Photo from Youtube.com
By Louis James Marrone
Let me start off by saying this: I love Weezer… or, at the very least, I loved their first three albums (“The Blue Album,” “Pinkerton” and “The Green Album”). Weezer was rock n’ roll for the little guy. It was not quite the angst driven, sadgasm that was grunge, but it also was not bright and bouncy enough to be pop music. They did not necessarily talk about death, anguish or addiction, but they also did not produce vague, romantic ballads or flashy, synth-driven tracks about parties. They talked about sexual frustration, social anxiety and existentialism. It struck an interesting balance between being dark and being heavy, with an early sixties rock influence coating the instrumentals.
But with that said, it is hard to deny that the past sixteen or so years have not been particularly kind to Weezer. From heavily pop-centric projects like “Make Believe and Raditude” to more experimental projects, like “Maladroit” and “The Red Album,” Weezer has been anything but consistent in quality.
In a perfect world, the saga of Weezer would have ended with 2016’s “The White Album.” It was a tight thirty-four minutes, with the best aspects of the band on full display. The band had seemingly regained the sweet, nerdy, starry-eyed charm that had been so prevalent in their other first three LPs. It served as a refreshing return to form after fourteen years of bouncing between mediocre and cringey. However, we do not live in a perfect world, and as such, Weezer has bestowed upon us “Pacific Daydream.”
To some degree, “Pacific Daydream” is to Weezer what “One More Light” was to Linkin Park. Both of these albums represented a complete change in stylistics for the bands, in these cases, a more pop-driven direction. The songs are complexly produced, heavy, hook-driven ballads about growing up and being young. However, here, the changes are not as extreme. Rivers Cuomo’s voice is still there, lyrically, the themes are similar, but the actual aesthetic, sound, and emotions emitted here are, simply put, different. With “Pacific Daydream,” Rivers Cuomo is really giving us two different albums. One album is an attempt at creating a marketable, accessible album, aimed at a newer, millennial audience, while the other is a modernized love letter banking on nostalgia.
A good chunk of this album is trying to sell you this sticky sweet sensation of a simpler time. This is highlighted, for example, in the opening song “Mexican Fender.” The song talks about Rivers Cuomo meeting his first love in a guitar shop. The songs are scratchy, yet warm and glitzy, with a heavy emphasis on guitars. The way that the lyrics are written, it is a strong effort to capture the essence of their earlier songs, such as “In The Garage.” Another track, “Beach Boys,” serves as a love song to Cuomo’s favorite band, The Beach Boys. Cuomo talks about being disillusioned with the hustle and bustle of the modern world. We are living “in a hip-hop world”, as he puts it. It is fast-paced, and it is complex. In the hook, he shouts at someone to “TURN IT UP! It’s the Beach Boys!,” followed by him talking about how they “make [his] eyes get moist,” and things like that.
With regards to the more pop-centric cuts on the album, the crowning achievement of Billboard-topping, mainstream radio sound comes from the lead single, “Feels Like Summer.” From the opening “na-na-na-na,” you can tell what kind of song this is. It is reminiscent of something you would hear from, say, 21 Pilots. Other songs, such as “Get Right” have a more Train-esq sound to them, from the heavy acoustic guitar melod to the spicy sounding electric guitar riffs, right down to the simple, yet passionate drum patterns. I would even go a far as suggesting that there is a strange, Sugar Ray-Backstreet Boys fusion on the song “QB Blitz,” which features Rivers Cuomo’s layered vocals singing about how he regrets certain decisions made in his life, and how, while he wll miss the people who have helped him get here, he needs to go his own way.
What these tracks also do is highlight a key feature of the album: the production is almost flawless. It is squeaky clean, tight; the audio equivalent of photoshop. But it is this flawlessness that acts as the album’s ultimate flaw. The grimey guitar work, the hard-hitting, right-in-your-ear drums, the heavy, shredding base, is all abandoned on this album. Even with their more questionable work, the aesthetic was at least somewhat there. It is a betrayal of a defining aspect of Weezer’s appeal in the first place.
Earlier, I mentioned that “Pacific Daydream“ was Weezer’s “One More Light.” Asides from the drastic change in production and aesthetic, the other common factor is the level of emotional depth. The emotion on this album runs about as deep as a small, above ground pool. I do not doubt that Rivers Cuomo is feeling the things he says on this album. However, whether or not what he says is sincere is not what I am talking about. What I am talking about is the basic execution. When an artist goes into talking about emotion, I expect them to give me something that I can really feel.
Back in March, Mount Eerie came out with “A Crow Looked At Me,” and it was the first album that managed to make tears fall from my eyes. The reason this happened was because Phil Elverum really dug inside himself and let his emotions bleed out onto the mic. He did not hold back– he did what he could to make you understand what he was going through as much as he possibly could, even though he knew all too well that you never possibly could. It is that exact energy that is missing from this project. And that is a shame because, when you dig around some of the more sappy, coming-of-age parts, this album does have some pretty good ideas in terms of themes. It talks about artistic frustration, the concept of influence, aging more and more, yet trying to stay relevant.
What we get with “Pacific Daydream” is an album with good intentions, but sloppy means of carrying them out. This is not the worst album that Weezer has ever done, but it is certainly one of the most disposable and soulless. This album has some good ideas that, if further developed and analyzed, could have made a relatively decent album. I did not have high hopes for this album, and sadly, that sense of cynicism was proven correct. It certainly does not have me looking forward to the forthcoming “Black Album.”