Something which is interesting about whenever you discuss Weezer is the innate need to speak about their work as a whole. For others — especially those who revere the band — it’s sort of an establishing point of your taste for the band and their work.
Weezer’s first two albums, their self-titled debut (or, The Blue Album as its better known) and Pinkerton are considered by many to be stone cold classics, even if the former’s gender politics have aged early and the latter was very reviled in its time, leading to Weezer taking a five year hiatus.
Since their return in 2001 with Weezer (yes, another self-titled album, but this one better known as The Green Album), all debate and discussion about the band has kind of been a total mess, as best summarized in an absolutely surreal Saturday Night Live sketch.
Well — Blue and Pinkerton are all time favorites. Green is an album which plays it far too safe. Maladroit is an album which isn’t as good as its demos (which Weezer shared all across their website while working on the album). Make Believe has a few killer songs (hello, “Perfect Situation”), but is harmed by being the album which gave us “Beverly Hills”, their biggest song, but a poor encapsulation of what makes the band great. The albums after Make Believe have some strong singles (“(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To”, “Pork and Beans”) but are generally worth ignoring. Hell, they even made a cover of the State Farm song which was better than most of their post-Green output.
But then there was hope. Two back to back albums which absolutely blew me away: 2014’s Everything Will Be Alright In The End and 2016’s Weezer (yes, again, but this one is called The White Album). They found a way to thread the needle and make albums which united Weezer fans new and old, even if some of the lyrics are a bit cringy (looking at you Rosetta Stone and Ancestry.com references in “Da Vinci”).
…and then we had another slue of weak albums which really was only notable for the band having their biggest hit with a half-assed cover of Toto’s “Africa”.
Suffice to say, being a fan of Weezer is frustrating. Especially when their lead singer/songwriter Rivers Cuomo does podcast interviews about how he writes songs using spreadsheets now instead of feeling them, and releases hundreds of demos which blow away most songs released officially.
Today, January 29th, Weezer’s 14th album, OK Human has been released. The release is a fraught one, as OK Human (yes, the title is a Radiohead homage – Rivers loves that band) was originally supposed to come out in 2020.
The album is a more focused, intimate release for the band, so when they signed up to be a part of the “Hella Mega Tour” with Green Day and Fall Out Boy, the album’s release was kicked down the road, the release delayed for another album to be written and released, the stadium rock homage Van Weezer.
And then COVID happened, and the stadium tour? That was postponed too. So Van Weezer awaits for a world where rocking out is encouraged, and OK Human drops in its place, an album about feeling isolated, alone, and sad. It’s sort of a perfect album for the moment.
And as to how it sounds? Honestly, it’s their best work since The White Album. Yes, I rolled my eyes at certain lyrics, with their mentions of Zombie Hordes and Zoom meetings, but the album — which doesn’t outstay its welcome at a brisk 33 minutes and change — is absolutely brilliant.
Filled with hooks for days, Weezer took the interesting step of replacing their standard lead guitar with a Beatles-esque orchestra. These lush arrangements make OK Human stand out enough in Weezer’s discography as is, but also add a baroque vibe to the album which adds to the emotional weight of the songs.
Lead single “All My Favorite Songs” is a great introduction to the album as a whole, but what is most fascinating is how the album plays as if its an uninterrupted recording, which each song leading directly into the next. If Weezer really does do the OK Human with Orchestra theater tour they hinted at in a recent Apple Music interview, I may need to get tickets as soon as possible.
It’s fascinating that in 2021, 27 years (yikes!) after their debut record, Weezer still sounds as interested in the art of music as ever. It’s not many times you say that the 14th time is the charm, but with OK Human, the praise is earned. I cannot wait to revisit this album throughout the year and for some time to come.
- “All My Favorite Songs”
- “Bird with a Broken Wing”
Weezer’s OK Human is out now. Check it out on your preferred streaming service here, or via the Apple Music embed below.