No band screams inconsistency quite as much as Weezer. The pained, self-depreciating zenith of the ‘Pinkerton’ era feels eons ago, buried beneath swathes of torrid mediocrity, embodied no better than by the genuinely abysmal collaboration with Lil Wayne. How could a band once obsessed with underground alt-kings Pavement have plummeted to such a nadir? Many questioned if the band could return from such an abyss, yet 2014’s ‘Everything Will be Alright in the End’ was a solid, if un-remarkable, return to form; in comparison to the dire output of the hideous mainstream crossover attempts plaguing most of the bands noughties catalogue. The new LP sees the band picking up where ‘Everything will be alright in the end’ left off, and fans the fledgling flames of recovery.
‘The White Album’ is Weezer’s first shot at a concept album since the magnum opus of ‘Pinkerton’, with the band chronicling a relationship from inception to demise. This is not new ground for the band, but they say write about what you know, and Rivers does so with aplomb. The first six songs are breezy and carefree, with the trilogy of ‘Wind in our sail’, ‘Thank god for girls’ and ‘(Girl we got a) good thing’ all being piano driven; as a result, the guitars are largely subdued except for a Thin Lizzy-esque solo from Rivers on the latter track, bursting free from the oppressive shackles of the keys. The crystal-clean production fostered by producer Jake Sinclair suits the upbeat tracks, particularly the afore-mentioned ‘Wind in our sail’ and ‘(Girl we got a) good thing’, with sickly displays of love-drenched optimism smattered throughout the lyrics, ie. “Girl we got a good thing//I don’t see this ending”. These amorous overtones are set against typical chugging guitars and a steady backbeat from Patrick Wilson and Scott Shriner. Euphoria reaches full throttle on ‘King of the world’, Rivers’ ode of assurance to his wife Kyoko, which is really quite touching as he offers for the two of them to “ride a greyhound all the way to the Galapagos” to cope with Kyoko’s anxieties.
Amidst ramblings of cannoli’s, centrifuges and Bacharach, the bizarre lyricism does conjure some insightful imagery, particularly regarding gender power structures. Rivers’ dependence on strong women is prominent in lines like “She’s so big//she’s so strong” on the faux-rapped ‘Thank god for girls’ and the declaration that “God is a woman” on the wonderful blue album grunge-pop of ‘Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori’. Once the relationship breaks down the protagonist embarks on fruitless pursuits of other girls, as detailed in the bands best single for some time, ‘L.A Girlz’. Rivers bitterly reflects that the various women of the city of angels “treat me like I have the plague”, before a bittersweet climax erupts from a classic Weezer guitar lick as the euphoria is shattered and mood hurtles back down to earth. This is immediately followed by the sorrowful ‘Jacked Up’, where Rivers dons his finest falsetto to helplessly wallow in self-pity, “why why why do my flowers always die?” he demands. Like ‘Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori’, the final track ‘Endless Bummer’ is ripped straight off ‘The Blue Album’, as carefree summer days become mired in dread and pointlessness.
Weezer being Weezer, of course there are cringey moments, with the curse of mediocrity looming over certain moments, particularly the uninspiring opener ‘California Kids’, and ‘Do you wanna get high?’ which both feel a bit lumpen and predictable. Obviously ‘The White Album’ isn’t going to be some radical, avant-garde re-invention: this is Weezer we’re talking about. The LP is nothing ground breaking but that’s not why people listen to Weezer, people listen for the bands unparalleled ability (however much it has waned over the years) to churn out the melodic slices of poppy rock they built their career on. Weezer are finally tolerable again, and that’s enough cause for celebration in itself.