Believe it or not, Weezer was once the band to be. After the release of the Blue Album in 1994 and their subsequent explosion into popular culture, the band’s nerd-core became another legend in the pantheon of 90’s rock and roll. The Blue Album served as an inspiration for an approaching millennium of indie rockers; however, the good graces of america’s favorite losers were quickly forgotten after the release of the band’s sophomore effort Pinkerton.
Crashing critically and commercially, the album’s confessional lyrics and abrasive songwriting culminated in its eventual placement as number 3 on Rolling Stone’s worst of 1996 list. Now regarded as a modern classic, Pinkerton’s deeply personal lyrics meant frontman Rivers Cuomo put his heart up for bid; and his audience rejected it. Pinkerton’s failure sparked the dumpster fire that the rock world considers post-2000 Weezer; with 2005’s Make Believe and 2009’s Raditude being particularly egregious offences.
So, when 2014’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End and 2016’s White Album were released to much fan affair, things started to look up for the once legendary rock quartet, and one could only hope that the band continue their journey back to their roots. One could also be crushed by the realization that those roots had long rotted.
Their 2017 release, “Beach Boys,” comes so close to being genuinely great. The rigid guitars, the danceable bassline, the perky percussion–it’s an indie hit in the making. If only it was finished. Clunky lyrics and a half-baked chorus leave the song’s genuinely admirable composition aching to be complemented, and that composition is one with the potential to rocket the band into a contemporary style that doesn’t betray their power-pop roots. Lyrically, the group ditches the bludgeoning melancholy of Pinkerton for a subtle, underlying sadness that seems to have infected recent singles for their upcoming album; this time not about death or heartbreak, but about… a hip-hop world. Yes, Weezer has finally admitted it: they’re out of touch. Instead of embracing it, however, Cuomo seems to be dealing with his newfound old-ness by indoctrinating the hip-hop youth into the Pet Sounds cult.
While not nearly as unlistenable as some of the band’s -other- material (and, in fact, quite good by comparison,) “Beach Boys” is polarizing. Even in its undoubtable strengths, it represents everything wrong with Weezer; they’re a band that screams youth in only a way a 47 year old could. The once trope-defying geeks have lived long enough to see themselves become the cool uncle that listens to Blink-182 and shows off his ollie skills in the backyard of a family gathering, despite flirtation with his 30’s. “Beach Boys” is simultaneously a plea for the past and a desperate grasp for youth that, while charming for a few hours, becomes both sad and annoying by the time the hot dogs are grilled and your cousins have arrived.