'The White Album'. Reviewed.
For nearly 25 years now, Weezer have been plying their gawky, open-hearted pop-rock trade with, it’s fair to say, mixed results. At their best, the band are capable of moments of claustrophobic, emotional exploration (1996’s ‘Pinkerton’) and shimmering, summer-soundtracking glee (1994’s ‘Weezer’ – known to most as ‘The Blue Album’). But when they get it wrong (as they did with a painful two album blunder-curve of ‘Hurley’ and ‘Raditude’) they get it so wrong it could make us forget their brilliance. So, the question is posed: which Weezer will show up on this, the band’s 10th (and fourth self-titled, colour-themed) album?
Well, the initial signs are good: opener ‘California Kids’ is blessed with a butter-soft touch and wistful lyricism that brings to mind the band’s ’90s heyday, with mainman Rivers Cuomo’s ever-distinctive voice welcoming you in like a familiar embrace from an old friend.
Indeed, while the singer has been prone to flights of jarring lyrical fancy in the band’s lower moments, here he mostly straddles the line between playful and affecting with real skill – ‘Wind In Our Sails’’ “Like Darwin on the Beagle” refrain is the sort of bookish, off-kilter turn of phrase guaranteed to have you smiling wryly to yourself on the bus home (or Googling the name of Charles Darwin’s globe-crossing boat, one of the two).
It’s not all plain sailing, though. ‘Thank God For Girls’ is cursed with the sort of middle eight which makes you want to grab Cuomo by his collar and yell at him that the man who wrote ‘Buddy Holly’ shouldn’t be reduced to rhyming couplets about the popcorn setting on microwaves.
But the odd misstep aside, this feels like the most consistent collection the band have put together for some time and there are a smattering of moments with the chutzpah to go toe-to-toe with the very best of the band’s catalogue – no small accolade. To that end, unfortunately-titled closer ‘Endless Bummer’ showcases Cuomo at his laser-guided best; able to bring the most universal feelings to startling life with tiny, beautifully observed details. A timely reminder that, on his day, the bespectacled frontman remains a peerless songwriter, capable of dragging you head over heels into his world with just a few lines.
No, this isn’t Weezer at their world-altering best, but it is the sound of a band who have at least re-opened the door to the cupboard where their magic formula is kept. A quarter of a century down the line, the Weez are still proving that they have plenty to offer to a scene which owes so very, very much to their trailblazing in the first place.
Fans and newcomers alike will find much to enjoy here, and after all this time, that’s no mean feat.
This review originally appeared in issue 212 of Rock Sound.
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