Weezer
The Black Album


4.2
excellent

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
March 2nd, 2019 | 185 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: do somethin' kinda unique to me

I know I covered this idea in the comments section of this site a few times, but here it is a review thesis so we're clear: Rivers Cuomo has always been a pop songwriter. Sometimes he screamed his pop melodies and lyrics over abrasive and messy production, sometimes he layered on power pop harmonies and crunchy guitar, sometimes he hired pop producers and studied Spotify playlists to make his pop music sound like top 40 chart pop. In some ways, that makes the latter the truest sound he's tried, but the problem was it removed that strange doublethink it took to listen to the very best Weezer songs - the one where you clamour for the crunchy guitar and the big rock instrumentals knowing the huge disconnect between them and the lyrics and melodies.

Doublethink was one of the first words I associated with listening to The Black Album, although honestly it might not be enough. How do you hold with "High as a Kite"'s effervescent, utter elation as it goes into the shady narcissistic groove of "Living in L.A."? How do you reconcile "Piece of Cake", a piano-based bit of loveliness that sounds like a cut from The White Album that's not by Weezer, sitting beside "I'm Just Being Honest"'s self-aware over-produced slickness? How on god's green fucking earth did the band who made Pinkerton give us "Byzantine"?

Astonishingly, every one of Black's ridiculous discursions into the many dimensions of pop today – or rather, Rivers Cuomo's reflections on said – is held together and made borderline cohesive by three things. On the surface, Dave Sitek's production is the best Weezer have had since embracing pop. Whilst Pacific Daydream washed out Brian Bell's guitar in favour of vocals and buzzing electronics, Black is fully replete with every sound Weezer could think to chuck on it, from "Too Many Thoughts in My Head"'s crazy funk guitar to Pat's double-tracked kits and looping beats to the labyrinthine, breathtaking basslines. That's the second thing, the sheer musicality of the four members of this band. Scott Shriner could have held this together on his lonesome: it's like he spent all his recording time in the corner of the studio, chasing Rivers' songs in whorls and eddies with his bass, cornering ideas like a hunter. Bell, freed from the beach pop stylings of White and the minimal guitar demands of Pacific Daydream, absolutely lets loose, imbuing even the simplest songs with deceptively complex notes and patterns. Where the previous two records were largely sanded down to the basics, Black is like a tough game of jenga, all odd ends and bits jutting out everywhere. You're more likely to hear an Old Testament reference or an Egypt metaphor over some funk guitar than dedications to happy hour on this bizarre, self-effacing album.

The album title and aesthetic might have geared you to expect the opposite of White – some aggressively anti-pop monstrosity with six minute songs and rambling structures, an album of "The Angel and the One". As great as that sounds, this is more of a Pacific Nightmare, taking that album's glossy production and massive hooks and twisting them into something secluded and introspective. If there's any White comparison it's with "Jacked Up", the tension between the catchy piano melody and the dark lyrics being a clear basis for the template here, but that doesn't even begin to cover all this album's weird shit. Case in point: "Byzantine", a Laura Jane Grace co-write of breezy beach pop which kicks off with "I want Neil Young on your phone, speaker in the morning / and fuck him if he just can't see" and builds to the most genuinely romantic and swoon-worthy chorus ever to appear on a Weezer song. Born, in Rivers' words, of turning a bridge he wrote in the early 90s into a 'French-pop 60s thing with a drum machine', it might be a career highlight when the gorgeous hook hits. And though "California Snow" is undoubtedly one of the worst Weezer closers, and "The Prince Who Wanted Everything" sounds like the gratingly repetitive theme tune for a 90s sitcom, both at least deserve nods for being some of the most experimental material from this band since Red. "Prince" builds itself around a chugging guitar like a lost song from an earlier era while "California Snow" starts with a downright heart-stopping beginning, an aggressive glacial wall-of-synth over an anguished wail that wouldn't sound out of place on Disintegration, before immediately sinking itself with some godawful half-rapped verses. The Red Album is actually a pretty accurate comparison point - the albums don't sound even remotely alike, but distinguish themselves from the other self-titleds via willingess to throw everything and some bad rapping on an album with no thought for fan expectation.

