The Elusive Weezer

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Anxious Weezer fans can finally rest assured: the Black Album is coming.

With last week’s release of “Can’t Knock the Hustle”, a funky, Beck-inspired single, Weezer announced that its much anticipated Black Album will be released in 2019. Disillusioned by the band’s obvious attempts for pop stardom—think “Beverly Hills” and “Happy Hour”—Weezer purists who long for the rough-around-the-edges ethic of the Blue Album and Pinkerton are hoping for a return to original form. With frontman Rivers Cuomo’s 2016 promise that the Black Album was going to be “really different”, purists believe they have reason to be hopeful.

The Black Album will be experimental, but not in the way that Weezer purists hope. For fans of Weezer’s earlier work, the term “experimental” evokes the messy guitar bridges and adorably depressing lyrics of Pinkerton. But to Rivers Cuomo, all of that is old news. For Rivers, experimental means synthesizers, trumpets, drum machines, urban beats, and, likely to the chagrin of Weezer purists, production gloss. The old “distorted power-chord thing” is on its way out, according to Rivers.

Photo via American Songwriter

Despite the blatant radio-mindedness of singles “Happy Hour” and “Feels Like Summer”, and despite Weezer purists’ avowed hatred for the record, Pacific Daydream represents experimental Weezer. Every Weezer song up until Pacific Daydream, save songs like Raditude’s atrocious “Can’t Stop Partying”, can fit into the rock music category. While “Tired of Sex” and “El Scorcho” are decidedly grittier than the gummy “Troublemaker”, they all include guitar, bass, and real drumming. Pacific Daydream, with its samples, drum machines, and electronic sounds, is a break from that mold. Rivers has called it “the most different-sounding Weezer record ever” and a departure from “the downstroke eighth-note power-chord thing.”

Rivers Cuomo is a prolific songwriter. And he approaches songwriting like a scientist, distilling pop music down to its fundamentals so that he, himself, can replicate it. Critics who dismiss this strategy as an unimaginative, unadventurous appeal to the pop demographic may have never listened to 2014’s “I’ve Had It Up To Here”. In it, Rivers addresses the scores of fans who have decried him for deviating from the alternative sound of the ‘90s, singing “if you think I need approval from the faceless throng /That’s where you’re wrong”.

Rivers understands that endeavoring to write perfect pop music does not earn him favors—the critical responses to Make Believe and Raditude were quite the punch-in-the-face—yet he chooses to do so anyway. Why? Cuomo has an avowed appreciation for a wide variety of music, from the Beach Boys to Post Malone, and a passion for songwriting. To call for the constant rehashing of ‘90s Weezer would be an insult to Rivers’s creative capacities.

Pinkerton and Blue are my favorite Weezer albums, but I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoy glossy, poppier songs like Pacific Daydream’s “Mexican Fender” and the White Album’s “I Love the U.S.A.”  The newest single, “Can’t Knock the Hustle”, is exciting: it heralds a newer, more eclectic epoch for Weezer music. Purists looking forward to the experimental Black Album will be disappointed, but admirers of Rivers Cuomo have every reason to be pumped.

Featured Image via Scott Dudelson/WireImage

About the author

Matt Walsh is a VI Form day student from Southborough, Massachusetts. He leads Openly Secular, plays trumpet and French horn, and leads the young Democrats club. His academic interests include public policy, political science, and chemistry, and he plays baseball and runs cross country. In his free time, he curates Spotify playlists and pets his dog, Portia. Matt hopes that The Parkman Post can be a hub for intellectual thought, ideological diversity and meaningful debate.

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