Weezer (White Album) Review

Weezer_white_album

It’s been only less than two years (October 2014) since Weezer’s 9th studio album titled Everything Will Be Alright In The End (colloquially known as EWBAITE) was released, where the gap between that and their previous album, Hurley was nearly 4 years (note: I don’t consider Death to False Metal an actual album considering it was more of a compilation of previously-unreleased tracks). Where fans were built-up to the hype surrounding EWBAITE’s release with it’s 24-episode YouTube clip release, the album’s reception with fans and critics alike was more lukewarm if anything, scoring an average of 77 on the review aggregation website, metacritic.

Weezer fans are no strangers to the band’s sporadic release cycle – Green Album being 5 years after Pinkerton with Maladroit only a year after the release of Green, being on example – so having Weezer release yet another self-titled album in a line of various color-themed self-titled albums (Blue, Green, Red) is simply business as usual. As an avid listener and fan of Weezer, seeing so many close releases within a short time frame gives me pause. I have been “baited” by Rivers and his – needless to say – eclectic songwriting. The quick jump from Red to Raditude simply sounded too different and too “pop”. The quick backtracking that was Hurley was, again, too stark and too obvious. It was only a few years ago where I was sucked into the wonder of Weezer with their release of Weezer (Red Album) and quickly dove into the rabbit hole that is the band’s discography, history, and background. As with prior release schedules like Green -> Maladroit and Red -> Raditude -> Hurley -> Death to False Metal, I am of the opinion that the band needs to take some breaks between releases. It does no one any service to release an album, half-heartedly promote it for a few months, and then release another album a year or so afterwards.

That being said, the jump from Hurley to EWBAITE was such a stark change that it gave me hope of Weezer “returning to form”, as much as I hate that phrase as it insinuates that bands have an obligation to do such a thing. Alas, in general Rivers and the band does best when they don’t shot-gun albums left and right and see what sticks. A more methodical and planned approach gives better results, in my opinion. I have never given a review of EWBAITE – hell, this is my first documented review of anything, after all – but I can safely say that it has many good songs and the overall theme was ambitious, but ultimately it has a tendency to fall behind and disappear into obscurity – or even my own Weezer playlist play-through.

So where does this put Weezer’s tenth studio album?

A little bit of context:

The idea of the album first floated around during an interview sometime last year after Weezer released a single titled Thank God For Girls (TGFG). A year had gone by since the release of EWBAITE and the fans were hungry for more. The “special track” released only to fan club members (which I am a member of) titled Everybody Needs Salvation dropped a few months before TGFG. Both songs were written during the brainstorming phase of EWBAITE. By this time, however, no one really knew if the band was really going to release another album, as Rivers stuck to his cryptic messages over Twitter and interviews, hinting and not-hinting at another album release. A few weeks later after TGFG was released, the band released yet another single titled Do You Wanna Get High (DYWGH), sparking yet another round of speculation of a new album. It was unprecedented for the band to release one, let alone two, singles with no album to show for it. The speculation ran rampant, but nothing was confirmed. This later changed in mid-January when the band announced the production and later-release of Weezer (White Album), of which the two previous tracks would be a part of, and the rest is history.

Album details:

Tracklist:

# Title
1 California Kids
2 Wind in Our Sail
3 Thank God For Girls
4 (Girl We Got A) Good Thing
5 Do You Wanna Get High?
6 King of the World
7 Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori
8 L.A. Girlz
9 Jacked Up
10 Endless Bummer

1. California Kids

This song was originally written as a Japanese single during Rivers’ collaboration with Scott Murphy in 2014 and was rewritten for this album. The track opens with sounds of seagulls and the ocean crashing on an undisclosed coastline, leading into a mix of guitar and possibly a xylophone/glockenspiel. It’s really difficult for me to write in great length about any song for any band for any album, so I won’t even bother trying, as it’ll only end up in disaster.

To keep it simple, California Kids is such a simple yet somehow disappointing opening to the album, in contrast to the rest of the tracklist, but ties very well with the “summer” theme.

Using my unscientific grading scale, I would rate this song 6/10 – It gets the job done, but nothing special.

2. Wind in Our Sail

A completely new and refreshing track, directly leading from the end of the previous track without a chance for the listener to breathe. The lyrics ties very well with the “summer” theme and even the metaphors later outlined in track 6, King of the World. The song works really well as a “pop rock” track as well as being the signature Weezer distorted-guitar aesthetic. Very fun to listen to, but sometimes the lyrics are a bit “weird”. Only issue is when Rivers sings the line “We got the wind…in our sail” it sounds a lot like that AWOLNation song Sail.

7.5/10 – Good follow-up

 

3. Thank God For Girls

I’ve never liked this song when it was first released. It has all the qualities of “weird” Rivers songwriting, but none of the catchy “pop” that I’ve grown to love from the band. I can’t fault Rivers for experimenting with different musical styles, but this track and Jacked Up feel very out of place. Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe albums should flow well, both thematically and musically. This does neither.

5/10 – Far too much cannoli

 

4. (Girl We Got A) Good Thing

Had they taken TGFG out of the tracklist, this song would work really well in terms of flow when transitioning from Wind in Our Sail. Thematically flows with the “summer” theme, very catchy swing beat, and has a variety of tempo changes that keeps the listener on his/her feet. My only problem is that it sounds a lot like that Sara Bareilles song Love Song.

