Monday, June 22, 2015

Just Alright

Late last year, Weezer released a new album, Everything Will Be Alright in the End. The release was accompanied by the same press blitz that seems to accompany every Weezer album. Band leader Rivers Cuomo gives interviews about how they got away from their core sound on their last album, but that this new album has fixed all that. To me, it always feels like a ruse, trying to beg old Weezer fans (who think everything but The Blue Album and Pinkerton were sell-out crap) to come back and try the new album. This time, however, I don't think Cuomo is just blowing smoke -- the band really has given up on experimentation.

Actually, Weezer sounds rather like a Weezer tribute band on this new album. Virtually every track on it sounds like what someone trying to craft a Weezer sound-alike song would do. Many of the tracks have overtly self-referential lyrics. All of them feature a stripped-down verse leading into a distortion-laden chorus. Most of them use a familiar four-chord progression. (One song, "Back to the Shack," dares to use only two chords.) Some songs even feel like they're riffing on specific older Weezer songs; "Ain't Got Nobody" is a double-time version of the Red Album's "Dreamin'," while "Lonely Girl" has a strong "Buddy Holly" vibe. None of the songs are copies to a degree where, say, Weezer could sue another band who released an album like this. Still, they're awfully close at times.

It does make very welcome the few moments where the band tries some minor departure from formula. "Cleopatra" is the only song on the whole album that isn't in common 4/4 time (and even it only tosses in a single 5/4 measure before each repetition of the chorus). "Go Away" has a female voice, bringing in Bethany Cosentino to duet with Rivers Cuomo. "The British Are Coming" plays with a falsetto chorus sung to an interesting melody.

The thing is, it's not like any of these songs are "bad" as such. It's just that listening to an entire album of them gets very monotonous, very quickly. How fortunate for Weezer, I suppose, that no one listens to whole albums in this day and age. Nearly any one song here, coming up on shuffle or Spotify, would be enjoyable on its own. And maybe experimentation isn't really want anyone wants from Weezer anyway. Hypocritical as it might be of me to say, I didn't actually like the one place on the album where the band does try something different ("The Waste Land," the instrumental introduction to the so-called "Futurescape Trilogy" that closes the album).

On my iPhone, I've rated nearly every song on this album four stars. (So, B grade?) That's good enough in small doses. But the whole is much less than the sum of its parts. I'd only give the album itself a C+ overall.

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