Review: Weezer’s ‘Black Album’ mocks, shocks and knocks
Weezer, “Weezer (Black Album)” (Crush Music/Atlantic Records)
Fashion and decor experts say black and teal are a good combination, so there are ways in which Weezer’s “Black Album” matches the “Teal Album,” their barely-a-month-ago release of largely 1980s cover versions motivated by the surprising success of their take on Toto’s “Africa.”
“Black Album,” for example, also harkens back to the ’80s “me decade” with some self-referential moments, makes generous use of kitsch and includes “The Prince Who Wanted Everything,” a song that alludes to paisley and a red corvette but crassly ends up making Prince come across like a second-rate Liberace.
Where “Teal” had outliers, like versions of The Turtles’ “Happy Together” and TLC’s “No Scrubs,” ″Black” has opening track “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” which pairs some lines in Spanish with Mexican horns, and “Zombie Bastards,” song No. 2, where “blah, blah, blah” substitutes “yada, yada, yada” and sounds like a prime candidate for the soundtracks of the inevitable remakes of “Adventureland” or “The Way Way Back.”
“Teal” was also notable for the bands’ and Rivers Cuomo’s facility of sticking to versions of others’ hits that hardly strayed from the originals but still sounded very much like Weezer. “Black” is also easily identifiable as a Weezer creation, especially through Cuomo’s singing, even if the instrumental backing is occasionally more toy guitar than crunchy power chord.
Musically, top tracks include “High as a Kite,” which pairs a soaring piano-led melody with some of the album’s least cynical lyrics, while “Living in L.A.” is paranoid. “I’m Just Being Honest” pays the price of sincerity — or is it tactlessness? — and of being famous, all to a mechanical beat, and “Byzantine” justly mocks Neil Young’s obsession with crystalline sound reproduction while also mentioning Sparks, a band ripe for rediscovery.
“Too Many Thoughts in My Head,” with lines like “Stayed up reading Mary Poppins/Overwhelmed by Netflix options,” diagnoses modern dysfunctions and if it doesn’t offer any remedies, some more of that typically Weezer humor could alleviate the symptoms.
Weezer look like they’re covered in petroleum on the record cover, but judging by the tone of “Black Album,” the gooey stuff is more likely diet chocolate syrup.