What the fuck is all of this noise? A new Weezer album? Well, sure as hell you might think that after a listen to “Coat Check Girl” or if you spared a second to peep “Prairie Song,” but oh, no, it can’t be a Weezer album. There are just too many elements of stoner-metal here – too heavy, too smoggy, not cuddly enough. The delicate constitutions of Rivers Cuomo and his band of milk-fed, milquetoast milksops could never slam like this. So is it a Black Sabbath tribute album? This “Melting Place” song opens with a riff right out of “Iron Man” and includes more than a few examples of exactly the kind of oozy, oriental guitar bends that characterized earlier Sabbath. The damn album even opens on a song called “Voyage into the Dream”, a title just about one step removed from the classic “Into the Void”.
But if this is supposed to be a Sabbath tribute, then why does every other song sound like it crawled out of the grimy pits of circa-1992 Seattle? Ah, that’s it! It’s a concept-cum-cover album, ala Thou’s “Through the Empires of Eternal Void”, a grunge tweaking of stoner-metal classics that stresses maybe a little more the merits of vitality and anger and angst while making it a little less hazy and a little crustier, even a little rockier: “Through the Empires of Eternal Dirt”, sure. Except, wait, no, sometimes it’s just a flat-out grunge. Just, now just correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t “Black Cherry Pie” open on what sounds exactly like an early demo of Nirvana’s “In Bloom?” Only a little more bubbly, a little easier to swallow (Well, at least I can say this: Nirvana never stuffed an unnecessary and dinky sounding flute cameo from Ian Anderson into a song to lend it a false sense of whimsy.)
Oh, wait, don’t tell me, don’t tell! I think I’ve got this one. The poppy hooks, the over-blown but hollow production meant to keep the songs from ever getting too heavy (can’t offend any delicate sensibilities), the strained casualness of the lyrics: It’s another JEFF the Brotherhood release! I shoulda known… Ugh… Look, guys, there’s nothing wrong with cribbing from the classic or sending up the greats (well, except when you somehow mistake Weezer as one of the greats) but maybe, I don’t know, find something to do with yourself beyond that? Are there fun moments here? There’d better be: “fun’s” the only new element these goofs bother to introduce to everything they’ve ripped off. They like their bubblegum production and their cute hooks, definitely, and they aren’t afraid to get real, real quaint with their lyrics. Life for them’s all about getting stoned, hooking up, lounging through another summer and maybe, maybe sometimes getting the energy up to grab a bite to eat. Even nihilism sounds enjoyable, here, just the kind of pose you adopt after waking up from a hangover because why not. It ain’t precious but it’s damn near close.
Is it enjoyable? Sometimes. I guess if pressed I could let “Black Cherry Pie” slide – it’s the one time where the lyrics are spared from being made cute; they’re just free to be as stupid as damn possible and ain’t that a blessing? – and could excuse “In My Mouth” because its jerky stomp of a bass line and the twee synthesizers keep it fun. But I could as easily come back around if pressed and spew bile all over ’em both. Had the arrangement’s been a tad smarter I might have excused “What’s a Creep,” but then the band decided to expand their repertoire as parrots and ripped off the kind of obnoxious guitar shredding that characterized the worst of ’80s arena rock and so end up coating the whole song in the sleazy cheesy goopy plastic of Velveeta’s aural equivalent.
It’s not that the kids are soulless or that they’re trying to climb up rock ‘n’ roll’s social ladder. Lord knows they really seem to believe in what it is they’re putting out. The problem is that everything they’re putting out sounds like some project a highschooler might come up with in order to impress his too-cool guitar teacher. What they don’t seem to get is that the world’s already got all those old grunge bands and we’ve already got Sabbath and we’ve already got (sadly) Weezer. Hell, we’ve already got a million knockoffs of each! We don’t need another one to add to the pile. If they don’t go out of their way to establish a real identity and soon they’re going to end up on the same slag heap as all the other knock-offs. Not that I’ve got any clue what a better direction for them would be: there ain’t enough hear to even begin guessing. Maybe they belong in the pop world. Maybe they’re the next teen sensation.
Yeah, that’s the ticket. Hear that, guys? I’m willing to be your sponsor; just let me know! We’ll go all the way to the moon!