Review Summary: More like The Grey Album
Well Weezer are back, again for the second time this year. This time with an entirely original album. January’s Teal album may have been a stopgap of covers, it was still listenable and a decent set of recordings. But now they’re going dark. “Beach boys gone bad” Rivers describes this one. Is it though? Of course it’s not. One thing I’ve learned from listening to Weezer is to expect the unexpected. If they say they’re making a dark synth album, then it’s going to be an electro pop album. At this point, if they say they’re making a hard rock album it’ll be either twee pop or Merzbow tier noise. But I digress. The Black album has been teased for a good 3 or so years now and it’s finally here. Is it going to be the transformative, dark experience we’ve been promised? Let’s step into the darkness and see If we can find anything.
From the start, the Black Album doesn’t sound explicitly Weezer-y. While the guitar and drums and bass are all accounted for, There are now elements of spacey and tight synth work present underneath several songs. The closer, ‘California Snow’ in particular uses them to a great effect with the song starting off with a frenzy of synth work sounding ironically like a blizzard. ‘Zombie Bastards’ showcases a strong amount of synth bass burning underneath the acoustic guitar track. Most of the songs themselves still heavily utilise standard rock instruments however and only the aforementioned California Snow feels explicitly like an electronic song. The opener ‘Can’t Knock The Hustle’, a mariachi tinged funk number is almost entirely devoid of them in all honesty, lead instead by thumping blaring bass clunks and a set of horns to round out the frenzy. It’s a fun and painfully catchy number, topped off by a series of bizarre but funny lyrics. Still, the rest of the album isn’t as fiery and rhythmic as Can’t Knock The Hustle, Bar the wah-wah guitar laden ‘Too Many Thoughts In My Head’. Soaring piano ballad ‘High As As Kite’ sports a strong powerful chorus and a crunchy heavy bridge with lyrics about the wanting to fly away from everything to escape pressure and paranoia. It’s a strong track and it shows that even if he’s writing with a spreadsheet, Rivers can still make a tender and emotional song.
It should be noted that Black carries over heavily sonically from the group’s last album, Pacific Daydream, a strongly poppy album. Songs like ‘Living In L.A’ and the catchy French pop inspired ‘Byzantine’ are doused in poppy radio friendly production and as such may sound a little overproduced for some listeners. Still they’re both fun and catchy laid back tracks. But this is Weezer. There are stinkers on here like the absolutely terrible ‘The Prince Who Wanted Everything’ which attempts to be a bouncy glam rock number but ends up sounding like the group messed around with some royalty free sounds and set a challenge to record a Prince tribute song with as many tacky references to the Purple one as possible. There’s also the utterly forgettable and bland ‘Piece Of Cake’ which fails to really rouse any emotions and sounds like it was bashed out in a few hours. The same thing goes for second single ‘Zombie Bastards’ and the alarmingly mean spirited ‘I’m Just Being Honest’. Here, Rivers plays out a mock conversation between himself and a fan who gives him a demo tape which ‘sounds like ***’ according to Rivers. While this was probably meant to be a funny commentary on how Rivers doesn’t want to cater to fan demands, it comes off as condescending and needlessly cruel (especially the second verse which comes off as if he’s mocking his wife of all people)
So this happened. Is Black good? Yeah it is. It’s a mostly solid set of pop rock tunes with some good playing and craftsmanship all around. But the problem is that it’s also a bit forgettable. Plus it sounds nothing like was originally promised, not helped by the fact they scrapped a whole load of songs that were meant to be on the record after the Africa cover got big. I shouldn’t be too disappointed because apparently they’re already recording two new albums. C’est la vie.
Can’t Knock The Hustle
High As A Kite
Too Many Thoughts In My Head