Released: April 1, 2016
Label: Crush Music
As with any hot take concerning a new Weezer album, the context of the record can’t be ignored in deciphering a thumbs up or thumbs down conviction. Rivers Cuomo and company had supposedly established with many a critic a pseudo-comeback, first flaunted in 2010 with their album, Hurley. However, a truer statement to others holding even more apparent was 2014’s back to business take on Everything Will Be Alright In The End. I happen to fall into place with this line of thinking. That being said, Cuomo’s present status thus evokes a comfortable niche now attained with The White Album. This is where we stand in 2016.
From the opening calming sounds of ocean waves leading into a classic, fuzzy guitar riff, Weezer are wrought with careful nostalgia of the power-pop balladry that made them household names once upon a time, but with River Cuomo’s maturity and trial and error approach to his fans’ response to many an output, he’s back again with new found clarity. “California Kids” is a probably a flashback to Cuomo’s upbringing on the East Coast, and subsequent move to Los Angeles. Much like their last record, Weezer on The White Album evoke a fun, poppy sound in the feedback-laden guitars that dominate, but the lyricism flows in a thematic narrative of relationship woes too. The added California imagery adds an important setting to the nature of each tracks’s progression on the 10 song timeline. It’s as refreshing as the air you breath on a warm day on the beach; Cuomo is pouring out the spirit of Weezer victories past, yet he manages to do so without the forced quirkiness that plagued mid-2000’s outputs.
For what it’s worth, The White Album serves as Weezer’s first concept album since Pinkerton, and throughout the years, with all of the faults and failures, thank God such a feat was attempted after Weezer was ready for the challenge again. The direction that this record provides helps steer it in a concise timeline. An overarching beach concept in terms of relationships and the feelings evoked in the music channel Rivers Cuomo’s own personal Beach Boys epiphany, where the Weezer flair and power chords shine above all else, but he is also reaching for a former clarity. The way The White Album is crafted, you’d think of the record as Cuomo’s own personal SMiLE in that he is resurrecting old lyrics and feelings of angst which can only be pinned to early era outputs by the band. You know, the ones that cemented them as legends of their own time and place. “Thank God For Girls”actually cites Cuomo’s former entries of a 1990’s frame of mind, with old lyrics finally being put to use, citing a girl he can fantasize about even though she belongs to somebody else. The fact that she is alive is enough for him to gawk in bittersweet happiness.
In this new era, Weezer do not completely dwell on the past, but the experience still lingers to build on a present frame of mind. One could approach the string from The Red Album through Hurley with the same line of thinking, but truth is, he was trying too hard to rekindle an admiration from his quirks despite the illusion that his direction had hung a u-turn. Personally, I didn’t take Everything Will Be Alright In The End seriously initially because of the reputation the band had within my own preconceived notions of what I thought they were conning the world into enjoying. Hurley was a cheap “return to form”, however one chooses to dub the abominations that constituted a 2000’s resurrection. That much us still true. Covering “Poker Face” and “Viva La Vida”, and actually sticking them on record as if they don’t paint Rivers as a barnacle scraping has-been is not what I call a “return to form”. Nonetheless, they have abandoned this sham revolution, and planted a new one entirely, The White Album being step two of trusting the process.
As touched on before, there is evidence of The White Album conceptually detailing Rivers Cuomo’s graduation from a naive rock star to his present status. “Thank God For Girls” and “King of the World” Genius annotations by both Cuomo and his wife Kyoko provide informative and relatable insights into their marriage and upbringing. He was the nerd who indulged in the pleasures of the drugs, sex, and the textbook rock and roll lifestyle. “Do You Wanna Get High?” depicts the misadventures of his experimentation with pills and a destructive, simultaneously chill partner, while “Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori” perfectly reveals obsession on River’s part amidst his young mind being taken advantage of. These tracks inspire similar feelings to that of the disposable nature of people used on Pinkerton‘s barest songs.
For Kyoko, she had a modest upbringing with a more traditional Japanese culture instilled by her parents. Given the face-value tackiness of the song titles, and even some excerpts in the tracks, The White Album manage to paint their love for each other so modestly, yet altogether powerful. The little things in their personalities and shortcomings make each party want to improve for the sake of the other. It’s truly as simple as that. Rivers isn’t reaching as hard for the shock factor, or silly lyricism in each song’s themes. Tracks flow much more naturally. You even hear it in his voice. The screeching woo’s (combined with production of course) have evolved into shouting “woah’s” as formerly expressed in the deepest folds of Cuomo’s mind on The Blue Album and Pinkerton. The sincerity and immediacy have once again returned from the pits of mediocrity.
The White Album as a whole is sort of a mockery of knee-jerk reactions, and Weezer has always been public enemy number one in this regard. From “Thank God For Girls” and it’s alleged misogynistic wordplay, to the adolescent song titles, it takes a sincere listener to capture the humbleness in Rivers Cuomo’s new found conquest. There are classic examples in history of figureheads and former musical idols abusing nostalgia and milking whatever they can out of their image. This stretches from anything to music, reunion tours, pop culture shoe-horning, and so on. Rivers Cuomo has waded that tide, from the lowest of the low (Raditude), to a steady balance of what makes Weezer great, and why they deserve to stick around. Little glimpses of greatness are reaffirmed; “Do You Wanna Get High?” is Pinkerton lite, while “L.A. Girlz” is reminiscent of The Blue Album. However, The White Album certainly stands alone. In an optimistic future, maybe people should be debating this new record’s chops versus Everything Will Be Alright In The End. Right down to the last ounce of acoustic balladry on “Endless Bummer”, Weezer have shown that the true comeback c.2014 was no one trick pony. They are here to stay, and no matter how many times this needs to be stated, a true output on record speaks of its validity this time around.