Dear, sweet, naive Rivers Cuomo. When discussing The Black Album in 2016, released today as Pacific Daydream, you described it as "Beach Boys gone bad". I think all of us, yourself included, were assuming you meant bad as in edgy and maybe a little rebellious. Instead, we got bad as in just bad, no extra definition or simile needed.
Weezer released Pacific Daydream today, though after being heavily teased over the last seven months, the letdown that most of us are feeling doesn't come as much as a surprise. I guess a thank you is in order then for that fact.
Weezer has long heavily divided their fan base, producing songs that have been hailed as cult-emo masterpieces, alongside glossy, easily-palatable pop jingles that, with respect, have found acceptance in some circles. Yet after the seeming return to the old Everything Will Be Alright In The End and The White Album Weezer, it seems that Cuomo heard the satisfied reviews of the emo and post-grunge camp and did an about face.
Pacific Daydream is Weezer back on their b.s., in pursuit of the sun-drenched, surf-pop, endless summer soundscape that Cuomo imagined when listening to The Beach Boys, trying to nail down the formula to creating the best pop song. That's not some fantastical imagery I just conjured up either, Cuomo said it so himself in an interview with L.A. Times. Trying to reduce music, regardless of the genre, to a cut-and-dry formula seems like a pretty disingenuous move, yet it's pretty clear that's the route taken with Pacific Daydream. From a technical standpoint the album is very strong, in fact, it's arguably Weezer's best produced album yet. But under the glitz and window appeal the songwriting itself feels hollow and vapid.
The first single and most recognizable track, "Feels Like Summer", is an obvious product of dabbling in the pop-rock and EDM scene, complete with excessive vocal reverb and drum machines. Instead of the pop-rock-anthem standard it aspires to, the track feels more like the anthem of a car commercial that inspires you to get up and change the channel. Cuomo's uninspired lyricism can also be found in plenty of other tracks, including "Happy Hour", where he rather flatly states he "feels like Ponce De Leon, sailing for the new world, checking out the birds and flowers" before singing the word "coconut" several times because he couldn't think of anything else to say. I know he might be past the image of the malnourished soft-boi singing about sweaters but the writing in Pacific Daydream seems to lack any sincerity.
I have this strange suspicion that in the band's empirical approach to songwriting, they took inspiration not from what was topping the charts, but what seemed to have the most (literal) commercial appeal. Under the Beach Boys meets Santa Claus sound of "Weekend Woman" I keep expecting someone to climb through my headphones in an attempt to sell me something. Instead, the album lacks a genuine sense of earnestness, and borrows from too many tired musical cliches, including the dreaded "millennial whoop" in "La Mancha Screwjob".
This isn't all to say that the album is a complete face plant, "La Mancha Screwjob" manages to capture a bit of the catchy pop attitude which the band seems to aspire to so much. "Any Friend of Diane's", while managing to sound like basically every other track on the album, does show some signs of creative life, with some sincerity in Cuomo's vocals and some Spanish guitar that shows how you properly experiment with new sounds.
Pacific Daydream is Weezer's eleventh album. At this point, they are more than welcome to produce whatever music they wish, for whatever audience they wish, critics be damned. Yet in this album, not only do they alienate the die-hards of old, they fall short of delivering what they intend to be a modern pop opus.
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