March 1, 2019 Weezer – The Black Album (Album Review)
Formed in Los Angeles, California, United States, in 1992, Weezer was one of the pioneers of American Alternative Rock that has also eventually made a significant impact in the mainstream section of the genre. Currently comprised by Founders Rivers Cuomo (lead vocals, lead guitar, keyboards) and Patrick Wilson (drums) as well as Brian Bell (guitar, backing vocals, keyboards) along with Scott Shriner (bass, backing vocals), the prolific outfit has twelve studio albums on especially Cuomo’s credit—its primary songwriter.
Its music—consistently characterized by the fuzzy rhythm guitars, Pop-sensible melodies and song structures, four-on-the-floor drumbeats, complementary basslines, and catchy Doo-Wop-flavored vocal styling reminiscent of the Surf Pop of The Beach Boys (“Wouldn’t It Be Nice”)—is well represented by the said discography from 1994’s first self-titled (also known as The Blue Album) to the recently released record of covers. Now, only barely two months after the last one, Weezer is all ready to unleash yet another full-length, dubbed as The Black Album.
Unleashed on March 1, 2019, on Atlantic/Crush Records, on the heels of the band’s all-covers album, Weezer’s thirteenth—albeit titled The Black Album—is certainly neither black nor gray, nor bland. It is actually musically spectral. According to Cuomo himself, its lyrical aspect is the opposite of the band’s typical bright, cheery, and wholesome predisposition: “What could stand out more against ‘White’ than ‘Black’?” referring to the title of his band’s 2016 album. “I think it’s going to, maybe, be like Beach Boys gone bad. I’m thinking of swearing, which is something I’ve never done in songs.”
The Black Album opens with the full-on horn-orchestrated “Can’t Knock the Hustle”—definitely a perfect album opener—engaging and head-bobbing. The Tropical mood continues with the ukulele-flavored “Zombie Bastards,” further taking the listener to the sunny parts of California. “High as a Kite” is a change of pace—mid-tempo, starry-eyed Indie Pop, with faint rays of The Beatles (“Hey Jude”) and Oasis (“Don’t Look Back in Anger”), which makes sense. Go figure!
Another change of style, yet still maintaining Weezer’s flair for Disco dance-ability is “Living in L.A.,” only to slow down the beat with the ensuing piano-led “Piece of Cake.” The following “I’m Just Being Honest” is an album highlight; with its guitar melodies and synthesizer melodies, it is a Weezer trademark. A little bit funky and loungy comes next in the form of “Too Many Thoughts in My Head.” Then there is “The Prince who Wanted Everything,” which is as sunny and tuneful as Cuomo and company could be, harking back to their Beverly Hills mansion escapades.
The penultimate track, “Byzantine” is a breath of fresh but rustic air, as it swings and sways and beeps and bops nostalgically back to the mid-’60s when Sunny Pop reigned supreme in the afternoon delights of teenyboppers. Finally, Weezer finishes off its latest offering with the Alternative Rock explosion of the fuzzy and bombastic “California Snow.”
The Black Album is dark, brooding, and unapologetic—but only lyric-wise. When the focus of attention is the music, it sounds as Weezer as always; and that is a good thing. Contrary to what many music fans tend to claim, consistency of sound will always be an asset. It legitimizes the belief that music is but an extension of its composer’s musical vision and personal character. What could stand out more against unpredictability and uncertainty than their opposite? For both its newness and familiarity and Cuomo’s success in covering a previously, personally unexplored ground, Cryptic Rock gives The Black Album 4 out of 5 stars.