers’ lyricism is as entertaining as ever. The last song of the album, “Endless Bummer”, has a pleasingly subversive message behind its acoustic pop instrumentation. Rather than the nostalgic celebration of an “endless summer” that you might expect it instead dismisses the season as a period of heartbreak and despondency. In the same vein, “Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori” is a tongue in cheek breakup anthem that showcases some excellent lines – ‘‘she touched my ankle – Paranoid Android’, referencing the Radiohead song of the same name, a song that Weezer have incidentally recorded a studio cover of, (don’t expect too much from it). Rivers also engages with the subject of gender, wryly commenting “God is a woman”. The single “Thank God For Girls covers similar ground with the same sense of humour; “she’s so big, she’s so strong”.
Beyond the album’s undeniable appeal Rivers does approach some more serious subject matter. Drug use is explicitly referenced or alluded to in a few songs, most notably “Do You Wanna Get High?”. The frontman refers in extensive detail to the acquisition, use and side effects of opiate use. The song is lathered in heavy distortion and has an excellent sliding bass groove that compliment the matter of fact discussion of past drug use. Although the song acknowledges the problems use entails it is in effect a love song addressed to a past flame, and an homage to the time they spent together taking oxycodone. There is certainly a dark side to this record despite its syrope-sweet aesthetic, and the songs that touch on such themes prove all the more engaging for it.
I haven’t been particularly head-over-heels for any Weezer record since “Pinkerton”, and this makes the “White Album” a welcome return to form. It proves a happy compromise between the somewhat saccharin aesthetic their music has increasingly adopted and the shrewd outcast-alt-rock that Rivers is undoubtedly capable of producing. With a runtime of just under thirty-five minutes the album doesn’t outstay its welcome, and is a result is surprisingly hard to take issue with; no one track feels like a particularly weak link.