Weezer’s fourth self-titled release, otherwise known as “The White Album,” makes for a speedy follow-up to 2014’s well-received “Everything Will Be Alright in the End.” The Los Angeles-based band, which consists of frontman Rivers Cuomo, bassist Scott Shriner, drummer Pat Wilson and guitarist Brian Bell, has been one of the most influential groups in the American alternative rock scene since their inception in 1992.
Their previous album marked a return to Weezer’s old style, found in albums such as the “Blue Album” and “Pinkerton,” hailed by fans as a positive step forward after a rather disappointing decade of new material. Although “The White Album” seems to capture some of their earlier vintage alternative rock style, it hits its share of speed bumps along the way. The album will certainly satisfy those yearning for catchy melodies and crunchy power chords, but it fails to capture the honesty and angst that made Weezer such a powerhouse in its earlier days.
The high points of “The White Album” come with the single “Thank God for Girls” and the grunge rock anthem “Do You Wanna Get High?” The former starts out with a minimalist style characterized by a staccato keyboard track layered with a ghostly organ and an arpeggiated guitar riff. Rivers’ lyrics are awkward and refreshingly candid, as he sings in the chorus: “Thank God for girls … She’s so big, she’s so strong, she’s so energetic in her sweaty overalls.” “Do You Wanna Get High?” is strongly reminiscent of the power-chord-laden rock found in Weezer’s earlier hits. The song is driven forward by a deep, droning bassline synchronized with Bells’ steady 16th-note strumming. “Stop the tape, kill the lights, close the drapes,” the bridge intones, “And keep doing what you do / ‘Cuz I’ll never get tired of you.” Whatever meaning the lyrics entail, “Do You Wanna Get High” provides one of the most captivating and memorable tracks of the entire record.
Despite a strong repertoire of altogether pleasing tracks, “The White Album” falls short multiple times. “Wind in Our Sail” trades in distorted guitars and visceral lyrics for a keyboard-centric pop song with lyrics straight from an encyclopedia. “We got the wind in our sail,” Rivers sings. “Like Darwin on the Beagle / Or Mendel experimenting with a pea.” This particular track feels overproduced, and seems to be attempting to appeal to the masses rather than creating something meaningful and unique.
The record’s third single, “King of the World,” is one of the most disappointing tracks of the album and seems to come straight out of the band’s mid-2000s catalogue. The song is a rather safe bet for the band, and does not attempt to step out of the box as they did with “Pinkerton” or even their more recent “Everything Will Be Alright in the End.” Finally, “Good Thing,” a love ballad sung by Rivers for his wife Kyoko, is a charming and emotional track, yet it does not manage to resonate with the listener after its closing note.
“Summer Elaine” and “L.A. Girlz” have potential to be huge hits at concerts, and blend well with the overall style of the record. Insofar as they both play it safe, it is difficult to love or hate either song. Weezer took no leaps of faith with the production of either song, but both act as effective filler tracks by adding more substance to the album as a whole.
“The White Album” is an indecisive mix of old and new. At times it feels overproduced, fabricated and fake, while at other points, it comes across as refreshing, honest and emotional. Without sacrificing too much of their more refined modern style, Weezer still manages to create a catchy alternative rock album that minimally returns to what hardcore fans fell in love with in the band’s golden age. The group’s latest two albums mark a return to the basics for Weezer, but fall short of shaking off all elements of the fabricated pop-rock found in albums such as “The Red Album” and “Make Believe.” “The White Album” has the potential to satisfy fans from all generations, but it proves that Weezer still has a lot of work left before it regains its former glory.
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