By Thomas Infante
It can be difficult to think of the rock band Weezer without remembering the band’s poor track record of previous releases. Weezer’s 1994 debut self-titled album — often referred to as “The Blue Album” — has since been lauded by critics and fans as their favorite, featuring many of the band’s signature songs. The debut album was a huge success, but was followed by the controversial “Pinkerton” two years later. Frontman Rivers Cuomo wrote “Pinkerton” lyrics with much more emotion, making the lyrics very personal, but many critics were put off by the change in style.
Since the disputed album, Cuomo and the band have been trying to find a more mainstream sound with varying degrees of success. After years of steadily declining commercial and critical prominence throughout the 2000s, the band thought the time had arrived to return to its musical roots. Hoping to evoke the same feelings it captured in 1994, Weezer’s 2014 album “Everything Will Be Alright in the End” was a step in the right direction. The band seemed to be continuing down this nostalgic path with its newest self-titled album, nicknamed “The White Album,” with a correspondingly stark white album cover.
To facilitate the band’s sentimental change, producer Jake Sinclair was instrumental in the recent career revivals of bands Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco. The result was a tight, clean and accessible alternative rock record without compromising the band’s existing charm and personality. In a Rolling Stone interview from Wednesday, Feb. 24, Cuomo said that he “started watching young surfers at Venice Beach in hopes of finding lyrical inspiration. He even signed up for Tinder – for purely platonic purposes. ‘My wife’s cool with it,’ Cuomo says with a shrug.”
There were times throughout the album when it was evident how much time has passed since Weezer’s golden age, but the 45-year-old Cuomo can sound immature singing the same love-struck, angst-filled lyrics about love and loss that he was singing during his 20s. The lyrical content on this record is more nonsensical and bizarre than any previous album by the band. On the lead single, “Thank God for Girls,” Cuomo sings about his love for women, but the feminine qualities he appreciates are far from traditional, as he sings, “When you come home, she will be there waiting for you with a fire in her eyes and a big, fat cannoli to shove in your mouth.”
Musically, the album was lively, upbeat and refreshingly fun. Songs like “(Girl We Got A) Good Thing” and “King of the World” are empowering and euphoric, with electrifying guitar solos and positive lyrics delivered with more energy than Cuomo has had in years. Another great song is “Jacked Up,” which provides a much more somber tone than the rest of the record, featuring emotional piano against Cuomo’s strained falsetto. In a Pitchfork interview from Thursday, Jan. 14, Cuomo stated that the sound of the Beach Boys was a huge influence on this album, which explains the carefree vibe that most of the tracks possess.
Some songs sound very similar to others from Weezer’s first two albums. Songs like “L.A. Girlz” and “Do You Wanna Get High?” are remarkably reminiscent of “Pinkerton” songs, such as “Pink Triangle” and “El Scorcho.” Similarly, the acoustic ballad “Endless Bummer” sounds like the song “Butterfly.” These songs reused similar vocal melodies and chord progressions. While they are still catchy 20 years later, they lack the freshness that a band’s new material should have.
The notable self-plagiarism of some songs made it difficult to stand out against Weezer’s earlier material, which was the album’s biggest letdown for hardcore fans. “The White Album,” however, proved to be a great record for those who are not too familiar with the band’s earlier work. The music was upbeat and fun, which will satisfy both casual listeners and longtime fans of Weezer.
White was the perfect color for this album — it’s consistent with the color’s association with purity and renewal. Weezer seemed to have abandoned its sterile body of work that has plagued the band for so many years and fans can only hope that the band takes advantage of this clean slate until the 2000s era Weezer will be nothing but a distant memory.