Weezer wrestles with nostalgia on latest record

One day, Weezer may run out of colors. But for now, they’ve settled on white for the release of their fourth self-titled album and follow-up to last year’s well-received Everything Will be Alright in the End. The white album — the band refers to their self-titles by color — is a concept album spanning the width of the summer and the brief romances within the season. Reportedly, frontman Rivers Cuomo went to California and downloaded Tinder to get the mood right.

This is not a revolutionary record — but no one really expected it to be. What it is, according to the press Weezer themselves have quoted in their promotion of the album, is a “return to form.” That is, a return to the beloved Weezer of the ‘90s.

Is it really? Well, not quite.

It certainly has its evocatively nostalgic moments, but at the same time, the almost pointed obsession with recreating that sound somewhat dampens the effect. We don’t like seeing that they have to try to sound like the Weezer we love.

A welcome exception to this slightly forced vibe is “King of the World,” one of the few songs on the album that really shines in an early-Weezer brashy guitar sort of way. The song is also a little more substantive, as Cuomo turns outward from his own dorky neurosis in a sweet shoutout to his wife, highlighting how they can tackle her fears together.

“Do You Wanna Get High?” is another tonally nostalgic trip, not to mention a subject matter that is hardly novel for a Weezer song. Where it deserves credit — or perhaps, the rest of the album deserves criticism — is in the fact that the song contains one of the few quintessential biting Cuomo guitar solos that are mysteriously and sadly absent from most of of the album.

On the other hand, Weezer has crafted a release that is undeniably catchy. From “California Kids” to “Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori,” the record is a description of summer that is also perfect for summer. The timing of the release is certainly no accident. Really, it’s not even just a summer album but a summer album restricted to the sand between two southern California lifeguard towers. It seems like a small space for an album to exist, yet strangely it doesn’t feel cramped there at all.

If anything, the album feels slightly too confident. Of course, there is still the lyrical dorkiness and anxiety in Cuomo’s lyrics. But missing is the raw self-assessment in Everything Will…’s first track “Back to the Shack”:  “Sorry guys, I didn’t realize that I needed you so much / I thought I’d get a new audience I forgot that disco sucks. / I ended up with nobody and I started feeling dumb / Maybe I should play the lead guitar and Pat should play the drums.”  

That, at least, we can all agree on.

Imad Pasha covers music. Contact him at [email protected].