Weezer's hard-rock inspired fourteenth studio album is their best in years and one of the most fun of 2021. Here's how I was won over.
I'd be lying if I said the release of a new Weezer record filled me with excitement. Even less so with one called "Van Weezer". I mean, I'd been a fan growing up, especially their 1994 self-titled debut (also referred to as the Blue Album) and 2001's Green Album, but what interest would I have with an ageing, washed-up, pop-punk band?
Over the past couple of years, fellow 90s pop-punkers Green Day and Blink 182 have put out album releases that were absolute shadows of their previous work. As a result - and call me overdramatic if you wish - this made me want to body swerve new material from any band of that era.
Then I began to read some positive comments on Twitter from accounts that were usually on the money. I quickly began to question my reluctance to this nostalgic record. One major thing putting me off though was the corny title of the album and exceptionally unappealing artwork. Was I harshly (and literally) judging this album by its cover?
I put Van Weezer on with absolutely zero expectations and tried to look past the obvious flaws. And how happy I am that I did. Over the next 30 minutes, I was slowly won over. By the third listen, I couldn't get over what a feel-good and infectious listen it was!
The album had initially been announced in September 2019. It was due for release in May 2020 to coincide with the Hella Mega Tour alongside Green Day and Fall Out Boy. With the tour cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the band postponed the release by a year. In the meantime, they released their fourteenth studio album OK Human in January proving bands in their 50s could still remain as proactive now as in their early years (take note, Radiohead!).
How was I won over then? Well, Van Weezer is a lot of fun without being too over the top or cheesy like, say, a recent Foo Fighters album. It may draw inspiration from a classic 1980s metal sound, but it also pulls together their usual power pop style. This ensures this isn't so much an ode to that era as the Californian band's interpretation of it. Somehow it all just works.
There are nods to bands like KISS, Aerosmith, Van Halen and Black Sabbath, though the beauty here is that it still feels very much like a Weezer album rather than a copycat record. That's the strength and beauty of it.
Rivers Cuomo is credited as the main songwriter over the 10 tracks, though credits are also given to artists as varied as Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Joel and Daniel Bedingfield (yes, you read that right...). And those names sum up the record pretty easily, a healthy mix of corn, pop hooks and heavy metal.
That the album only lasts 30 minutes is another credit in the bank for the boys. Heavy metal can be overindulgent in the wrong hands. Thankfully not in Rivers and co. There may be the odd extravagance, but it's mostly confined within the 3-minute pop structure.
Tracks like 'The End of the Game' and 'I Need Some of That' follow the hard rock template of bands like Kiss and Van Halen, but still holding the infectious character of Weezer. 'The End of the Game' in particular, you can just imagine being lapped by thousands of nostalgic emo kids on the Hella Mega Tour. These are tracks that will get stuck in your head for hours.
The poppiest and most anthemic on the album is the mid-tempo song 'All the Good Ones' which harks back to their 2008 hit 'Beverley Hills' (another banger I must add...). The drumbeat is almost exactly the same, and somehow there's nothing wrong with that in the slightest. It's a singalong treat.
'She Needs Me' is another romantic and explosive pop-punk anthem, which, again, takes us back to the band's glory days. Again, the lyrics aren't exactly the most sophisticated or profound ("She needs me / she needs me / and that's why I need her / she needs me / she needs me/ it's us against the world"). However, the infectiousness allows you to overlook the obvious flaws.
The album finishes with the seemingly sweet and nostalgic 'Precious Metal Girl', allowing us to take a breather from the heavier sounds of the previous half-hour. The lyrics here are incredibly corny ("I don't invest in stocks / I don't invest in bonds / who needs real when I got you?"). Somehow, again, Weezer make it work. It comes across as sweet rather than awkward or pathetic, of which many of their contemporaries are guilty of.
So there you have it. I've been won over and I'm not afraid to admit it. It's not the most clever or most original album by any stretch, but what a lot of fun this record is. Without overthinking it, Weezer have given us one of 2021's most surprising delights. Anyone who ever had a passing interest in the Californian band will most certainly be all over this in adoration.
Rating - 8/10
Best three tracks - All the Good Ones, The End of the Game, She Needs Me
Did you agree or disagree with any of the above? Feel free to agree or berate me @BFloodlights.