Bands are often shamed for experimenting with their sound and straying from the musical style they’re known for, whether they’re successful in their experimentation or not. After years of producing mostly alternative rock, Weezer has spent the last few years drifting further from the alt-rock scene.
After surprising fans with a cover album less than two months ago, Weezer released its sixth self-titled album — also known as the “Black Album” — March 1.
The style of “Black Album” blends the superficial pop from Weezer’s 2017 album “Pacific Daydream” and the alternative-rock of some of its first albums, such as “Pinkerton” and “Blue Album.” It even played with some electronic sound — something new for the band.
The “Black Album” isn’t exceptional, but it’s not because its sound is different. The songs on the album don’t tie together in any overarching theme, and, while about half the songs on the album are fun and catchy, the other half sound more like background music.
Songs like “Piece of Cake” and “I’m Just Being Honest” are flat with minimal changes in tempo and melody throughout. They’re not bad songs, but they sound more like music that’s good to play in the background of a study session rather than something that leaves lyrics stuck in listener’s heads.
Released in November to preview the album, “Can’t Knock The Hustle” and “Zombie Bastards” were a couple songs which stood out from the rest. “Can’t Knock The Hustle” sends a message about those working humble jobs and has lead vocalist Rivers Cuomo singing some Spanish lyrics — another new feature in the band’s music. With groovy riffs and a sing-along-worthy chorus, it blends rock with modern pop to make an awesome start to the album.
“Zombie Bastards” is just that — a song about zombies. Although a seemingly random addition to the album, Cuomo not only sings about zombies but also uses this song to tell a personal story. The line “music saved my life” adds emotion to an otherwise silly song with lyrics that might not make much sense, such as “Die, die, you zombie bastards” and “Keep on blah, blah, blah.” It’s a perfect song to roll down the car windows and sing along to.
“High As A Kite,” featuring Cuomo’s expert vocals alongside skillful instrumentals, is one of the few songs that sounds like it was inspired by Weezer’s alt-rock days, while experimenting with pop similar to that of “Pacific Daydream.” “Living in L.A.” seemed to be made to please the band’s radio-pop loving audience and hinted at what to expect from the rest of the album. With the inclusion of mild electronics, this upbeat song was able to accomplish a transition to pop that wasn’t boring.
All four of these songs set the bar high for the rest of the album, which didn’t entirely meet those expectations. However, the album’s closing song, “California Snow,” is a notable highlight. It echoes some of Weezer’s first albums, and the use of arpeggio and synth bass help make it stick out.
Weezer shouldn’t be knocked down for experimentation — it’s not the same band it was in the ‘90s. While the attempt to experiment with pop was unsuccessful in “Pacific Daydream,” in the “Black Album” the successful combination of pop with alt-rock was only done about halfway. Give it a couple more years of experimentation and maybe Weezer will come out with a pop album that gets listeners singing along to every song.
The “Black Album” is available on music streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play and Amazon Music.