Weezer. Just saying the name in conversation with music junkies garners a passionate response; nowadays people either love ’em or hate ’em, but the in-between is long gone. How did we get here? Twenty years prior, Weezer was everyone’s favorite underdog alt-rock band of the 1990s. Their songs about breakups and sweaters were refreshingly self-aware; they were goofy and nerdy, yet unabashedly “cool” for being so. Cut to the present day and for some, Weezer became a parody of their earlier self. Failed collaborations with Lil Wayne, absurd cover art, and tacky mustaches made many fans wonder if they “jumped the shark.”
“What happened to the Weezer that I used to love?” seems to be a popular lament of older, nostalgic Weezer fans. And therein lies the problem: for many they peaked too early, putting out two classic albums (“Blue” and “Pinkerton”) before succumbing to the “machine” that is pop radio. But does it really have to be like that? Can’t fans just enjoy a band without picking sides (or albums in Weezer’s case) and appreciate how they’ve evolved?
Weezer tries to tackle these issues on their ninth studio album, “Everything Will Be Alright in the End.” Even the title offers those fans a white flag of sorts — “trust us, it’ll be OK, we promise!” For the most part, they succeed. But only because the band goes back to ’94, as Rivers Cuomo sings in the lead single “Back to the Shack.” It’s a confusing identity crisis that even Weezer doesn’t understand: Wow do we win back the fans who got us here in the first place and still evolve at the same time?
For Weezer, the results are simple but effective — cut the “pop-radio” garb from past albums, add an absurd amount of guitar reverb, and get goofy again. Frontman Cuomo has never been one to exhibit strong songwriting. Instead, he relies on self-awareness and general “nerdiness” to get his point across. On Weezer’s new album, Cuomo is as goofy as ever. There’s historical references to the Revolutionary War (“The British Are Coming”) and fallen Egyptian goddesses (“Cleopatra”). There’s the funky closing sequence aptly titled “The Futurescope Trilogy” that reeks of Rush-era prog rock, and there’s even a literal nerd reference in the chorus of album highlight “Da Vinci” where Rivers sings “Even Da Vinci couldn’t paint you/ And Stephen Hawking can’t explain you.” The writing is zany and quirky, sure, but that’s the point. This is Weezer. You either love it, or you hate it.
Even if “Everything Will Be Alright In The End’s” main goal is to usher in the “old” Weezer, the band still comes up with new ways of creating addicting pop hooks for old and new fans alike. The aforementioned “Da Vinci” uses a whistle sample as the main arch of the song; you’d think the track would fall flat on its face, but surprisingly it works. A duet with Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino on “Go Away” is also refreshing because Rivers makes the duet both heartfelt and funny, while still pulling off that Weezer sound of earlier albums. Producer Ric Ocasek who helmed the boards for the band’s debut and “Green Album” may be the best decision Rivers has made since going back to Harvard. Ocasek obviously knows what makes this band tick and understands that overproduction can alienate an audience who just wants a little crunch with their rock ’n’ roll.
Like Weezer, “Everything Will Be Alright In The End” is a confusing piece of art. Is it good? Are they good? What listeners (and fans) need to understand is that this isn’t 1994 anymore, and Rivers isn’t 24 either. If anything, “Everything Will Be Alright In The End” is a solid piece of work that any band should be proud of putting out. Instead of unfairly comparing it to the albums that inspired it, listeners should view it as a standalone product. It’s goofy, it’s catchy, it’s cringe-worthy (at times). All in all, it’s Weezer. And at the end of the day, that’s what everyone wants. Right?