Weezer have a chequered history with their two main subjects – L.A. and women. However, it’s still those two subjects that Weezer have come back to on their new album, which gets ‘white album’ status along with their blue, red and green albums. Two of the songs have titles set in California and girls pop up in three. We’d like to say this is an older, more mature Weezer, but for their frontman Rivers Cuomo (who is now in his forties), he’s still writing about the same things that he was singing about when The Blue Album was released. To be honest, Cuomo isn’t alone in his perma-adolescene; just look at Blink-182 or Green Day. This isn’t a criticism levelled at pop-punk, after all, they inspire legions of fans from a new generation each time they release an album. Bands like Weezer have fans that rival modern boy-bands, but maybe this is only because they connect so well with their audience. On their latest mission for relevance, Weezer know that they can’t go completely experimental and abandon those fans, so they’ve stuck to their guns. However, this time around Cuomo isn’t so interested in trying to get into the spotlight like they tried in the mid-2000s and instead have reverted back to their mid-90s output – which most would agree was their best period. It might well be backwards-looking and lacks originality, it’s the sweet spot that Weezer can exist in.
The White Album might suggest purity and a clean slate for Weezer, but the band’s sound is firmly ‘Weezer’. You have heard these songs before, despite what you might think. The best they can do is make that Weezer sound sound as good as possible. There’s always a quiet verse followed by a loud chorus, usually with crunching feedback announcing the arrival of that chorus. It’s a clean, spotless, tidy structure with production that sets the guitars and Cuomo to the front and the bass and drums to the background, which is familiar enough to not make a huge deal out of it. At this point, having Cuomo’s eternally teenage whine overbearing over the rest of the band isn’t a surprise at all. In fact, Cuomo has always been the focal point for Weezer (could you name any of their other members before Cuomo?) and his lyrics have been a hotly contested battleground. There’s the argument that his lyrics are kind of dumb and rarely vary from girls and L.A. There’s also the argument that he knows exactly what he’s doing and can now and again write a song that twists what you’d expect.
That’s the case on ‘Thank God For Girls’, which inverts gender in an unusual and creepy way (which I guess was the point, putting men in the position of women and seeing how they like it). He sings ‘She’s so big, she’s so strong / She’s so energetic in her sweaty overalls’, which puts Cuomo in the weaker position. Throughout the song, Cuomo switches back and forth between men and women in the position of power and in the end, Cuomo tells a short story about God and Adam, in which when God takes Adam’s rib and when Adam gets mad and starts destroying the world, God breaks Adam’s heart in two. Throughout this, Eve is never mentioned, and though Adam is to blame for the destruction, he cries out ‘Thank God’, suggesting that ‘For Girls’ is added on the end there, and he’s blaming women for his own mistakes. It’s an interesting scenario, and probably the cleverest thing Cuomo has come up within a while.
If The White Album truly is some kind of post-modern tongue-in-cheek celebration, then it’s a success. However, this album isn’t aware of itself that much, especially when Cuomo mixes his commentary with genuine moments of emotion, like on ‘(Girl, We Got A) Good Thing’, where he wants to run away with his wife. So it’s not entirely some kind of satire and it’s not honest either, but that’s ok. If the instrumentation wasn’t so lifelessly perfect (perfect in the worst way) then it might have something to offer other than Cuomo’s raging hormonal rampage. Let’s say this was a concept album about being a teenager (hypothetically), then it has equal measures of smart-ass irony, liberal attitudes and overbearing emotions. But it’s not, it’s not as big as it thinks it is. It’s a decent, short pop-punk album with some interesting points to make every now and again.
Funnel Recommends: California Kids / Thank God For Girls / Jacked Up