For those who still associate Rivers Cuomo with the confessional and unabashed awkwardness of Pinkerton, an album of estimable emotions that seems to have been released an eternity ago, Weezer’s Weezer (Black Album) could come as a special kind of shock; for everyone who’s been following the band for the last 20 years, though, it might seem like the culmination of their transmogrification into a grotesque pop monster. It forms something of a trilogy with their last two albums, all of which are rife with songs about California. (Cuomo has spent his entire career riffing on Brian Wilson, and is still at his best when he manages to channel Wilson’s eccentric pop bravado, which he occasionally does.) The first track, “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” wants to exonerate Weezer’s descent into inanity because they’re a prolific band, though releasing a lot of bad songs is not really an admirable work ethic. “Die, die you zombie bastards” begins the album’s next track, and it starts to seem as if Cuomo is fully immersed in his Dadaist phase. His lyrics are throwaway larks so ridiculous you almost want to love them. “When I play guitar, it’s sick, woo!” is an actual line from “California Snow.” (Also, Cuomo barely plays guitar on this album.) More memorable is “She cut me like a piece of cake / She cut me like a piece of cake.” It almost sounds like something Jesse Lacey would have written 20 years ago.
There is no introspection here, no earnestness; it’s all surface, crass, corrugated pop, ironic and falsely emotional — has Weezer become a postmodern band?
Cuomo wrote all of the songs on piano, he told Entertainment Weekly. The album is at its best when it plays the rock music straight, without all the odd electronic effects. The melodies aren’t catchy so much as they are infectious, like poison ivy, unpleasantly difficult to expunge from ones mind. “I’m Just Being Honest” is unequivocally whiny, whereas Rivers Cuomo’s fans prefer to remember the Rivers Cuomo of a quarter century ago, who was self-vivisecting and agonizingly conflicted. There is no introspection here, no earnestness; it’s all surface, crass, corrugated pop, ironic and falsely emotional — has Weezer become a postmodern band? Produced by Dave Sitek of TV On the Radio, the album has a garish luster and a tooth-rotting sweetness, but it isn’t quite strange enough to qualify as experimental. It is disappointingly generic pop, more banal than bizarre. Fans of Weezer’s post-Pinkerton music may find this album worthwhile, as it is a natural aesthetic successor to their covers lark The Teal Album and their last proper set of originals, 2017’s Pacific Daydream; everyone else need not concern themselves.