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Weezer’s ‘Pacific Daydream’ shows their lack of evolution

(Weezer/ Facebook)

Weezer released their eleventh studio album, “Pacific Daydream,” on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017. The album supposedly marks a change in their sound away from alt-rock toward a more “pop” sound. If by “pop” they mean devoid of all real emotion, they’ve captured it wonderfully.

For a band whose average age is bordering on 50 (technically it’s 48.75), and who have been recording music since before Kurt Cobain of Nirvana’s suicide in April of 1994, there hasn’t been much evolution here. They’re a band so caught up in what they once were, and the fame that came with it, that they are afraid of experimenting in any particular way.

Sonically, “Pacific Daydream” is a hook-filled, guitar-heavy album that is fighting to stay relevant. Rivers Cuomo, chief songwriter and singer/guitarist, is still singing about the same things he has been since the early ‘90s: women, drugs and the general So-Cal life. For a man who has been married for over ten years, has two kids and is generally seen as a successful musician, it’s disappointing to see him still emulating the themes of his mid-twenties.

That’s not to say the album is offensive; if anything, it’s justs bland. There is not a song on the album that feels new. Weezer dried up artistically and thematically many albums ago, and are riding their fans’ rose-tinted glasses to residual success. If Weezer is one of your favorite bands, “Pacific Daydream” won’t betray your feelings for them. If you were hoping for evolution beyond adding a few more synth layers, the album fails to be memorable in any way.

“Beach Boys,” the second track, starts with Cuomo referencing how music is now a “hip hop world” and then he sings a song about The Beach Boys. It’s a fun, throwaway track that somehow feels like the most emotional of the album. Maybe because Cuomo is singing about things he used to enjoy as a kid, or because the rest of the album is so bog standard.

“Happy Hour” is another of the better tracks. The slower, groovy track betrays the band’s age once again as Cuomo opens with a mention of the venerable Stevie Ray Vaughan, who released a prolific catalog of music in a short period of time before his death in 1990. The track also betrays Weezer as a band out of touch, as they sing about cubicle life and bosses as if they aren’t massively famous musicians. Of course, this isn’t new to them, or even of any famous musician, but it continues to be a sticking point. If you ignore the lyrics though, it’s a good, groovy song.

Sticking with the disdain for Cuomo as a lyricist who is so far removed from his fans, “QB Blitz” starts with him sadly crooning, “All of my conversations die a painful death you see / I can’t get anyone to do algebra with me,” over a plucky acoustic guitar. Here’s a 47-year-old man, married with children, singing about doing algebra. It’s absolutely asinine. The song builds well enough but is so familiar that it blends with every other song on the album.

“Pacific Daydream” is a bland pastiche of themes, sounds and ideas so rote to Weezer that Cuomo has to institute seemingly random choices to make each album seem different. Cuomo and the crew have their music down to a science, and if you like arbitrary artistic decisions like “don’t use the word girl,” then “Pacific Daydream” continues in that direction.

Cuomo’s ban on using the word “girl” on this album is quickly circumvented by a whole song about a “Weekend Woman.” Every album Weezer has released beyond “Green Album” (their second self-titled which released in 2001) has been developed with many of Cuomo’s odd restrictions and idiosyncratic habits, and every album has squeezed out a few standout tracks while the rest fade into the background. “Pacific Daydream” has the unfortunate quality of being the first Weezer album that entirely fades into that background.

Weezer continues their trend to dig up the past, give it a different sonic sheen and hope for the best with “Pacific Daydream.” The album is inoffensive, generic and uninteresting. If you want to relive the good ol’ days with Weezer, go listen to “Blue Album.”

 

Matt Leonard can be reached at mcleonard@umass.edu.

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