Rivers Cuomo has taken your shit for over two decades and he’s had it up to here. Midway through Weezer’s ninth studio LP, he airs his grievances on a song called, not coincidentally, “I’ve Had It Up to Here”—the most valid of which is that people think he’s somehow insincere. You could describe Weezer’s 21st century output in many derogatory ways and most of it would be warranted, but “dishonest” isn’t one of them. Pick anything he’s done over the past 15 years and ask yourself, “What label exec concerned with the bottom line would possibly cosign this?” Rivers Cuomo is making the exact kind of music he wants to make—it just so happens that it sounds like music for the masses and has no currency whatsoever. Yet, in his finest mock-operatic metal voice, Cuomo brings “I’ve Had It Up to Here” to a head with, “If you think I need approval from the faceless throng/ Well, that’s where you’re wrong.” The important word here is “faceless.” Cuomo does seek approval, but on Everything Will Be Alright in the End, he realizes that he needs it from a familiar source that he knows quite well: people who may have once been Weezer fans.
That said, you’ll have to give the overt apology “Back to the Shack” a second chance, and I realize that’s a tall order—if recent Weezer has ever driven you to punch a total stranger, this one leads with the chin. There’s Cuomo’s tendency to treat The Blue Album’s goodwill as a renewable resource, the lyrics peppered with meta references about Weezer’s past—namely, his lightning bolt guitar strap and that one time he let drummer Patrick Wilson sing lead. You might roll your eyes when he rhymes “rockin’ out like it’s ‘94” with “more hardcore,” and they will bug out when revisiting 1994 somehow means doing fourth-wall rhyme-bustin’ that was perfected on “El Scorcho” and responsible for “Beverly Hills”. And then there are the wincing, “What year is this?” jokes that will certainly be criticized for “lolz rockism”: taking himself to task because “I forgot that disco sucks,” thinking that the radio and “those stupid singing shows” are even in competition anymore, or that they had any effect on Weezer.
But something about this song sticks, and it’s not just the hook, though that’s a big part of it—even those who despise Weezer can admit Cuomo has an inexhaustible, infuriating ability to write melodies that lodge themselves in your brain after one listen, whether you want it there or not. During the second verse, Cuomo drops the yuks and sings, “I finally settled down with my girl and I made up with my dad.” He could not be more direct about what “Back to the Shack” truly means beyond its reprise of “Pork and Beans”’s message about being true to one’s self: those represent the twin engines that powered The Blue Album and Pinkerton’s emotional train wrecks, and there’s the possibility that “Back to the Shack” might be a sly, sarcastic rebuke against armchair producers and YouTube commenters, a la Danny Brown’s Old: you don’t want the old Rivers Cuomo, so do you want him to rock out like it’s ‘94 or do you just want him to sing about it and make a record of his (broken) heart?
Because you’re only getting one in 2014, and Everything does occasionally rock out with the same joyous abandon of The Blue Album, albeit without its wide-eyed naivety. If you really want to go out on a limb, this is as close as Cuomo is getting to his own version of Benji—a rock lifer moving forward by clearing out his past, the songs almost entirely dedicated to his relationships with his career, women, and his parents. “Cleopatra” and “Foolish Father” have subjects that are pulled right from Cuomo’s mid-’90s diaries—namely, powerful women who frighten and leave Rivers Cuomo, and absentee fathers. Twenty years later, the lesson here is the futility of hating someone who likely did their best, to forgive them and to forgive yourself.
That part resonates, as does the lived-in wisdom applicable to the songs that are about being in Weezer, even when they sorta aren’t. The generality of “Eulogy for a Rock Band” actually works in its favor when you consider it could very well be about rock music itself (for cryin’ out loud, Cuomo’s favorite rock group just declared rock dead). Meanwhile, the platitudes of “Ain’t Got Nobody” give way to a startling, lucid account of Cuomo’s abandonment issues that have spanned his entire life, from childhood to confused, needy rock stardom: “My daddy loved me/ No one could touch me/ Until he went up and left me lonely/ That’s human nature/ We fail each other/ And keep on searching for another.”
Of course, Cuomo ensures that you don’t have to read that far into Everything Will Be Alright in the End, keeping the melodies up front and the gimmicks mostly in his notebook. The effect of Blue Album producer Ric Ocasek will likely be overstated: the lyrics on any previous Weezer album were not the producer’s fault, and from all accounts, the guitar tones and keyboards on that record were all Cuomo’s idea anyways. Either way, these are simple, effective songs that will settle for constant rotation in your head if MTV’s not an option: “Lonely Girl” isolates the second verse of “Only in Dreams” and reworks Cuomo’s Japanese curio “Homely Girl” into a legitimate buzzy throwback. Meanwhile, Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino—no stranger to criticisms about elementary-school lyricism and stunted relationship dynamics—lends guest vocals to “Go Away”, which is a decent song but an even more important pledge of allegiance.
Heck, even the confounding decisions and filler that inextricably form latter-day Weezer albums are kinda charming. The whistle-core of “Da Vinci” will probably be the only way you’ll remember that Foster the People made a record this year. Meanwhile, the closing, mostly instrumental “The Futurescope Trilogy” probably belongs on Cuomo’s unreleased space odyssey Songs From the Black Hole and doesn’t stack up to “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)”, the batshit piece of musical theater that proved Cuomo can set new positive benchmarks for himself in the 21st century.
Everything Will Be Alright in the End doesn’t set a new benchmark for Weezer, but hopefully it can go lengths to ridding them of the ridiculously unfair catch-22 they’ve faced. The past couple of weeks have seen a surprise Thom Yorke album dropped on BitTorrent, the first Aphex Twin record since 2001, and a lavish reissue of Smashing Pumpkins’ Adore, and almost none of them were subject to the kind of truly wacked-out, incomprehensible standards given to Weezer’s ninth album. Granted, Rivers Cuomo hasn’t done himself many favors, as his music has been marked by refusal to evolve in the slightest either emotionally or sonically. Even still, why couldn’t Cuomo just do this in peace? Because even though Weezer and Pinkerton were never embraced by critics in real time, they sure seem to have been embraced by a lot of people who grew up to be critics, who in turn have relished every opportunity to bash Weezer albums as a way of separating themselves from an embarrassing part of their lives where the perspective of “No One Else” and “Pink Triangle” felt like the truth.
There have been many ways to qualify praise for Weezer and with each successive listen, Everything Will Be Alright in the End certainly earns the typically backhanded compliments: “actually not terrible,” “certainly better than Hurley,” “probably their best since…Maladroit, that was good right?” Or, Everything could be accepted for what it is and be held to a more manageable standard: how good does a Weezer album have to be before it can be considered actually good? As it turns out, about this good.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1rO0ngm