Weezer’s ‘Black Album’ Takes Chances but Comes Out Muddled

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Published March 20, 2019
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The Montclarion
'Black Album' is Weezer's thirteenth studio release, and their sixth self-titled album. Photo courtesy of Crush Music and Atlantic Records

It was 25 years ago that Weezer first arrived on the rock scene with their self-titled studio debut that has since come to be known as “Blue Album.” After a quarter of a decade filled with hits and misses, frontman Rivers Cuomo and his pals show no signs of slowing their roll. After releasing a self-titled cover album, “Teal Album,” earlier this year, Weezer has finally released their 13th album, dubbed “Black Album.”

Despite its ominous title, “Black Album” still sounds very much like Weezer. Its 10-song track list consists of several catchy pop numbers, with a few of them leaning heavy into synthetic sounds. The lyrics are fun with the dark wit and angst that should be expected from Weezer, mixed with some commentary on the band’s current place in the world.

The album feels very self-aware, with a number of songs making reference to the band’s recent return to the spotlight and many fans’ longing for an album more similar to their first couple of releases. Multiple tracks have dark lyrics that are contrasted by their upbeat pop melodies, but this is much less a feature of “Black Album” specifically and more of a staple of Cuomo’s writing style.

Lyrically, the only thing that makes “Black Album” stand apart from Weezer’s previous albums is the explicit language, something that was previously foreign in the band’s discography. This fails to make the album feel more mature, but it is an interesting bit of experimentation that gives this album some unique character.

The album’s opening track, “Can’t Knock The Hustle” is an incredibly catchy tune that blends a funk sound with some incredibly self-deprecating lyrics. The narcissism of social media seems to be the topic of discussion here, as Cuomo invites listeners to, “Leave a five-star review, and I’ll leave you one, too.”

“Zombie Bastards” is a direct message to a vocal part of Weezer’s fan base, who long for a new album similar to the band’s earlier releases. With lines like, “If I die it means I lived my life / And that’s much better than hiding in a hole,” it’s very clear that Cuomo has no interest in just reanimating an old album. He’s determined to keep evolving and changing, not shuffling around like a zombie.

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“Black Album” portrays itself as dark and rustic, a more mature Weezer for today’s sensibilities. Photo courtesy of Crush Music and Atlantic Records

“High as a Kite” and “Piece of Cake” are also standout tracks. They are two very upbeat and poppy songs that tackle dark and serious subject matter. “High as a Kite” deals with the need to escape reality entirely, due to having no sense of self-worth or value, while “Piece of Cake” is based around a failed relationship.

“Living in L.A.” is an interesting song. It almost feels like a parody of a Weezer song. The lyrics feel disjointed, as if lines were pulled randomly from a hat and are connected by a very generic chorus.

“I’m Just Being Honest” and “Too Many Thoughts In My Head” are probably the closest to actual rock songs that you’ll find on “Black Album.” Like many of Weezer’s best songs, they are personal stories about events in Cuomo’s life, which are always slightly awkward and dorky but also incredibly endearing.

While I really like the majority of the songs on “Black Album,” the album as a whole leaves something to be desired. The alternative rock sounds of previous releases seem to have been replaced entirely by a tamer synth-pop sort of sound. While this experimentation is important for a band with such a long history, the lack of driving alt-rock tracks gives “Black Album” a lack of drive or momentum.

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Weezer plays a show at the City of Trees Festival at Bonney Field in Sacramento, California in 2016. Photo courtesy of micadew via Flickr

Past Weezer releases have often had an encompassing message, such as “Pinkerton’s” personal tales of frustration and isolation or “Red Album’s” cries of longing for the nostalgic past. Instead, “Black Album” is a collection of 10 seemingly unrelated songs, connected only by a common sound and a vague disdain for those who want Weezer to make music a certain way.

With two self-titled albums already released this year and with two more releases not far off, Weezer seems to be looking for a big comeback. While “Black Album” isn’t a perfect record, it does show a willingness to experiment with new sounds and the potential for self-reflection. The pieces don’t fit together into anything mind-blowing, but the individual songs themselves are all enjoyable.

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