7.5/10 – (Boy this song’s a) Good Thing

 

5. Do You Wanna Get High?

Rivers has a very bad habit of cutting and pasting songs from his repository of unreleased tracks and then releasing something completely different. However, this song did a very good job masking the fact. The bridge was written for an entirely different song, but the rest of the song was written in 2001. To quote the article written on Weezerpedia:

“The song may have originated in 2001. A song or idea is listed in the Catalog of Riffs from October 4 of 2001 as “D’ya Wanna Get High?” with a COR# of 351. Additionally, on Rivers’ genius.com annotation of the song (http://genius.com/Weezer-do-you-wanna-get-high-lyrics), he notes that the song is “about me and my darling girlfriend in 2000/2001”. It’s not currently know if the song is indeed originally from 2001 or, if it is, to what extent it was modified on the 2015 version.

Rivers also notes that the same girlfriend was the subject of the songs “O Girlfriend” and “O Girl,” noting that the former song contains a similar lyrical theme in one section (“Taking pills and mellowing out”). Additional annotations explain the inspiration of other lines within the song. “
Overall, the song sounds very much like Pinkerton, which is a pretty amazing achievement.Thematically a bit unsound, but still able to stand its own weight.

7/10 – Cut and paste is good when done well

 

6. King of the World

This song is gold. It’s pure gold. It has all the parts that made me love Weezer in the first place:

  • Circle of Fifths chord progression
  • Close to the heart/sincere
  • Heavy-sounding guitars

It’s obvious this song was written either about his wife or with his wife in mind. Look no further than the line: “Your dad hit you on the hand, just for holding your chopsticks wrong; And your mom locked you in the shed, and Uncle Sam dropped an atom bomb”. Hell, his wife even annotated the lyrics. You can hear how much he loves his wife and how devoted he sounds, and that’s what I love about Rivers and his songwriting. When he legitimately feels sincere, it’s very obvious and very close to the heart.

9/10 – Return to form

 

7. Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori

I’ll be the heretic by saying this: This track can easily be a part of Songs From the Black Hole, both thematically and composition-wise. It starts off very bumbling, simple kick and snare drum beat with straightforward note plucking, more closely related to El Scorcho, but less “drunken”. The real kicker in when the song transitions from the chorus to the bridge, a dream-like sequence that instantly reminded me of God Only Knows by The Beach Boys. The dreamy, almost trance-like sounds of Brian Bell going “doo doo doo” on the left speaker as the line “Sweet piano melodies play” as well as the sound of synths on the right speaker shows me that Rivers still has it in him. And the semi-crescendo crescendo breaks all of it away, closing the dream-like state with the line “Remember when we were only sixteen\ you made me believe in God, oh\ When I finally wake, both girls are gone”. And then enter the Cleopatra-sounding guitar solo, and then back to the end of the song with guitar feedback, leaving the listener still as bumbling as he/she ever was.

10/10 – He made me believe in God

 

8. L.A. Girlz

When the album was first announced, many fans looked on the tracklist with question marks above their heads. “L.A. Girlz?? What the f**k title is that?” Ah, the good ol’ Rivers bait-n-switch. This wasn’t the first time Rivers titled a song so Rivers-esque that many fans remained skeptical at the writing composition of the unreleased track. I can’t say I blame them, Rivers has always been known for trolling his fanbase.

But, many were pleasantly surprised at how great this song was, comparing it closely to the Blue Album (Deluxe Edition) track Susanne, another song written in a 6/8 time signature. L.A. Girlz may not look like a testament of heartbroken men, but looks can be deceiving. The song grips you with the opening chorus “L.A. Girlz, please act your age\ You treat me like I have the plague\ as I gyre and gimbal in the wabe”, combines Lewis Carol’s lines from her intentionally-nonsensical poem Jabberwocky, exemplifying how bumbling and awkward the album’s main character feels. The bridge draws a slow buildup resembling that of Only in Dreams, lulls the listener into a false sense of security, and then pummels you with the desperate yet incredibly sincere guitar solo, rivaling that of Say It Ain’t So.

10/10 – Don’t let title fool you

 

9. Jacked Up

Ah, we’re back to Rivers’ experimentation with different musical styles, this case being hip hop. I’m not a fan. The lyrics are typical of Rivers, but the overall beat and melody does me no favors. This track is one of two that, to me, does not fit with the album’s theme, first of which was TGFG.

4/10 – Not “jacked up” about the song

 

10. Endless Bummer

And here we are at the album’s close, a title which is a negative play on the phrase Endless Summer (maybe even a callback to The Beach Boys’ album Endless Summer).

The double-tracked vocals don’t really feel like they fit with the song. The lyrics are thematically relevant and the melody is good enough to sing along to. However, my qualms with this song come in two-fold: the length and how plain its composition is. If I had to compare it with other album closers, it doesn’t even come close to the genius that is Only In Dreams, Angel and the One, or even Haunt You Everyday. The solo is great, but the song as a whole leave much to be desired.

7/10 – It’s an ending, I guess.

Average, unweighted score: 7.3/10

Weighted Score: 8.3/10

You may ask, why are there two different scores? The reason why I decided to make a weighted score is because I believe the quality of an album is not entirely the sum of its parts, but rather it should be a combination of history, gut-feeling, and the overall flow of the album in of itself. Like I said at the beginning of the review, I believe an album should have to flow well, both thematically and musically. Weezer’s White Album flows surprisingly well despite some irregularities like TGFG and Jacked Up.

Final Thoughts

I commend Weezer for taking the time in writing, composing, and producing this album. It definitely takes a lot of guts, perseverance, and tenacity to produce ten albums over the course of 22 years, and Rivers has repeatedly proven to, not only his fans, but also the world that he still has the magic in him. While there were definitely some missteps along the way, Weezer (White Album) does a great job showing the world was Weezer is, and always has been, all about.