Review: Weezer – OK Human

To be a modern Weezer fan is to approach each new release with a sense of skepticism. Having made their mark in rock early on, the band has spent the last decade or so really trying something new with each album. While some incredible success has come from this, there have also been some massive misses. OK Human, the band’s surprise release is a resounding success. The album fundamentally alters the core Weezer sound while retaining their signature mark, analyzes the feeling of passing your prime and still manages to feel fun and goofy. OK Human verges on being the landmark Weezer album none of us knew we wanted.

You can buy or stream OK Human on Apple Music.

OK Human is an indie album in all regards, ditching anything close to the guitar sound associated with Weezer in favor of a full orchestra. It’s odd then that the album’s sound seems to rest comfortably somewhere between Pinkerton’s confessional style of songwriting and The Red Album’s escapism.

The fact that it took the band this long to release a stripped back album seems detrimental in retrospect. Drummer Patrick Wilson stands out more than anyone else, as his relaxed percussion takes center stage without the distraction of guitars (“Numbers”). Meanwhile, Brian Bell’s keyboards and Scott Shriner’s bass sound completely new in the context of being part of an orchestra (“Dead Roses”). For his part, singer and primary songwriter Rivers Cuomo sounds at home against the gentler sound. Although he never truly pushes his voice, he finds gracious melodies that fit the softer tone of these songs (“Bird With a Broken Wing”).

For its part, the orchestral backing does a shockingly adept job of performing a pop melody for the bigger, Weezer-esque songs (“All My Favorite Songs”) and an appropriate tension for darker, more thematic tracks (“Dead Roses”). For being one of the more distinctive steps outside of Weezer’s comfort zone, the orchestra does an amazing job of finding the perfect balance between a new sound and the brisk balance of pop tracks.

At its best, OK Human is a study of finding one’s place in an ever evolving world that only sees the value of your past accomplishments. The most straightforward song on this topic is “Bird With a Broken Wing” as Rivers sings “Long ago, I was flying in the air / Looking at the sea below / I was hunting to kill”, before lamenting, “I’m just a bird with a broken wing / And this beautiful song to sing / Don’t feel sad for me, I’m right where I wanna be”.

While other songs tackle the same issue, such as “La Brea Tar Pits” (“Cause I’m sinking in the La Brea Tar Pits / And I don’t want to die cause there’s still so much to give”), others examine it in indirect ways. “Screens” looks at a world lacking human contact as Cuomo sings “Now the real world is dying / As everybody moves into the cloud. / Can you tell me where we’re going?”

OK Human also sees some of the best lyricism Cuomo has written in quite some time. “Dead Roses” traces the sorrow of what an imagined relationship verses what it actually is in brutal, haunting poetry (“Lamplight falls, and casts a laughing phantom / I imagine your smile and the life that we could share / But with the last of my steps, I see the truth lying there”).

Another recurring theme, the struggle to adjust to an ever increasing world reliant on technology appears early on, with much more straightforward prose. “Numbers” tackles the depression of social media and the obsession with being seen (“Look at him, look at her, they’ve got a million likes / … / Numbers are out to get you”).

Where OK Human falters is when Cuomo seems to almost stop trying to find the perfect allegory to what he wants to say, and instead just blurts out whatever is in front of him at the time, including several tech services that may ultimately date the album to an extremely specific period in time. “Playing My Piano”, a catchy song about losing himself in music, is hampered by extremely stagnant lyricism (“My wife is upstairs, my kids are upstairs / … / I should get back to these Zoom interviews, but I get so absorbed and time flies”).

“Grapes of Wrath”, an ingenious song idea about relaxing while listening to audiobooks, stumbles in the chorus as it sounds like an advertisement more than a heartfelt ode (“I’m gonna rock my Audible / Headphones, Grapes of Wrath, drift off to oblivion”).

Slightly more focused, OK Human could have been the next legendary Weezer album. That said, it’s still an incredible work of art that mostly succeeds at its experimentation. In terms of Weezer’s discography, it sounds distinct and vibrant, and oddly seems to stand amongst the louder of the band’s legendary catalog. If nothing else, it proves that Weezer still have so much left so say.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and accidentally drank from a water glass he remembered he saw his cat drink from 20 minutes beforehand as he gulped it down. He drank cat water. He is now know as, “Cat Mouth.”

Review: Weezer – Pacific Daydream

My first experience with Weezer came while playing Guitar Hero with a friend and watching them play “Say It Ain’t So”. As ridiculous as that sounds, their self-titled album remains my favorite release of theirs and I always turn up the volume when “The Sweater Song” comes through my headphones.

You can buy Pacific Daydream on iTunes.

My experience in this regard isn’t necessarily exclusive. Weezer has always been a great choice for a party playlist. This was true at the beginning of their hip, college kid demographic of yesteryear into the irony-driven college kid demographic of today. The lyrics in their latest venture, Pacific Daydream, are approachable and not too deep, but not worthless, either. As their career continues to unfold, Weezer seem to dwell in the past, always holding onto youth and fun, while avoiding feeling dated

Pacific Daydream was released on October 27, which is strange, because it would’ve landed best, without a doubt, as a summer album. That doesn’t take away from the quality of the album at all. I think it’s got their finest production and tightest sound, and, noticeably, their most enjoyable lyricism.

It’s no secret that times are tough. Shootings and natural disasters and all manner of terrible things tend to plague our day-to-day lives. Still, people are using music as an escape. I think Weezer’s Pacific Daydream provides that escape perfectly. Songs about relationships and day trips and simpler times are what we turn to when the news gets exhausting and depressing.

I know I’m more apt to turn on something upbeat when the world around me is at a low point. I think that the past holds a certain security, because we know what’s happened and how everything turned out, whether the outcome was positive or negative. Weezer seems to have tapped into that idea with the song “Beach Boys”, where Rivers Cuomo sings about how old, familiar music is sometimes the best choice.

Something I noticed from track to track is the similarity between certain older songs and the songs on this album. The references are simple and may not even have been done on purpose. “Weekend Girl” reminded me of The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love” with the reference to meeting said-girl on Sunday and thinking about her on Monday and then through the remainder of “the weekday traffic”.

Similarly, “Sweet Mary” lyrically reminded me of The Beatles’ “Let It Be”. Right from the get-go, we have the lines, “When I am all on my own / One foot in the grave / My Sweet Mary comes / To help me find my way”. The most overt mentions of classic music are obviously the aforementioned track, “Beach Boys” and the lyric in the final track, “Any Friend of Diane’s”, which talks about a girl wearing a shirt featuring The Smiths.

On a broader level, Pacific Daydream seems to be the second in an unofficial series of albums featuring heavy mention of California. This album is their second to be released with Crush Management, so it’s possible that there was a push there for some thematic continuity. Whatever the case, it gives a perspective on where the members draw their influence, at least from a geographical standpoint.

I don’t really like choosing best or worst tracks. Instead, I prefer to take the album as a whole, trusting the artist’s final judgment on the pieces of their art they believe to be good enough to release publicly. Even without that personal guideline, I had difficult time with giving these 10 songs a definitive rating. The album is tightly knit and well put together and each song fits well where it was placed. Put plainly, Pacific Daydream is a perfect pop album, joining the ranks of some of the year’s best.

What I’m trying to get at here is that Weezer is the ultimate nostalgia band. With a new album hinted at for 2018, Weezer has made it clear that they aren’t keen on stopping. Over their 11 albums, they’ve remained consistently tied to the idea of never-ending youth, and they’ve invited us to revel in summer all year ‘round.

4.5/5

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.