1994 was a phenomenal year for rock. The same year that gave us Green Day’s Dookie, Jeff Buckley’s Grace, the Oasis/Blur clash of Definitely Maybe against Parklife, and even Kurt Cobain’s posthumous Nirvana album, MTV Unplugged In New York, also gave us Weezer’s self-titled debut – today known as the Blue Album, the album that gave us classics like ‘Buddy Holly’ and ‘Say it Ain’t So’. Grungy and melancholy, Weezer were once the absolute pinnacle of stoner rock.
Promoted with one of the weirdest brand collaborations, online game Fortnite, Weezer release Weezer (Black Album) some 25 years on. And, as with many older bands who settle into middle age, Weezer fail to innovate, transforming into a mediocre parody of themselves.
The Fortnite promo particularly marks a decided redirection towards a younger, modern audience, with tracks like ‘Too Many Thoughts In My Head’ attempting to recreate left-field pop musicians like Portugal. The Man, with energy and an upbeat tempo, though that’s about it. ‘Piece of Cake’ could be one of those early-runtime, more forgettable songs from a Disney film, with a do-do-dada-do-doo chorus and a piano melody.
And yet, Weezer fail to really capture the zeitgeist of a modern, younger audience. They are not to be criticised for moving in new directions, nor is this review one of those ‘I only like the old stuff’ arguments; but the Black Album attempts to move forwards without changing too drastically, nor pushing through anything novel or even interesting – in the way of themes, lyrical content, or musical style. Most lyrics make no sense at all; and those that do repeat the same tired topics the band have recycled for years: L.A, girls, and girls in L.A. Though Weezer have never been political, they have managed to run through a 37 minute album without saying anything at all. The chorus of ‘Living In L.A’ – ironically, one of the best tracks from Black Album – goes:
“This girl I like
I’m talking ‘bout this girl I like
But I feel so lonely, feel so lonely,
Uh, uh, yeah, I’m living in L.A”
The album draws to a close with the double-tap of ‘Byzantine’ – an admittedly fun track, though the same criticism applies – and ‘California Snow’; a painful three-and-a-half minute loop of the title – “California snow//Never let me go” – that simultaneously mangles elements of synth, drum, and piano. Is Weezer (Black Album) bad? Objectively, no, though it is far from being ‘good’. But to compare Weezer in 2019 to their varied, long-running and divisive discography, the Black Album falls short of adding anything to genre or the band’s sound, and is offensively unremarkable.
Image via Weezer