NOTE: earlier this week I challenged myself to write a proper review of Weezer’s The Teal Album in the style of a website that reviews modern albums. It was a fun exercise. I didn’t want to keep this stored away in a Google Drive folder somewhere so I’ve decided to post it here. Enjoy.
Surprise! Rivers Cuomo and his gang build an aural time machine constructed of cringe worthy karaoke-esque covers to hype the release of another album (which will most likely be equally cringe worthy, but in a Maroon 5/Twenty One Pilots kind of way)
Back in 1996, Rivers Cuomo had an ultimatum for his band: they would not produce any kitschy, ironic videos for their second album Pinkerton because they were now “serious artists” and he wanted to prove to the world that their Spike Jonze produced video for “Buddy Holly” wasn’t the reason they were being lauded as one of the best alternative bands of their generation. Pinkerton wasn’t a success immediately, but over the years gained much recognition as one of the best albums from that generation. The twenty plus years since then have been a hodgepodge of some OK music, a lot of terrible music, and some gems here and there.
Cut to early 2019, a universe where Weezer is preparing to release their latest album, titled The Black Album, an album Cuomo has been hinting at for 2-3 years and has used adjectives such as “dark”, “edgy”, and “shoegaze” to describe the band’s modern change in style. Since current singles from that album “Can’t Knock The Hustle” and “Zombie Bastards” have had, at best, mild success, something was needed to keep Weezer in the public eye. Their surprise social media meme culture inspired cover of Toto’s “Africa” brought the band back to the top of the charts in late 2018. What was Rivers and Company to do? Oooh, ooooh, I know! Dress up like they’re on Miami Vice and cover a bunch of tunes from the 80’s and 90’s, stick “Africa” on it, and surprise release the album! 1996 Pinkerton era Rivers Cuomo, long gone, dead and buried six feet under the earth, is rolling in his grave. Welcome to The Teal Album.
Adhering to the 10 song color themed album cover trend that has popped up through their 25 year career, The Teal Album is full of popular cover songs that you will all know and love from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. It’s like that classic rock station in your hometown, but with Rivers Cuomo singing every song. On every cut except for the closer “Stand By Me”, the band never strays from the original song’s formula. As I listened to the album, I sometimes wondered if Rivers Cuomo was just singing along (poorly) to some karaoke tracks he found on YouTube and ripped to MP3. The shit really starts to hit the fan when the band attempts to cover the Electric Light Orchestra classic “Mr. Blue Sky”. You’d think Cuomo would be able to handle this masterpiece of pop music easily. He’s done it in the past with his own work, so why not Jeff Lynne’s? Oh yeah…it’s because, as Cuomo admitted in a Beats One interview that he never heard the song until he recorded vocals for it. This song sets the stage for the album’s descent into some of the worst covers ever produced, Weezer’s take on TLC’s “No Scrubs” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. Cuomo must have not got the memo that he’s about twenty years too late to cash in on the white guy alternative rock covering an R&B or rap song trend. Maybe he should have listened to Dynamite Hack cover “Boyz In The Hood” when the band toured with them back in 2001. It wasn’t good then and it really isn’t good now.
There are a few moments where things work. Patrick Wilson’s production is much better than anything Butch Walker or Dave Sitek have been able to pull out of the band in years. Throughout the album Wilson drops little hints where you can hear the drummer scratching the surface of Weezer’s long dormant urge to rock, but the band can never get there as they are drowning in a sea of memes and irony. “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” is handled well and the band sounds like they’re a unit on this track but there’s still just something slightly off about it. I can’t exactly put my finger on what’s wrong here. This whole statement can be applied to everything Weezer has done since 2000.
Starting 2017’s Pacific Daydream, followed by their cover of Toto’s “Africa”, and now The Teal Album, we can now safely say that we have definitive proof that we’ve reached another era of Weezer as low as the Raditude/Hurley years. As these two eras duke it out for most embarrassing stretch of music produced by a band that used to produce masterpieces, all of us listeners can only sit back and hope that The Black Album comes to save us all in March 2019. I don’t have much hope.