“The Black Album” continues Weezer’s trend of mediocrity

Nicole Moore

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“Begrudgingly catchy” is a phrase I thought I would never use in my lifetime, but it’s a phrase that describes Weezer’s “Black Album” to a tee. Rivers Cuomo and crew are back for their thirteenth studio album (or fourteenth, if you count the album of covers the band put out earlier this year), adding on to an already storied up-and-down career as a band.

Courtesy of Atlantic Records

Alternative rock’s nerdy darlings for better or worse continue down the radio pop path they’ve followed for the majority of the last two decades. This is where the phrase “begrudgingly catchy” comes into play, many tracks on this project have catchy qualities and hooks. “Hook” in this instance might as well describe a fish being pulled up to certain doom however, as past being baited by catchy hooks, these songs have nothing to offer. The Black Album as a whole feels as if all of the effort went into making a few great hooks, while the rest of the songwriting process was thrown by the wayside.

Past a few standouts, such as the album’s lead single “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” and the happy-go-lucky “Byzantine,” this project is essentially an extension of the band’s critically panned “Pacific Daydream” album from a couple years ago. Pristine two-dimensional pop-flavored mixes of simple drum beats and chord progressions makeup the majority of “The Black Album,” unblemished to the point that none of the songs have little to no personality attached to them.

Lyrically the album also offers little substance, with a track listing riddled with what are vaguely love songs, but could really be about anything if you look long enough. Case in point is the catchy “Living in L.A,” where Cuomo belts out verses of wanting to get closer to a girl before nose-diving into a chorus where he simply exclaims he’s talking about a girl he likes, following up with a very out of place statement that he’s also living in L.A. Other cuts on the albums like “Piece of Cake” make some coherent sense, even if the comedic nature falls flat.  “Zombie Bastards” takes a dig at what could be actual zombies, the band’s “haters,” or again, is so vague, anything that could fit the listener’s description for a “zombie bastard.”

The mainstream pop formula of the Black Album isn’t an immediate killer, nor is it entirely the case throughout the entirety of the project. The album’s lead single “Can’t Knock the Hustle” features a swingy,  latin inspired beat, legitimately funny lyrics, and is overall a charming track. Comedically overblown basses, and soul singing in the back of the mix seem out of place, yet fit in perfectly with the track’s own absurdity. Somewhat similarly the samba, Spanish, elevator music mash of “Byzantine” somewhat reminds me of a bouncy happy-go-lucky video game shop theme and was also a nice change-up from the rest of the album’s formulaic pop nature.

A bad album is forgivable in some cases, however in Weezer’s scenario, it feels like they’ve belted out a different variation of  the same record three times in the last four years, following 2017’s Pacific Daydream and 2016’s White Album to varying reception. When Cuomo was asked about the production of the album he stated…

“There’s very little guitar. I wrote all the songs on piano. We’ve been trying to make this record for several years. We’ve ended up putting out more normal records, just ‘cause we weren’t able to figure this one out. We finally found the right partner in [producer] Dave Sitek and really committed to the idea of throwing out the rule book. Without the big guitar, there’s more room for reverb and different kinds of psychedelic effects.”

A statement that, in a way, feels insulting. Many of these songs feel like they could’ve easily fit onto any of the band’s last three albums with no alterations needed. Weezer’s playful, stage-act timidness becomes reality when their idea of “throwing out the rule book” is simply throwing heavier guitar riffs out of the mix, while retaining every other element that has made the band a bit of an enigma for the past decade. The Black Album is hardly worth a listen, equal parts uncharming and uninspired. Expect the same album to be repackaged and released in the next year under yet another name (or color.)

Rating: 2 out of 5 sails

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