Weezer’s New Record is Confusing

Andrew Falkous (Mclusky, Future of the Left) can’t wrap his head around the Black Album.

First, a me-claimer. I am a tired, slightly confused man of ominously increasing age and I know as much about pop music — the kind of pop music that makes stadiums of people happy, anyway — as I don’t know about staring at a screen and hoping for magic to happen. I must have hit my head when I was a kid and damaged the part of the brain set aside for “pop,” because whenever you, a radio (wo)man or Claris Spencuckler at the New Review of Cocks calls a new thing “brilliant pop” it usually appears to me little more than a brightly coloured marker in time and space, which is fine as it goes but some of us had already noticed. You can’t tell me — I simply won’t be told — that “That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate” by Mission of Burma is not the best pop song ever written (though “Ghost Town” is a close second) and performed as if life itself were the prize. It’s thrilling. It would make me want to start a band. So, sorry. I’m not qualified. I have done no research. Other, more in-depth reviews are available for Weezer’s new record all over the internet, and I do not hesitate to recommend every single one of them, especially the really dreary ones.

Here is my capsule review: After one listen, entirely blind, clicking a link and sticking it on while caring for a small and adorable child-thing, I went back to my emails and re-downloaded the album because I assumed I’d got the wrong files by mistake. Thank you, my invoice is in the post.

Here is my slightly longer review of this album: Hey, we all know Weezer fans, right? Some of us live with them, love with them — hell, ARE them! For a lot of people I know they were one of those bands that came along at the right/wrong time to take a lifetime hold on a consciousness and while never quite defining anything, or at least anything I was paying attention to, they’re held in a general affection which is hard to doubt the sincerity of. (There’s a Weezer cruise — that’s adoration plus plus.) The “Blue Album,” the first, as if I even had to say it, lives on in record collections from bedsits to townhouses (I’ve seen more of the former, but I’ve seen it in both) but was not just about timing, more than a marker in time and space: It still has the unlikely power to seem raw and somewhat out of control when in reality it was everything but, precise and massive in all of the places where mainstream success required it to be. For me it’s the harmonies — you can catch my attention with some distorted messing on, sure, but chuck some wonky semi-yelling in there and chances are there’ll be a second date.¹ From then on, sure, it’s been regular albums (thirteen, apparently, I hear a new Weezer song every couple of years without ever trying to) and a mixed critical reaction which, if anything, adds to the legend. It is, genuinely, as if they don’t give a shit.

“Can’t Stop the Hustle” begins this record — that is, the “Black Album” — by imagining a scenario where Beck (yes, that Beck, who I reckon is a lot taller than he lets on) wants to cheat on his wife but is in denial of the fact, so writes an obscenely upbeat number about the commodification of culture instead. Classic, classic Beck.² I am not sure that this song is for me, to be honest, but I can remember the chorus after one listen so it is a successful pop song, by definition, and has some nice Spanish bits, so there’s that. I re-check the file name, and cross reference it with a YouTube video someone’s uploaded. Yup. Same song. Right band. Press on. Maybe the next one will be a ska number.

Not far off. It’s called “Zombie Bastards,” which is mad because that’s also my mother’s maiden name. It has a film sample in it near the start, and that’s fine, honestly. Yeah, despite the obvious differences in sound — there is no fuzz, not even the hint of it — that’s definitely the guy from Weezer singing and he sounds like he’s having a lot of fun. It may or may not be the whole point to have the word “bastards” in the chorus of a song which is so sparkly and otherwise radio-focused but hey, there is that. The kind of young men who put music on around campfires but don’t want to scare away potential suitors will love this song, and I can’t blame them. I keep thinking of the kids I used to know — men and women now, if time is working in the same way for them as it is for me — who idolised this band, who talked about Pinkerton like it was a holy text³, and I wonder if they like this song, and the previous song, and all the songs, or if they’ve given up years ago, disillusioned, or simply moved on to other pursuits, hill-walking maybe, or painting Manchester United shirts onto Warhammer figures in the shadow of a display cabinet of stolen bowling trophies.

Hey, they might even be dead, which would be worse.⁴

The record continues, as records must, and clearly gives zero fucks what I think about it. I’m not being mean — not at all — when I say that “High as a Kite” is the kind of song that you will love if you love that kind of song. The same is true for the next dart in the slot, “Living in L.A.,” but without the loving bit. My daughter danced to this one but then again she kept on dancing after it finished, so I’ve no idea if that’s a good thing or not.

One song is called “Piece of Cake,” which reminded me that I can’t eat cake now due to an egg allergy, so that made me sad. There are lots of handclaps on this number (and not just this one) and I’m not allergic to them, so that’s nice. I’m so tired that I’ve no idea if the lyrics are mostly depressed or just well-tanned, but a bit of both sounds plausible. “California Snow” is about cocaine, which I understand was big in the ‘80s, but this song, riddled with production choices which presumably entertained the band but make me feel seasick, reminds me of the ‘90s, of offices filled with FM-radio playlists that I couldn’t escape.

So yeah, pop music, wow, what an upbeat fiasco, what a romp. This record isn’t for me, like most records, but it is for the band, who sound fully committed to the big shiny strut of it. Is it for you? I don’t know. Click on some links, I suppose and ask your ears. Dance, if you want to, even if there’s no music playing. I need a lie-down.

¹ A reminder to check out “That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate,” which has this is in abundance.

² In this imagined scenario, at least. I know nothing about him other than the “Loser” video and the fact he wears hats.

³ It’s not, it’s a record.

⁴ In a way.


Andrew Falkous has been/is a member of the bands Mclusky and Future of the Left, and is currently releasing solo not-solo music under the name christian fitness. He has an abusive relationship with music which occasionally pays for a nice holiday somewhere warm and is allergic to seafood. (Note: all seafood.) You can follow him on Twitter here.