By now, you’d think that a ’90s band like Weezer would have given up already. The L.A.-based rock group attained paramount success from their magnetic Blue Album debut and their universally praised sophomore record Pinkerton in 1994 and 1996, respectively. But even when their stardom grew with radio hits like “Island in the Sun” and “Beverly Hills,” the angsty coolness that they so effectively embodied was gradually disappearing. In the 2000s, Weezer released a string of lukewarm power-pop records like 2005’s head-scratching Make Believe and 2009’s severely misguided Raditude (yes, the one with a song that featured Lil Wayne for some reason). However, since 2014’s refreshing Everything Will Be Alright in the End, their best record in years, Weezer is steadily making up for lost time and rightfully so. Their sound, complete with sawtoothed guitar plucks, crisp drums, culturally relevant lyrics and lead vocalist Rivers Cuomo’s croon, is now even more finely tuned than before on their tenth record and fourth self-titled concept record Weezer (White Album).
While White Album still lacks some punch, it’s leaner, looser, happier and more mature than Weezer’s last few records. Like each of the previous Weezer concept albums, White Album’s “color” backdrop represents the overall tone of the record. It’s about rebirth, purity and to put it more concretely, it’s about their hometown of L.A. (mine as well) and the album uses the beach as its motif setting. Other than the sound of seagulls and waves crashing onto the shore in the album opener “California Kids,” you can really visualize the kind of peculiarities and strange beauties entrenched in the city of Los Angeles from Cuomo’s perspective.
By deriving its xylophone opening notes from Pinkerton’s “Pink Triangle,” “California Kids” possesses both a nostalgic feel and yearning for the present. That theme continues in “Wind in Our Sail” and “(Girl) We Got a Thing,” two energetic romantic ballads that name-check Charles Darwin, Sisyphus, Gregor Mendel, Stockholm syndrome and the Hare Krishna. With the hilarious, power-rock anthem “Thank God for Girls,” Weezer succeeds not only because of the song’s bizarre narrative, but also for its progressive, feminist overtones (“She’s so big / She’s so strong / She’s so energetic in her sweaty overalls”). The similarly sharp “L.A. Girlz” plays with gender stereotypes, with Cuomo making himself into a desperate guy begging his crush to “sweeten up” and acknowledge his feelings for her.
Despite all the hard rock jingles and odes to women and cannolis, Weezer also infuses some of their trepidation and Pinkerton malaise into “Do You Wanna Get High?” which deals with Cuomo’s prescription drug addiction and the relationship with his girlfriend around the time of 2001’s Green Album. Described by Cuomo as a “really yucky and intentionally uncomfortable portrayal” of an addict’s life, “Do You Wanna Get High?” is as drugged-out and depressing as you’d imagine, but Cuomo transforms it into a mind-numbing throwback. The mostly acoustic closer “Endless Bummer” is when White Album really shines, with Cuomo anxiously awaiting the end of the summer during the song’s climactic breakdown ending.
Where Everything Will Be Alright in the End was a return to form for Weezer, White Album is a strong continuation of that return. Because Weezer has already ingrained such an impactful cultural legacy in pop and rock music, they don’t need to make a critically-acclaimed record (though, that would be pretty nice). The only potential issue here is if they continue to tread on familiar material without breaking new ground. Luckily, White Album has indicated that Weezer is on the right track to maintaining their awesomeness.