Quentin Rice, Staff Writer
Emo music’s distant and nerdy dads have returned with their 13th studio LP, “Weezer (The Black Album).” Coming hot on the heels of Weezer’s “Teal Album” — a rather fun record of covers from groups like TLC and Tears for Fears — “The Black Album” is a deeper exploration into more contemporary pop elements, rather than the beta, mid-’90s emo rock prototypes the band is typically known for.
The record opens up with “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” which sets the tone for the album with the all-too-familiar “boom bap” drum beats that are a modern pop staple. This tune features an oddball Latin flavor, as Rivers Cuomo repeats, “Hasta luego, adiós” ad nauseam throughout the song. Like the record, the song doesn’t aim to introduce anything too avant-garde or different to the genre, but it’s a good time for the first few listens. But its staying power isn’t very, well, powerful.
“Zombie Bastards” almost sounds like a Twenty One Pilots track — it’s rife with offbeat, high-pitched guitar strums, consciously sad piano chords and devious bass synths. Cuomo sings of humans who just skate by in life, who “keep on blah blah blah.” It’s a fun tune and certainly one of the highlights of the album.
Consistent with Weezer’s most recent releases, “The Black Album” is not without its duds. “Piece of Cake” is a tired and dreary piano-led tune, which works to its detriment. A song that opens with “Let’s do hard drugs / Fix our problems” should certainly be more interesting than this track. It evokes the same muse as Andy Grammer’s “Keep Your Head Up,” although the muse must have been quite sleepy the day Weezer heard from it.
Later on comes “I’m Just Being Honest,” in which Cuomo details his distaste for social scripts, or saying what people like to hear rather than what’s really on his mind. The hook is catchy, and the guitars are dreamy and distant in a way that recalls some of the bands that took after Weezer, like Jimmy Eat World and Death Cab for Cutie. One element that certainly has not faltered is Cuomo’s witty and nonchalant lyrics, as he sings about having to quit a new CD halfway through because, “Your band sounds like shit.”
The closer, “California Snow,” opens like a Travis Scott track with fluttering, pager-like synths over what sounds like guitar chords manipulated to mimic a Moog synthesizer. Cuomo espouses the confidence only cocaine — “California Snow” — can inspire. The song was released in September 2018 for a film called “Spell” and ties a bow quite appropriately on Weezer’s latest foray into their ongoing experiments with more poppy production. That is to say, it’s done quite awkwardly and with a number of head scratches.
It’s certainly not as bad as some might have expected after being let down by some of Weezer’s recent pop efforts, but neither is it as good as some expected after 2016’s generally favored “The White Album.”
“The Black Album” will almost certainly disappoint listeners interested only in Weezer’s dorky emo sounds and attitudes from the ‘90s. Those days are long gone. But for anyone looking for some radio-friendly summertime bops with Weezer’s typical cute and nerdy charm, this record may be worth the 40-minute run time.