Last month, Saturday Night Live featured a skit where the premise was two people arguing over Weezer at the table during a holiday get together between friends. Host Matt Damon argued for the band’s latter records while Leslie Jones’ character was staunch about the early days. While their details – and the fact that no one else at the table even cared – were often hilarious, it really sums up the state of how people feel about the once highly-regarded alternative group.
Fan bases often have a hard time agreeing on well-established bands and which era of music is more profound. From Van Halen to Green Day, there are countless bands that have sparked endless hours of debating on which lead singer was better or if the group “sold out” – but none may be more divisive than Weezer. Almost every fan is in agreement that the band’s first two albums, the self-titled Blue Album and Pinkerton, were masterpieces. And that’s where it all goes off the rails. Well, Weezer added more fuel to the fire late last week when the band secretly dropped the self-titled Teal Album, 10 straight-ahead cover songs from music members of the group appreciated. It all stemmed from a cover of Toto’s Africa, a single Weezer put out late last year thanks to a fan request on social media which took the United States by storm.
With nine new covers on top of Africa, Weezer aimed at songs that nostalgically pulled at every Millenial and Generation Xer’s heartstrings, including TLC’s No Scrubs, Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, Ben E. King’s Stand By Me and the Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This). The group had been playing some of the songs, sometimes snippets, during the recent live tour.
The new album came just over a month before their self-titled Black Album is set to be released and while some loved the concept, others immediately put it on blast on social media. Fans have, in large part, weaned off of the band after a string of vanilla albums early in the 2000s. For a stretch, Weezer was pumping out new albums, on average, every two years, starting with 2005’s Make Believe and ending four records later with 2015’s Everything Will Be Alright In The End. Sure, there were hit singles scattered throughout this stretch but it’s still deemed as highly forgettable. There is, however, some good music to be had on those albums if you sift through all of it attentively.
I will be the first one to admit that while a couple of Weezer’s albums have completely passed me by without a listen – for example, I don’t even remember Raditude – my love for this band has not strayed in the least from when I first heard their original two albums. And while I tend to appreciate those a little more, I side with neither faction, defending much of their newer stuff.
Having said that, I wasn’t sure what to make out of an entire covers album.
Dropping it as a surprise was much more enticing than knowing it was heading my way, simply because I couldn’t mentally prepare myself – kudos to their record label and marketing team. I’m not huge supporter of bands doing karaoke and essentially trying to put their own spin on a classic. When I think of covers, there are two songs that immediately come to my mind as being better than the original: The Jimi Hendrix Experience All Along The Watchtower and Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah. None of Weezer’s will leave that kind of lasting impression but there were three or four that I really enjoyed that will soon be placed on my playlist and a couple that missed the mark. Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Jeff Lynne’s Mr. Blue Sky, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) and Stand By Me each mimic the source material nicely and are unbelievably catchy, adding just a hint of Weezer’s nerd-centric alternative sound. And then there’s the band’s rendition of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, which was borderline cringeworthy.
The problem here is that many casual or less-than-casual Weezer fans will never give this album a chance, never hearing some of the awesomeness it has to offer. Instead, they’ll dump on it for not being Pinkerton on their various social media accounts and continue about their day. But at this point in the band’s career, it’s evident that Weezer is doing what they want to do – things that each member of the group found appealing. In the process, it feels like they’re maybe targeting their uber fans, but really it feels like Rivers Cuomo and crew are just having fun. From playing at the 2019 NHL Winter Classic to a potential future performance with TLC, it’s clear just by scrolling through their Instagram, Weezer is having fun. The band has always been quirky and marched to a different beat but in recent years it’s evident that they’re doing what they want to do.
From a creative standpoint, Weezer is working harder now then they ever have, admittedly already working on the beginning stages of another album, not caring what anyone thinks. There’s no selling out, no long hiatuses and no dramatic sound change, just a band that likes creating music and connecting with its fans. It’s time to just let them have their fun – and if you don’t like it, just ignore it.