Well, we’re back here again, and it’s hard to really think of why. After all, Weezer clearly aren’t that concerned about making quality music anymore, especially when they’ve effectively weaponised their audience’s trust in them to the point where they don’t have to make good music, but as long as the hope is there, they’ll continue to get away with it. But it’s harder to think of time when the hope for Weezer has been lower than right now; Pacific Daydream was listenable at best and lazy and inconsequential at worst, and January’s The Teal Album felt like a band running desperately low on ideas to the point where a rushed-out covers album doubling as promotion for their next full-length proper seemed like a safe bet to get people talking. And unfortunately, it did, but that might have ultimately been to Weezer’s detriment, as it really doesn’t seem like anyone has remembered that The Black Album actually exists. Granted, the synthesised, sickeningly trendy pop-rock direction that Weezer have been attempting lately could easily be evidence for that being a conscious decision, but the cult of personality that is Weezer is more or less wholly built around the meme at this point, and when that’s not there for what’s effectively a fairly traditional album rollout, what’s left?
Honesty, barely anything concrete of quality whatsoever, to the point where opening the album with Can’t Knock The Hustle and Weezer’s general sentiment of “can’t blame a guy for trying” feels all the more premeditated and lazy. It’s also totally wrong in this case, given that carelessness has been one of Weezer’s worst qualities at the best of times, and to see it exacerbated to such a horrific level is just another boulder of salt rubbed into a wound that only seems to get reopened with every new release. At least Pacific Daydream, an album that has only gotten more disposable over time, had distinct upward peaks to somewhat buoy it; The Black Album actively seems to be avoiding an imposed right way to go about things, and the way that Weezer present themselves on here only makes it even more unpleasant.
And that’s quite an important point as well, as what Weezer might see as them defending their right to do what they want in their music doesn’t necessarily work when a) what they are doing is lacking in so much effort that it’s a wonder it can be defended at all, and b) Weezer making themselves out to be music industry Chads all of a sudden is in equal measures hilarious and embarrassing. Can’t Knock The Hustle somewhat gets away with it for offering a knowing wink to the audience, but when Cuomo presents all of his detractors as mindless drones on Zombie Bastards or uses the deflection of honesty as justification for simply being a dick on I’m Just Being Honest, it’s all remarkably out of character and more than a bit uncomfortable. After all, this is a man for whom the bulk of his success to date has relied on the persona of a sad-sack loser, and to take such a dramatic turn feels totally unearned, perhaps even more so than on Raditude, and that says a lot. It feels like Weezer receding into a hastily-forged echo chamber in more attempts to replicate the alt-pop bands they so desperately want to fit in with, and while a deflection of criticism like this is hardly new or surprising, it wouldn’t need to be so viscerally decried if they actually put some effort into what they were doing. If Byzantine feels like a marked improvement in its winding lyrical imagery and references to other artists, that’s the beauty of a co-write from Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace; otherwise, it feels like a strenuous task to find something even remotely worth investing in. Elsewhere, it’s just pileups of blasé drug references like on High As A Kite and California Snow (still getting those Raditude vibes…) or the profoundly uninteresting ramblings of Piece Of Cake and Too Many Thoughts In My Head that struggle to connect on even the most surface level.
It’s not like there’s much more to glean from the instrumentation either, which once again takes up a sterile alt-pop formula and pairs it with the lack of effort and poor decisions that just seems to be the norm for Weezer at this point. At best, it’s inoffensively catchy with the horns and buoyant gurgles of Can’t Knock The Hustle and sleek, sharp pop-rock of Living In L.A. having a sparkle that at least makes them vaguely likable, but otherwise, The Black Album really begins to sink due to a lack of any sort of decent management or quality control. For one, you can hardly tell that Pat Wilson is on this album given how virtually every track has a stiff, slappy backbeat attached to it, which turns Piece Of Cake and California Snow especially into lumbering disasters, but it’s hard not to find elements across the board that just sound awful even on the most cursory listen. The horrendous hiss that slices through the entirety of Zombie Bastards; the lack of modulation on High As A Kite that sends the (presumably fake) strings blaring out at the same volume as everything else; the flat, uninterested glam-rock riff that ‘drives’ The Prince Who Wanted Everything; they’re such blatantly amateurish decisions that barely work whatsoever, and yet, because the rest of alt-pop has just as much of an issue with quality control, Weezer have slapped them on anyway. And then there’s Cuomo himself, and even though he’s never been a powerhouse vocalist or even one with much range, it’s hard to think of a time when he’s sounded more disinterested or checked-out than he does here.
But at the end of the day, as long as Weezer like it, why does anyone else matter? This clearly wasn’t made to appeal to longtime fans who actually appreciated this band’s creativity or spirit, nor is it going to break them into the alt-pop scene given how overwhelmingly forgettable it is. But given that Weezer have sealed themselves in their bubble now, it looks like they’re just going to carry on in this vein, and we’re all worse for it. Let’s just remind ourselves that this is a band with multiple classic albums under their belt, and the fact that they’ve decided to just throw all of that away for a style that doesn’t suit them at all and an album that can’t even be called passable is tremendously disappointing whichever way you spin it. The Black Album may be a desperate cry for relevance in 2019, but it’s not one that’s suitably built on or realised in any way, shape or form, and while Weezer might want to prove they’re just as spry as the young pups in the yard, they come across more like the old dog limping about on its gammy leg – old, pitiable, and crying to be put out of its misery.
For fans of: Fall Out Boy, Smash Mouth, Twenty One Pilots
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Weezer’ (The Black Album) is out now on Crush Music / Atlantic Records.