Everything Will Be Alright in the End may be Weezer‘s best album since 2002’s Maladroit, but its competition within the band’s catalog isn’t exactly steep.
Instead of continuing on with overproduced hits for alternative and pop radio, the Los Angeles quartet recruited Cars frontman Ric Ocasek — who produced 1994 debut The Blue Album and 2001 comeback The Green Album — to mount a return to peak power-pop condition for its ninth studio LP. On paper, the collaboration seemed promising, but mining the past for the future proves challenging for Weezer. The ways in which the band returns to form here emulate its early-aughts reinvention (as a hip post-millennium rock group) more than its mid-1990s glory days. Even still, these 13 tracks don’t have the tightly edited cohesion of The Green Album’s 28 minutes. With an album-closing three-part suite that finds leader Rivers Cuomo embracing his hair-metal past through wild solos and sports-arena chanting, it’s clear Cuomo hasn’t abandoned his gratuitous ways — he’s simply paired them with an out-of-touch point of view.
A handful of tracks strewn with cheesy metaphors shows the impersonality that mars Cuomo’s post-Pinkerton songwriting, despite some redeeming musical qualities that reaffirm Weezer as a purveyor of feedback and fuzz (particularly “Cleopatra,” a great rock single if you ignore the lyrics). The chorus of “Da Vinci” proves that pop culture geekiness doesn’t necessarily make for kitsch gold a la “Buddy Holly”: “Even da Vinci couldn’t paint you/Stephen Hawking can’t explain you/Rosetta Stone could not translate you.” It takes the juxtaposition of a raw-edged duet with Best Coast‘s Bethany Cosentino (“Go Away”) and songs about Cuomo’s formerly estranged father to recover the emotional resonance, even a little.
Where Cuomo and his bandmates truly succeed is in the meta anti-pop sentiments that string through a third of the songs. Nostalgia-biting lead single “Back to the Shack” pairs Maladroit‘s metal power chords with rockist lyrics doubling as the band’s new mission statement: “I thought I’d get a new audience, I forgot that disco sucks.” The ironically named “Eulogy for a Rock Band” has traces of Kiss and The Hold Steady, with a retro chorus that portrays Weezer as a torchbearer of legacy rock acts, while “I’ve Had It Up to Here” compares mainstream cultural consumption to McDonald’s Happy Meals, proving that Cuomo hasn’t entirely lost his cleverness. The band made a name as alternative’s tongue-in-cheek savior, and despite becoming more the target of the joke than the teller this last decade, Weezer still has some quips in it — every fourth song or so.
This article first appeared in the Sept. 27th issue of Billboard.