By Brandon Carson Unlike the title suggests, it has been five long years since Weezer has put out a solid record. 2016's Weezer (White Album) was the last album where the band seemed to find a spark of magic. It was chock-full of catchy hooks and riffs, quality lyrics, and consistency. “L.A. Girlz,” “King of the World,” and “Do You Wanna Get High?” are the key tracks of the album. Gone was the pop-music pandering of Make Believe and the all-over-the-place Weezer (Red Album). However, 2017's Pacific Daydream was the ultimate step back, with its predictable pop structures, corny lyrics, and overproduced sound. What followed Pacific Daydream was a streak of miss turns. In 2019, Weezer would release a cover album Weezer (Teal Album), and another self-titled release, Weezer (Black Album). The Teal Album was a gimmick that seemed to be built around their successful cover of “Africa” by Toto. But the Black Album was a bad sign. There was no direction, no vision, only catchy hooks, and unrealized ideas with a pop sound. OK Human is the complete opposite. OK Human proves to be an insane jump in quality. The flow is incredible, with the mood and tone staying clear and distinct. The production is vibrant and expansive. Most importantly, Weezer understands how to change their sound, while still staying true to it.
A new (yet familiar) directionWhat Weezer has always done so well in their career, during both highs and lows, is have their own distinct style. It can be found on the Blue Album, where they broke into popularity, and even on the Black Album, where they sound like they’re trying to remain relevant. OK Human follows in the same footsteps; however, the instrumentation and production are completely different. In a 2019 interview with the Los Angeles Times, singer and front-man Rivers Cuomo stated that the strings were recorded at Abbey Road Studios. They brought back acclaimed producer of The White Album, Jake Sinclair, and stripped back their entire production, making no need for loops, click tracks, or even electric guitars. In an interview with iNews, Cuomo said, “We weren’t worrying about commercial potential, which gave me the opportunity to just sing about whatever I was feeling in the moment and explore my anxieties.”
A near-flawless tracklistIt’s hard to talk about OK Human without discussing each song. They all flow together so well that they become pieces of a whole, rather than a collection of songs like The Black Album and Pacific Daydream. Album opener, “All My Favorite Songs,” introduces the listener to these changes immediately. It’s even a little off-putting upon first listen, with seemingly cringy lyrics like
“All my favorite songs are slow and sad/ all my favorite people make me mad.”But right as the drums kick in and the orchestra swells, it makes for a nice, short, and sweet track. From there, “Aloo Gobi” acts as a classic Weezer track. When broken down, the orchestra is playing what would be an electric guitar riff, and the hook sounds like something straight out of 2014s Everything Will Be Alright in the End. But these aspects working together, along with the classical-sounding bridge, make for a completely new and improved Weezer experience. “Grapes of Wrath,” a song about getting lost in audio-books, keeps the quality up, in what’s sure to be an instant Weezer hit. But the true magic of their instrumental approach comes with the song, “Numbers.” All the elements come together beautifully here: the orchestra is moving, almost cinematic, and the drums are tight. Cuomo sounds sincere and passionate, making for a beautiful chorus. It’s easy to tell how much care went into the creation of this song and the album even. This is one of Weezer’s best songs in a LONG time. But OK Human has even more surprises. “Playing My Piano” sounds like it’s straight out of a musical but “Weezer-fied,” with even more gorgeous orchestrations and piano riffs. It leads right into the short but powerful, “Mirror Image,” which may have one of the best Weezer moments in the very end with Cuomo singing as if he’s improvising the lyrics, trying to get them right:
“Heaven can't save this man/Heaven can't help this man/Heaven, Heaven turned his back on this man/Heaven shuts the door on this man.”“Bird with a Broken Wing” is another huge highlight. It’s the next ballad and a testament to how emotional the band can get. The song is about Cuomo feeling irrelevant and sorry for himself, leading to this great line from the bridge, “Nothin’ matters in the world and everyone is free, but I’ll belong to you, if you believe in me.” “Dead Roses” continues to amaze with its baroque instrumentation and interesting lyrics. “Everything Happens For A Reason,” a short instrumental interlude, provides an excellent transition from melancholy to joy near the end of the record. “Here Comes The Rain,” is one of those songs that is so catchy and positive, you can’t help but enjoy it. Finally leading to a fantastic ending in this triumph of an album, “La Brea Tar Pits.” The organ works well here, and there’s a callback to “Undone – The Sweater Song” in the end, suggesting that if fans don’t like this new direction, there’s always the classics. Also, it’s just a neat easter egg!
A few roadblocksCuomo can write raw, emotional lyrics that can touch the heart, but he has written lyrics that feel underdeveloped and fail to make any sense. “All My Favorite Songs,” falls into the “Underdeveloped” category in terms of lyrics. They aren’t terrible, but we have definitely heard Cuomo write stronger lyrics, even on the same album. “Here Comes the Rain” also includes questionable lines like,
“Splish, splish-splash/Woah-oh, woah-oh, taking a bath.”However, the instrumentals and production make up for these weird lyrical choices. “Screens” is the only song that didn’t resonate well on OK Human. It’s the most forgettable track of the bunch, and the technophobic nature of the song feels dated. It’s not a bad song, but coming after “Mirror Image” and the whole first half of the album, it’s easy to tell when a song isn’t up to snuff.
Top tracks:Numbers Bird with a Broken Wing Grapes of Wrath
Recommended if you like:Cake Jimmy Eat World Green Day
Sources: Los Angeles Times, iNews Featured Image: Genius