So we've established that the log line of 'Pacific Daydream, but ten steps further' was by and large not a Rivers mislead. Thematically, though, the anti-White comparison is a lot more apropos, which brings us to the third and most subtle thing tying these disparate sounds together: a concept which wasn't at all apparent from the initial singles. We're a record-breaking four songs in before Rivers starts talking about a girl on "Living in L.A." but it's an essential part of the narrative. Rivers' relationships with others remains one of Weezer's most reliable narrative go-to's, whether it's with girls ("L.A.", "Byzantine"), his fanbase ("Zombie Bastards", "I'm Just Being Honest", "High as a Kite") or the competition-driven music industry where it's all too easy to lose yourself ("Can't Knock the Hustle"). Black immerses itself in the confusing, option-paralysis information overload of our current world and how that damages the relationships we make, most obviously on the outstanding "stayed up reading Mary Poppins / overwhelmed by Netflix options" couplet. Taken as a whole, it's the story of a relationship which gets distorted by work, big-city competitiveness and drugs but finds itself again in the lovely "Byzantine"; the oddly optimistic mirror of White's happy-go-lucky fling which didn't survive the summer. That goes to show that even doused in black paint, distorted beyond recognition or trying for some reason to spit bars, Weezer still maintain the ability to surprise, and even brush with something transcendental in a bridge here – oh, say, "High as a Kite" - or a chorus there. After years of wrong turns and disappointments, isn't that all we really ask for?



Recent reviews by this author
Czarface and Ghostface Killah Czarface Meets GhostfaceCopeland Blushing
Emarosa Peach ClubMac Miller Swimming
Pemberton Maybe I'm a friend that stuck around too long.Earl Sweatshirt Some Rap Songs
user ratings (208)
Chart.
2.6
average
other reviews of this album
Daisy99 (2.5)
Weezer going through motions. Again....

Willow Westervelt (2.5)
Identity crisis personified...

Drbebop (3)
More like The Grey Album...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 2nd 2019


41392 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

ladies and gents your shitposting thread for the promotion season. go nuts

onionbubs
March 2nd 2019


11043 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

been more excited for this review than the album itself ngl wonderful read as always

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 2nd 2019


41392 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

< 3 bubs, fair take as always

Papa Universe
March 2nd 2019


20048 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

So this is who they make staff nowadays?



Alright, I've done my shitposting part.

Digging: Pedigree - New Freak

Mongi123
March 2nd 2019


20161 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I mean yea, he has always wrote pop songs. That’s not really anywhere close to an edgy opinion.

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 2nd 2019


29841 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I wish I loved this like you do, but this is clearly one of your favorite bands so I get it. I like the more summery, melodic second half over the first half of this record (although Kite is the clear standout). I'm not sure what that says about me; maybe I just never fell out of love with the White Album and am still looking for a fix. But the "riskier" songs here all miss the mark as far as I'm concerned. Regardless, it's a well-argued review.

ChaoticVortex
March 2nd 2019


752 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Well-written review. Album itself was really hit or miss for me. Kinda crazy but I dug the Teal album even more than this.

Ponton
Emeritus
March 2nd 2019


6601 Comments


"Rivers Cuomo has always been a pop songwriter"

i think thats why i cant seem to connect to anything the band does, much less enjoy.

Digging: Unwound - Leaves Turn Inside You

RadioheadIsOverrated
March 2nd 2019


490 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I am so glad someone else liked it this much. I'm considering bumping my rating up to a 4, but Piece of Cake exists.

Scoot
March 2nd 2019


19184 Comments


i don’t understand how there was a two year period where this band figured it out and then they suddenly went back to being terrible again

Digging: Cara Neir - Part III / Part IV

WatchItExplode
March 2nd 2019


6425 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I agree that red is a good comparison point but only in how terribly inconsistent this is

Mongi123
March 2nd 2019


20161 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

That’s what you call...an inconsistent band

theNateman
March 2nd 2019


3609 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Rowbro you convinced me to give this another shot.

Lord(e)Po)))ts
March 2nd 2019


41602 Comments


isnt this their second colour of the year

Digging: Edyth - Bare II

Mongi123
March 2nd 2019


20161 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Oh yea it was teal

Protomorph
March 2nd 2019


68 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Wow I found this to be their most laughably embarrassing album

Digging: SLEEPKILLERS - SLEEPKILLERS

AgentDeathbat
March 2nd 2019


9596 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

@Protomorph: compared to Make Believe and Raditude?

Digging: Attalus - Into the Sea

Cormano
March 2nd 2019


1383 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

sweet, i honestly don't get the hate its been getting, that avg is just absurd

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
March 2nd 2019


14612 Comments


i mean it sounds like this can't be as bad as Pacific Daydream so maybe I'll give it a whirl

AgentDeathbat
March 2nd 2019


9596 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

pacific daydream wasn't even bad, just boring



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy