So…this is a surprise, isn’t it? Or is it, considering that Weezer’s material for a long while now has been totally devoid of rhyme or reason, and doing what they want just seems to be the norm at this point. So why not release a surprise album just over a month before their next album proper? And why not make it exclusively covers of immediately recognisable songs to make easy scrutiny so much easier? After all, their version of Toto’s Africa went down so well. Even if sarcasm doesn’t translate to the written form, it’s not like that could be anything but, but in all seriousness, the net lows of Weezer’s material over the last half-a-dozen albums has proven that overall musical quality has been shunted to the backseat in favour of modern mainstream appreciation and capitalising on how much of a living meme Rivers Cuomo has become, and this only seems to be the strongest crystallisation of that attitude yet.
But somehow, this has proven to be one of Weezer’s more divisive propositions in some time. On one hand, it’s hard to begrudge a band having some fun on what is unquestionably a stopgap project, but with song selections that have had so much resonance over time and are essentially note-for-note transpositions of the originals, it makes the whole endeavour seem rather pointless in the long run. That’s before even getting to the issues that can make The Teal Album less-than-pleasant to listen to, all culminating in an experience that’s throwaway in the most definitive sense imaginable, but lacks a good deal of positive qualities that could make it even a cute novelty.
It’s important to consider the interaction between both of those factors too, and how that ultimately does the most damage to these renditions; these are tracks burned into the memories of basically everyone on earth at this point, and some of Weezer’s more questionable decisions when covering them become all the more noticeable because of it. It’s frankly miraculous that Cuomo doesn’t end up completely murdering the high notes on a-Ha’s Take On Me, but he’s hardly at his vocal best here, and when that ends up flattening the hook of Africa that’s meant to hit with such triumphant swell, or reigning in the spit-flecked elasticity that Michael Jackson originally gave Billie Jean, these feel like substandard karaoke renditions, even more so with the Ozzy Osbourne impression that only makes Paranoid feel more cheap and plastic. At least the decision to keep the pronouns as they are on TLC’s No Scrubs is an endearing touch, but it’s really the only thing that even remotely sticks, at least in a positive light.
And that does mean that the way these songs are played needs to be touched on, and it’s the same dichotomy that’s already been brought up earlier; they’re so similar to the originals that you wonder what the point in even doing this was, but Weezer’s knack for poor instrumental decisions – presumably to differentiate them from the originals even by a minuscule amount – proves to be yet another niggling annoyance. And again, it really is a no-win situation; the gooey synths and crushed guitar solo on Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) really do sound terrible, as do the flat, formless riffs used to simply fill up space on versions of The Turtles’ Happy Together and Ben E. King’s Stand By Me, but even with the objectively better and more faithful renditions like for Electric Light Orchestra’s Mr. Blue Sky, it’s so similar that there’s really no point in this version existing when the original is still perfectly fine.
Granted, that once again opens up the discussion about how much merit simple fun can have on an album like this, and to see a band who’ve been around as long as Weezer have taking some time out to enjoy themselves like this is definitely a good thing. But this will be an album for which the novelty wears out incredibly fast, and as much as that might have been the intention, it’s not a good foundation to build an entire album on, regardless of how throwaway it is. At the end of the day though, it’s hardly worth getting outright annoyed over an album that simply screams out that it’s a placeholder, but when it’s so devoid of meaningful substance or anything to set this slew of covers apart from the originals in any capacity, it doesn’t really deserve much praise either.
For fans of: Fall Out Boy, Motion City Soundtrack, All Time Low
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Weezer’ (The Teal Album) is out now on Crush Music / Atlantic Records.