Wow, the new Weezer album is bad. What happened to all the guitars? Why have they turned into a pop band? It’s like Raditude all over again, isn’t it? This is it now, the final straw – Weezer have fully sold out.
That’s probably how a lot of the verdicts surrounding Pacific Daydream will go, and if they were the opinions around when lead single Feels Like Summer first dropped, they’d be totally justified. After all, at that point Weezer were still riding the heights of The White Album, their best full effort in years that got there by channeling temperate surf-rock and keeping at a relatively snappy pace all the way through. To follow that up with a gooey, synthetic track not unlike something from the Twenty One Pilots playbook understandably didn’t sit well with most, and put a definite question mark over just what this follow-up would be.
And honestly, Feels Like Summer really only works in the context of Pacific Daydream as a whole, and what that is can be neatly summed up by the inclusion of the line “It’s a hip-hop world” on a song called Beach Boys. This isn’t meant to be some grand statement, rather taking the ephemeral qualities of both modern hip-hop and ’60s pop for a lightweight, uncomplicated listen. Obviously that means some of the regular Weezer-isms need to be pared back, and Pacific Daydream is borderline mercenary in how it goes about this. The focus on prominent bass grooves and processed beats does feel like an attempt to snaffle up as much modern alternative cred as possible (the fact that this is their first effort with Crush Management, also home to Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco really does say a lot), but Pacific Daydream takes its most serious loss in the writing. It’s understandable that, in taking as many cues from classic pop and modern hip-hop as they do, some of Weezer’s weirder edges would be sanded away, and while the remaining overwriting and irreverence on Mexican Fender and Happy Hour have charm, this is much simpler overall, more content with escaping to the beach and taking it easy than engaging in any heavy lifting. The White Album took a similar bent, but the difference there was the retention of personality, and regardless of how Rivers Cuomo can sometimes paint himself in a totally unfavourable life, there was something there; Pacific Daydream by comparison has fewer moments that stand out either way, and for the equable listen it’s trying to be, that’s perhaps taken onboard a bit too wholeheartedly.
It’s honestly strange that Weezer’s drastic shift in sound isn’t the source of the most criticism, but again, for the very specific mission statement that Pacific Daydream lays out for itself, it arguably works as well as it has to. The idea of Weezer adopting this very slick, buffed take on pop-rock mightn’t sit well with some, but for emphasising the preference for catchiness, there are good tracks on here. Mexican Fender is probably the closest to a traditional Weezer track with its stomping, crunchy guitars, but the chilly synths and warping beat of Feels Like Summer pack in some potency, especially when the chorus breaks in, and the chimes and natural sway of Weekend Woman feel like a mid-point between ’50s doo-wop and Bruce Springsteen’s Hungry Heart while keeping the wistful nature of both. If anything, that vibe is what Pacific Daydream is undoubtedly the strongest at, and for what is arguably the least fluid that Weezer have ever been, it rarely feels like a stiff or immobile album, particularly thanks to the prominent backing vocals on tracks like Beach Boys and QB Blitz that really drive the classic pop influence home. Not everything is successful – the closing pair of La Mancha Screwjob and Any Friend Of Diane’s in particular toy with sounds that have already been used to capacity elsewhere on the album and don’t offer much else – but that Weezer have managed to wring out as much as they have here, considering the disaster that so many thought it would be overall, is a commendable feat overall.
But when looking at the fact that Weezer have to resort to recycling their own ideas already begs the question of, if this is a direction they want to continue in, how viable an option is that? This isn’t a long album by any stretch, and already Weezer are scrambling for independent ideas within just ten tracks. Perhaps more than ever before, there’s a cap on Weezer’s potential if this really is set to be their default mode from now on, and with Pacific Daydream itself just about scraping a pass, those are some dangerous waters to navigate. Not that Weezer are really bothered though; they’re virtually horizontal here as it is, and with the notoriety they’ve got for inconsistencies, this isn’t really anything new. It is, however, concerning of what’s going to happen going forward. This is a decent album overall, but the biggest question is, have Weezer got anymore decent ideas left to at least keep on par with this? Going off this album, it’s doubtful that even Weezer know the answer to that one.
For fans of: The Beach Boys, Best Coast, Sugar Ray
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Pacific Daydream’ by Weezer is out now on Crush Music.