My brother, he’s the biggest Weezer fan I know. Not in the classic “Weezer fan” sense—that he loved Pinkerton and Blue and some of Green. He doesn’t produce fart noises at the mention of Maladroit or any album after. Like at the beginning of a new season with his up-and-down Detroit Tigers, he comes to every album fresh. And as anyone who has followed Weezer’s curious career knows, it’s been a disappointing scene since the mid-2000s. Yeah, there have been some here-and-there gems, but still—Matt’s let all of Red and Make Believe and Raditude and Hurley in as a part of his musical DNA. I have heard The Red Album’s “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)” more in his car than so many songs.
My brother, he listens to Weezer like a good sports fan. He’s by his team through the good years and the bad years. Even through Make Believe, too. It’s a situation many Weezer fans can relate to, absorbing whole albums with initial disappointment and later walking away with a few gem songs after taking it all in.
This has been the case for years, but on Weezer’s latest release, Everything Will Be Alright in the End, Rivers Cuomo, Patrick Wilson, Brian Bell and Scott Shriner look like they’re going to bat (and swinging for the fences) for their entire fanbase. On their previous album—Hurley, their first and only for independent label Epitaph—it seemed like a brave new path could be forged for Weezer. With Cuomo taking over as a guitar-free frontman, Pat Wilson filling a role as an additional guitarist and Josh Freese stepping in as their touring drummer, Weezer looked like if they weren’t reproducing Blue and Pinkerton magic, they were at least making the tunes they wanted.
And between the return of Blue and Green producer Ric Ocasek, some classic-looking artwork and a promise from the band that this would be somewhat of a return to form, 2014 seemed like a good year for bandwagoners to hop back on. After all, who doesn’t think Cuomo has at least one more album of classic Weezer jams in him? And okay, we’ll probably look back on Hurley fondly in years . And Maladroit is underrated . Yeah, we’ve heard it all leading up to EWBAITE’s release. Weezer has turned into a band that’s enjoyed more in retrospect than when listening to them presently—really, look at some of the piss-poor initial reactions to the band’s second masterpiece, Pinkerton. For a band that seems to take fan feedback very seriously—sharing Maladroit demos, self-referencing criticism in God knows how many songs—it’s all got to be pretty confusing. “Honestly,” my die-hard brother told me, “I think it’s just going to be a Weezer album.”
It’s the following morning, and here’s the brutal truth. My bro’s Detroit Tigers didn’t advance in the playoffs, and I think Weezer’s big “return” is just fine. Really, it is. A bit better than fine, actually. That’s the give-and-take, the prepared-to-be-bummed spirit of being a fan of both. But really, in 2014, I’d take a just-fine Weezer album over a really great one from early ‘90s staples Pearl Jam or Smashing Pumpkins. EWBAITE has sludgy, downstroked guitars. Skillful Cuomo guitar solos. A few wonky synth lines.
Yeah, this is Weezer doing early Weezer.
First, the great: “Cleopatra.” Holy shit. This mid-album drop is an understated classic, one that hits the nostalgic chord in all the right ways. For a song that has a chorus as disjointed as “Cleopatra,” I was singing along to the thing by the end of the first listen. Cuomo’s guitar solo is bonkers. And somehow, Cuomo has turned “Cleopatra” into a five-syllable word, “cle-o-pat-ur-a,” which is rad. While the lead-off single, “Back to the Shack,” felt a little like overkill out of the context of EWBAITE, “Eulogy for a Rock Band” is a morose ode to former success. With some Thin Lizzy-inspired licks, Cuomo proclaims: “This is a toast to what you did,” and from here, all praise rests in the past. “Foolish Father” is another standout, which is maybe a nice nod to Cuomo’s reconciliation with his own father, the one referenced in mid-’90s classic “Say it Ain’t So.” (Dear Daddy, I write you in spite of years of silence…)
The mediocre: The aforementioned “Back to the Shack.” For anyone who listened to it when it first came out, as Weezer’s first release from EWBAITE, it might have been enough to make you to bury your face in your palms. I have to admit, when wedged between “Eulogy” and “Ain’t Got Nobody,” it feels slightly more right. But nothing will stop my whole body from cringing when I hear “Rockin’ out like it’s ‘94.” I like “The Futurescope Trilogy” once it kicks in after a drawn-out piano intro. I’ll probably love it in a few months.
The not-so great: “Da Vinci,” “Lonely Girl” and the Bethany Cosentino (Best Coast) guest song, “Go Away.” I don’t know what to say here other than it seems like most late-career Weezer flops. Over-glossy approach, over-thought lyrics: “I looked you up on Ancestry.com”—WOOF. It’s too much. The mid-album here seems like the real slump, but it’s rescued wonderfully with “Cleopatra.”
Okay, so it’s not perfect. It’s not an album that has unskippable tracks, and save for a few emotional moments, I’m not going to be singing my heart back to the band on a lot of these songs. You know what, though? Rivers Cuomo is fucking 44. And maybe guitarist Brian Bell said it best for Rolling Stone earlier this year: “It’s like [fans] want me to step in a time machine and be 20 years younger. They want the same haircut, they want the same clothes.” No. To paraphrase the great film Stepbrothers, Cuomo and Co. don’t have the “strap with the lightning strap” when they’re in their 20s anymore—no, they have them when they’re 40. And while that can fill them with self-awareness—while the tones of their youth can be really, really difficult to recreate—EWBAITE shows that they can still be pretty good, too.
1 – And Some of Green is the official name referencing Weezer’s third album according to a certain, very hip crowd that can’t chill the fuck out and enjoy things that are good. It is never referenced without Blue and Pinkerton ahead of it.
2 – We will.
3 – It is.