It’s a strange thing to say, but Rivers Cuomo is now fully aware of the fact that Weezer sucks.
It wasn’t always this way, though. While there will always be those fans that cite The Blue Album and Pinkerton as the only two must-have albums in the group’s discography, 2001’s “comeback” in the form of The Green Album and the raucous 2002 follow-up Maladroit still managed to endear themselves to many kids with bootleg “Weerez” shirts, as Cuomo’s ability to write killer pop-metal guitar hooks even managed to nail him a gig co-writing the only major chart hit that the long-forgotten hard-rock outfit Cold ever had.
Feel free to re-read that last sentence any time you’re wondering when the exact moment of Weezer’s downfall started.
The whole reason why Everything Will Be Alright in the End even exists is because Rivers Cuomo knows that in the decade following “Stupid Girl”, Weezer went from being a band that was both commercially successful and critically adored to being the absolute laughing stock of the music industry. “Beverly Hills” was the sound of Cuomo selling out every inch of his soul, his lyrics turning into a very vapid brand of fame-bemoaning, and every subsequent album only showed just how terrible a songwriter Cuomo was becoming. Sure, “Pork & Beans” was a hit, but when your lead song from your third supposedly-iconic self-titled album contains desperate lines like “Timbaland knows his way to the top of the charts / Maybe if I work with him I can perfect the art,” it’s a sign that you’re running out of ideas — a notion that was only confirmed by the existence of 2009’s Raditude, the single worst mainstream album released that decade.
By following that up with bone-headed moves such as moving to hard-rock label Epitaph (and then immediately releasing an album of collaborations with Top 40 songwriters) and appearing in a series of nauseating web videos, Weezer, in an attempt to make the most populous-friendly music possible, actually whittled down their fanbase to only the most devoutly hardcore. And, by this point, even those fans were having their feelings tested by this seemingly never-ending gamut of inconsequential material, Cuomo’s own Scoop-styled series of demos and rarities being the only thing fans had to remind themselves of the good ol’ days.
So imagine everyone’s surprise, then, when the incendiary lyrics for “Back to the Shack”, Everything Will Be Alright in the End‘s first single, reached the ears of those that traded in all their latter-day Weezer CDs for the entire Ozma discography:
Sorry guys, I didn’t realize
That I needed you so much
I thought I’d get a new audience
But forgot that disco sucks
I ended up with nobody
And I started feeling dumb
Maybe I should play the lead guitar
And Pat should play the drums
As lines like this prove, Everything Will Be Alright in the End is one of the most incredible acts of musical self-flagellation in recent history. Cuomo downright acknowledges that the humiliating act of slogging through a 2010 tour where the band played The Blue Album and Pinkerton on alternating nights was not enough to correct the wrongs of the past. By returning with Blue/Green producer Ric Ocasek, the band deliberately is making music that sounds like classic Weezer. Despite the fact that Cuomo is virtually incapable of writing non-self-referential lyrics at this point, Everything still doesn’t feel like a cloying, deliberate re-tread. Instead, it’s filled with sorrow, hurt, and some of the most badass riffing we’ve heard since Maladroit. Everything Will Be Alright in the End is Weezer proving something to itself: that it can still sound like Weezer when it wants to, and despite the months of YouTube teases and apologetic interviews Cuomo has given prior to this release, his efforts are to be generously rewarded.
From the opening self-conscious sludge-strum of “Ain’t Got Nobody”, it’s obvious that Cuomo has tapped into that goofy charm that made The Blue Album such a dorm-room staple, keeping the hooks tight, focused, and immediately hummable, the lyrics shifting from apologetic to humorous as the need suits him. All of this contrasts well with the Cheap Trick-styled guitar histrionics that helped the band make their name in the first place. “Don’t wanna find myself homogenized / Don’t wanna become the very thing that I despised,” Cuomo cries out on “I’ve Had It Up to Here”, a co-write with the Darkness’ Justin Hawkins, who himself knows full well about what it’s like when your band turns into a bad parody of itself.
Yet even when Cuomo turns away from the meta and goes straight for classic girl-problem tropes, from “Lonely Girl” to “Cleopatra” to the Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast duet “Go Away”, it feels like he’s in his comfort zone: solid-but-not-extraordinary hooks, semi-predictable lyrics, but an overall sense of fun that doesn’t feel as forced as it did on Raditude or Hurley. While “Da Vinci” is easily the album’s out-and-out funniest moment, the verses recalling “El Scorcho” in atmosphere rather deliberately (along with a nice Ancestry.com shoutout ‘cos why not), the rest of Everything shows Cuomo self-conscious in a way he hasn’t been in years. He focuses not so much on wish-fulfillment or the chart success of others as much as he does on his own moral failings and private ambitions.
Even when he tries to one-up The Red Album‘s multi-tiered suite of “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” with a closing triptych called “The Futurescape Trilogy”, the disconnected nature of this suite never makes it feel as cohesive as Cuomo would like it to be. But by the time the third movement (“Return to Ithaka”) starts cranking out hair-metal noodling so ornate it immediately feels like the armband-wearing kid cousin of Van Halen’s “Eruption”, you’ll leave the album with a big goofy grin on your face. It’s been a damn long time since Weezer songs were this genuinely fun.
Ultimately, Everything Will Be Alright in the End is not a perfect album, but then again it really didn’t need to be. Especially after the disaster that was Raditude, few if any ever thought that Weezer would ever be taken seriously as a band ever again, but Cuomo needed to prove to both his fans and himself that he was still capable of making great songs, challenging himself instead of falling back on the too-slick and ultimately boring craftsmanship that had become his late-period calling card. Sure, there will be scores of fans that will say this is the best Weezer album in years, but the truth is much deeper than that: even with its flaws, this is easily the best album Weezer has released in over a decade.
Feel free to look back on that last sentence any time you need to be reminded that even a band like Weezer can eventually redeem themselves again.