Review Summary: [fatter, sadder, less productive]
Let's set about this with blatant honesty. Reader, you and I both know there is no objectivity to be found with Weezer, the best terrible/worst good band of our time; no easy metric by which to judge this baffling group with no clear career trajectory whatsoever, that no-one seems to hate more than their own fans.
I could make a pretense, sure. I could say there are things about OK Human
that are objectively good: the embarrassment of riches that is the chorus and bridge melodies, the absolutely pristine mix, the way the orchestra truly functions as an instrument unto itself rather than just being background support for some normal-ass Weezer songs. I would then, in the name of blessed objectivity, point out that there are many things about OK Human
that are in fact bad: songs which frustratingly end just as they're getting good, great moments derailed by lyrics so baffling even Brandon Flowers would backspace before he finished writing them, a dumb song called "Grapes of Wrath" that's definitely Bad Weezer™. Whether or not the album had more or less good or bad aspects than average Weezer could then be the subject of heated debate for years on end, inspiring rankings and bad Reddit posts and angry intimations of betrayal by the faithful.
We could do all that, but honestly, why bother? Let me tell you about why I, with complete and utter subjectivity and my stupid fucking bias for this band, love this album. It's genuinely idiosyncratic in a way we rarely hear these days, least of all from a band with so much stock in being pleasantly inoffensive as Weezer. The songs are lovely, homely slice-of-life nuggets, owing as much to The Beach Boys' "Busy Doin' Nothin'" as the much-publicised Nilsson and Bacharach influence. The lyrics range from the aforementioned head-scratchers to oddly moving, but they're all the product of a songwriter genuinely with something to say, a far cry from the algorithmic backwash of recent Weezer fare. Each song is allowed to flow into the next gracefully and easily; the overall effect is something like what Brian Wilson called a pocket symphony, though this one is concerned with Audible and doomscrolling and lasts 30 minutes and change. Rivers Cuomo has rarely been as inspired as he is on this techno-paranoid, oddball album, and if the results range from genuinely fantastic to alright, at least they're all in service of that one, actual piece of inspiration.
The White Album
became a late-career classic by recapturing the glimmering years of youth set on beaches and boardwalks. OK Human
feels like its counterpart, unabashedly by and about Weezer today, older and weirder and afraid of the voracious pace of technology. Who knows if it was intentional – I'd never dream to actually claim I understand what Weezer are thinking – but the parallels between these two Jake Sinclair-produced, half-hour concept albums, one looking backwards and one hesitantly forwards, make OK Human
more deserving of the Black Album
title than its predecessor ever was. Among other moments, the absurdly affecting end of "Mirror Image", a raw vocal take of Rivers lamenting "heaven can't save this man / heaven turns its back on this man" with no accompaniment, is as powerful as anything the band have allowed on a record since the Pinkerton
Guitar nerds will get their fix of Weezer shredding in about four months time, when the even-worse-titled Van Weezer
hits like a bolt of lightning. I'm sure these diametrically opposite releases in the same calendar year will split Weezer fans down the middle even more than one album usually does, but speaking from the heart, I can't imagine any album of rock bangers overtaking the precious, ridiculous, minor career gem that is OK Human
. It may be essentially "A Day in the Life" of Rivers Cuomo, with an orchestra colouring in the outlines of his every thought or digression, but the album is soaked in warm harmonies and Shriner's fantastic bass, ensuring it feels more a full-band effort than the cold-sounding Black Album
. Awash in analog technology, old-school recording methodologies (e.g. everybody in one room with no click tracks) and a healthy love for 60s pop, the album never fully reconciles its stylings with the modern content of its lyrics, which is perhaps for the best. OK Human
is an oddity and a warm digital hug; it's Weezer reacting to an endless, nerve-shredding, social-life-destroying period of isolation the way only Weezer can, drawing further inwards to themselves but somehow inviting us along for the ride. All of which to say: in Weezer's arms, don't you feel safe?