Sincerity is almost always viewed as a good thing, unless you’re Weezer. Granted, many music critics and fans have accused them of being wildly insincere ever since Make Believe came out back in 2005, but I say they couldn’t be more wrong. I’d say there’s not a shred of gimmickry in any post-Maladroit record. I’d say all of it — the aloof Hollywood envy, the random hip-hop cameos, the increasingly ridiculous album art — is a completely truthful representation of wherever Rivers Cuomo’s head was at the time. He felt like partying. So he partied. He felt like letting all of his band mates take lead on a song. So he passed them the mic. He felt like covering Lady Gaga. So he put on his blonde wig and poker face. He felt like putting an effing guy from Lost on the cover of Hurley. And so it was done. Being in a happier place than he was during Pinkerton, his clowning around was every bit as honest as him swearing off sex.
That’s not to say all of the antics, albeit from someplace genuinely blissful, worked. I’ll always be a defender of Raditude, but it was definitely a lot of absurdity to absorb in a single listen. And although the band seemed to embrace the collaborative nature of The Red Album, the songs written and sung by rhythm guitarist Brian Bell, bassist Scott Shriner, and drummer (and later, guitarist) Patrick Wilson just didn’t stack up against weirdo Cuomo epics like “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)”. Honesty aside, the world seemed more interested in the sad, strange Weezer, not the fun-loving, happy one. The songs were often sincere, but not always great.
(Cover Story: Weezer: Everything’s Alright)
Weezer’s latest album, on the other hand, is often insincere — or at least it began that way — but always great. For the first time since The Green Album, they retreated to their heads and set out to prove something instead of just indulging every playful genre experiment on Cuomo’s mind. According to the band, they sought to recapture their roots (aka the anomalous success of The Blue Album and Pinkerton) with Everything Will Be Alright in the End, going as far as to once more hire Ric Ocasek to produce it. Did they succeed? Could their ninth studio album accurately be called Bluerton, some flawless hybrid of the band’s first two works? Not exactly. Cuomo isn’t the brooding, isolated man he was when he wrote “Say It Ain’t So” and “Across the Sea”. Yet in revisiting those times, in trying to get back in touch with that man, he and the rest of Weezer have created something that’s completely unique to their catalog, a record that tries its damnedest to feel alienated by the conflicts of the past, but discovers that it’s actually at peace with them.
Cuomo’s stated that Everything‘s music can be divided into songs about his relationship with others (I’m guessing this means his band, specifically), his relationship with women, and his relationship with his father. This appears true, for the most part, with all three themes reaching some kind of resolve in the lyrics. “Eulogy for a Rock Band” accepts that the glory days of a once legendary rock group are over, second single “Cleopatra” finds the narrator breaking free of a codependent romance, then wishing his significant other the best, and “Foolish Father” asks a friend to forgive the less-than-stellar parenting skills of their dad. Whereas Cuomo spat vile at the alcoholic patriarch in “Say It Ain’t So”, here, he pities him. Parenthood also rears its head earlier in opener “Ain’t Got Nobody”, which begins with a crackling sound bite of a little girl unable to sleep. Her mother comforts her by saying the album’s title. The phrase keeps popping up throughout, tying back to the record’s cautiously optimistic viewpoint and forming a sort of narrative through-line, something not seen since Pinkerton.
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Of course, not every last track neatly fits into the three relationship categories of parents, friends, and lovers. Unless it’s a metaphor for something, “The British Are Coming” really does seem to be about the American Revolution, and the closing mini suite of “The Wasteland”, “Anonymous”, and “Return to Ithaka” (a triptych dubbed “The Futurescope Trilogy”) is mostly wordless, loaded with the fuzzy guitars and just-rough-enough solos that bind every other song on Everything (the album’s somehow both rougher and poppier than Hurley), as well as some space-opera dramatics thrown in for good measure. It’s as if the band’s trying to finally shut the door on their still unreleased sci-fi opus, Songs from the Black Hole.
All of this lends a slightly bizarre quality to Everything Will Be Alright in the End, one that becomes especially apparent after hearing more straightforward tunes like the Bethany Cosentino collaboration, “Go Away”. Weezer’s best work has always placed cut-and-dry breakup melodies such as “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here” next to funny little nuggets like “Buddy Holly”, and Everything is no different.
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Even first single, the silly “Back to the Shack”, becomes borderline brilliant within the oddball context of the rest of the album. Admit it, all of us scoffed at the line “Rockin’ out like it’s 1994” when we first heard it. I know I did. But now that Cuomo and company have actually delivered on their promise, I feel a bit sheepish. Better yet, I feel elated. Everything Will Be Alright in the End doesn’t just transport us to Weezer’s younger days — it ushers us into their future. And for the first time in a while, it’s looking pretty bright.
Essential Tracks: “Eulogy for a Rock Band”, “The British Are Coming”, and “The Futurescope Trilogy (“I. The Waste Land”, “II. Anonymous”, “Return to Ithaka”)”