Weezer: Van Weezer (Crush Music/Atlantic) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, March 4th, 2024  


Van Weezer

Crush Music/Atlantic

May 17, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

“Daydreaming of my escape, listening to Aerosmith/Later on, I will call my mom,” sings Rivers Cuomo aged 15 and a half, sorry I mean 50 years old, on Weezer’s 15th studio album, Van Weezer. And therein lies the problem with not just this album, but much of Weezer’s recent work. It simply hasn’t evolved. Like many, I still have a soft spot for Weezer’s early albums, but their latter-day material has so often disappointed. The band seem to be quite content at being an exaggerated yet reductive version of their former selves and who knows, perhaps that’s just the price you have to pay for still having a career in this game? Van Weezer is in part saved to some degree by virtue of the fact Cuomo does still have a fine ear for a melody and an ability to craft whopping great choruses. The problem is he’s been ploughing the same musical furrow with increasingly diminishing returns for the best part of the last decade.

Van Weezer was written as an homage to the hair metal bands of the ’80s that Cuomo and co. grew up with as teenagers. Indeed, he has never made a secret of his love for the pantomime comedy rock of Kiss. It was also written to be played LOUD as part of the postponed Hella Mega Tour presented by Harley-Davidson (and also featuring Green Day and Fall Out Boy) and if it wasn’t for COVID, Van Weezer would have been released last year. In terms of Cuomo’s midlife crisis, he may have been better served buying a Harley-Davidson rather than writing this album. With Weezer it’s often a case of two steps forward 10 steps back, with Van Weezer being released only a few months after OK Human, their album recorded with a 39-piece orchestra. OK Human was surprisingly enjoyable, suggesting Weezer might be turning a musical corner and maybe cruising into more interesting territory. For the most part, Van Weezer feels like Cuomo and the band have decided to pull a handbrake turn before reversing off a cliff.

One of Van Weezer’s early tracks is “The End of The Game” and immediately the clash between the metal guitar styling’s and Cuomos’ vocals is apparent and jarring, as are lyrics such as “I was Mick and you were Marianne/You would harmonize when I felt bad.” “Hero” is admittedly a rousing albeit cartoonish anthem, which is more than can be said for dire “Beginning of the End,” which contains this delightful clunker: “Watch us brush off the dust, in heavy metal we trust/Then kick back and read The Sunday Times.” “All the Good Ones” is Weezer by numbers, all celebratory chorus and lyrics that make you do a double-take, did he really just sing: “She plays for all the marbles/Her Nietzsche books are conversation starters?” And the ghastly lyrics just keep on a-coming.

When Cuomo sings on “I Need Some of That”—“Even if we blow up/We’re never gonna grow up”—he doesn’t so much sound like a man keeping a sacred vow to his younger self but rather a man in need of intervention before he’s engulfed by a full-on midlife meltdown. The dreadful “Blue Dream” shamelessly lifts Ozzy Osborne’s “Crazy Train” guitar riff (with a touch of Van Halen’s “Jump” thrown in) and somehow contrives to make everything sound even worse, whereas “Sheila Can Do it” is essentially a bargain-basement take on Fountains of Wayne.

The final track is possibly one of the best moments on the album. “Precious Metal Girl” may be full of incongruous (albeit self-aware) metaphors but somehow it works. The guitars are turned down and Cuomo sings with real emotion, and even manages to make a tongue in cheek lyric such as “Look like you could’ve been in Faster Pussycat/In your leather jacket with the patches on the back” sound wistful and evocative. There might be a lesson there—perhaps address the subject itself rather than try and emulate it. Ultimately this is an album you might have fun with whilst drunk at a festival, although for me there simply isn’t enough gin in the world to make me want to revisit Van Weezer. I’ll stick with The Blue Album, Pinkerton, and The Green Album thanks, and remember the good times. (www.weezer.com)

Author rating: 5/10

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Average reader rating: 4/10


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