In the 22 years since Weezer’s debut, frontman/songwriter Rivers Cuomo has been trying to find the musical yin and lyrical yang that made the band so enjoyable in the first place. He’s been on opposite sides of the spectrum, from emo lyrics and chaotic garage rock (Pinkerton) to “hip” lingo and modern pop-rock (Raditude) with opposing amounts of success (hint: Raditude is the lame one). Weezer went “Back to the Shack” with 2014’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End and Cuomo got points back from longtime fans for cutting the pandering BS and turning up the guitars again. So that’s the musical yin, but how about the lyrical yang?
Weezer (White Album), the fourth color-themed and 10th overall release from California’s nerdy overlords of alt-rock is Cuomo with his strangest and sincerest lyrics in quite some time. You can feel the passion in his cracking voice when he belts “I’ll bury diamonds/Just for you” on “Jacked Up,” or the unbridled joy and passion while singing the chorus of “Thank God for Girls.” Cuomo is still a hopeless romantic, dreaming of a destination wedding in Puerto Rico and catching Stockholm Syndrome in “(Girl We Got A) Good Thing.” He even handles heartbreak and awkwardness in an endearingly geeky way on closing track “Endless Bummer,” where he buries his bead in his sweatshirt because he doesn’t want to get caught staring at a pretty girl’s chest. Cuomo also remains a weird storyteller as on “Do You Wanna Get High?” where he talks of getting stoned with a girlfriend and losing himself in a make-out session (“Now our bones start to ache/As we cramp on the pot/And we fall to the floor/ With our face in a knot”). He manages to combine both topics on “Wind in Our Sail,” where he compares a romance’s high hopes to “Darwin on the Beagles/And Mendel experimenting with a pea.” Most rock bands don’t inquire history lessons on album cuts, but those bands clearly underestimate the wisdom of Weezer.
Despite the album’s release on April Fools’ Day, Weezer (White Album) is a summertime jam, specifically for citizens of sunny California. The band give thanks to “California Kids” and pray for the safety of “L.A. Girlz.” It’s all set to the tune of chugging power chords and fist-pumping pop rock, along with some lovely harmonies and sing-along choruses that would make The Beach Boys salute in approval. So much so that “(Girl We Got A) Good Thing” sounds like a spiritual sequel to “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” with its bouncy rhythm and sleigh bells/piano combination in the background. Cuomo and guitarist Brian Bell have great interplay, giving off feedback that opens nearly every song and shredding solos every other track. The band sounds more unified in their simplistic take on rock and, even more so, have an infectious good vibe coming from them. Stuff like “Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori” and “King of the World” have such an upbeat vibe to them, it’s almost like they are a fresh new act in their 20s and not veterans of the scene.
Weezer seem to have come full circle on Weezer (White Album). Sure it may have taken them over 20 years to see the light, but they get that they don’t need to be anyone else but Weezer. Times change and bands from their era are either broken up or half of what they used to be. For the first time in his career, Cuomo seems to be comfortable on the perch of being a rock legend instead of fearing his age makes him uncool. Even when he sees the sad news in “King of the World,” he just shrugs his shoulders and anticipates catching some waves. That’s what was great about Weezer in the first place: a cool band for all the uncool people of the world. That unbridled optimism is nice to have back in the usually dour world of current music.