Before even pressing ‘play,’ Weezer’s Weezer (The Black Album) tempts listeners to write the album off immediately. With The Black Album, released on March 3, the band tried to emulate meme culture, adding a spork into the packaging of pre-ordered copies, and even making a cameo in the game Fortnite. These gimmicks are strange bells and whistles on what is ultimately an album with little to offer.
The band’s newfound interest in millennial internet trends is a departure from the counterculture-inspired aesthetic they had spent the last two decades developing. The release of an underwhelming album of cover songs, Weezer (The Teal Album) on Jan. 24 was just a preview of the onslaught of disappointment that the next wave of Weezer content would bring. While The Teal Album was meant as a strange, self-aware joke, The Black Album takes itself much more seriously, yet shows very little improvement.
There is an admirable, albeit undeserved, confidence that pervades the album. “Everybody’s playing it safe,” Rivers Cuomo sings on the The Black Album’s second track, “Zombie Bastards.” The song is taking a dig at bands who pander to their audiences, betraying their artistic integrity. Ironically, Weezer themselves are attempting to appeal to a larger and younger audience, and a broad, generic pop style that only serves to further contradict their lyrics. “High as a Kite” sees Cuomo metaphorically plugging his ears to drown out anyone who criticizes his band: “Miles above, it’s so serene […] Way up here, no one can touch me,” he croons.
“The Prince Who Wanted Everything” is a forced tribute to the late, great Prince, and like The Teal Album, acknowledges music icons without coming close to doing them any justice. Every song feels manufactured to be as catchy as possible, but “Byzantine” is the only track which successfully harkens back to the Weezer of old.
Despite these shortcomings, Weezer (The Black Album) is not messy, nor is it poorly produced. It’s the pop fixtures and referential quality that are antithetical to Weezer’s musical identity.