Thursday, October 9, 2014

FIRST IMPRESSION: Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright In The End

There is a method in the field of organizational leadership called “appreciative inquiry” whereby a company or institution examines what it does well in order to achieve maximum effectiveness or reclaim its “essence”.  The practice is usually implemented when the company in question has found itself in a time of decline or lost market value and works on the assumption that envisioning what the organization looked like when it was its best will inspire it to attain that status again. All of this is a convoluted way of saying that rather than focusing on what the “brand” did wrong, they focus on what they did right.  A couple spins of the latest Weezer album, “Everything Will Be Alright In The End” leaves you with the distinct impression that Rivers Cuomo is not only familiar with the concept, but is following a similar path.  After years in the wilderness (and several confounding albums of increasingly diminishing returns), the band has embraced the hallmarks of the “classic Weezer sound” – harmonized guitar solos, hooks the size of skyscrapers, Cuomo’s adenoidal whine, all of it spit-shined by Ric Ocasek’s hermetically sealed production.  And, to a point, it kinda works.

Opener “Ain’t Got Nobody” sounds musically like a particularly inspired “Pinkerton”-era b-side, and there are no less than five good-to-great songs on the album – Cuomo’s reflection on what makes Weezer work pays off in spades on the catchy as hell “Lonely Girl”, the sweet back-and-forth vocals with Best Coast’s Betheny Cosentino on the razorblade-wrapped-in-candyfloss “Go Away”, and the wounded survivor’s anthem “Cleopatra” (which may be the best song the band has written in a decade-and-a-half).  Hell, the band even manages a decent fairweather-audience-as-enemy metaphor with “The British Are Coming”. 

Make no mistake, though, there are some clunkers here.  Broken down into roughly three categories (“songs about girls who done me wrong”, “songs about the dad who done me wrong” and “songs about the fans who loved and left us”), the album struggles for a thematic arc and concept that it doesn’t remotely come close to pulling off.  And, always the Achilles’ heel, Cuomo’s lyrics here come across in places as particularly dumb (though there is nothing here as patently stupid as “Where’s My Sex?” or “The Girl Got Hot”, so they have them going for them…which is nice).  First single, “Back to the Shack” tries too damn hard at being cheeky, apologetic and self-referential; and the sour-grapes “I’ve Had It Up To Here” features this particularly cringe-worthy attack: “Don't wanna compromise my art for universal appeal / Don't wanna be mass consumed / I'm not a happy meal”.  Ugh…really???

The band redeems itself, however, with de facto closer, “Foolish Father”, which starts out as a standard paean for understanding from a dad who made mistakes but breaks into a glorious group vocal in the last 40 seconds, a massed-choir of voices singing the album’s title phrase over and over.  And this is ultimately why the band matters to so many people – despite its corniness, there is something comforting about being reminded that we are in this together, and perhaps if we believe it and give ourselves over to the moment, everything actually WILL be alright in the end.  And that is something worth believing in.  (The album actually ends with the three-part, 7-plus minute wankfest “The Futurescape Trilogy, but it acts as more as a coda to the album proper and doesn’t fit this narrative…so fuck it…)

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