Weezer is one of the most influential rock acts of the 1990’s. They debuted in 1994 with The Blue Album, which went triple platinum and immediately established them as one of the most interesting and exciting bands in the already stacked 90’s rock scene. Their follow up, 1996’s Pinkerton gained a massive cult following upon release, proclaimed by many as one of the best albums of the era. After the 90’s, however, their record is spotty at best. Just in the last few years, they’ve released 2016’s The White Album, which landed in my end of the year top ten list, and 2017’s Pacific Daydream, which rested quite firmly in that year’s bottom ten.
At their best, Weezer is capable of being both comedic and meaningful all at once. They built on the look and sound of early rock n roll artists like Buddy Holly, while fusing it with the grungy tone and punk attitudes of their contemporaries. Their best work is some of the most genuine and listenable rock n roll ever made, but when they aim for radio hits and try to pull in modern influences, the sound goes South quickly. After the universally poor reception of Pacific Daydream, Weezer seemed to be lacking any real plan for the future. However, after the mega-success of their cover of “Africa,” by Toto, there was renewed demand for more Weezer material, and while The Black Album is slated for release in March, Rivers Cuomo and the boys have also seen fit to tide up over with a surprise release of nothing but covers.
The record opens with “Africa,” which is just excellent. Rivers’ voice hits every high note perfectly and the band is so obviously having a blast covering such a classic tune. The production remains true to the original for good and for bad, as the highest harmony part is far too loud in the mix. Overall, though, it’s a blast and it’s obvious why it was such a hit! Luckily, there are a few more moments on the project that reach the same level of enjoyment.
Tracks like “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and “Take On Me,” excel thanks to Cuomo’s performance once again. He strikes a perfect balance between paying homage to the original melodies and interjecting his own classic sound. More than anything, these tracks are just great choices by the band as they highlight their natural sound quite well.
The same is true for tracks like “No Scrubs,” “Happy Together,” and my personal favorite track, “Mr. Blue Sky.” Here, the vocals are similarly impressive, but this time the band is aloud to shine a bit more, which they do loudly. The tone on the lead guitars are perfectly distorted and the snares snap sharply for a very tight sound. It’s at moments like these when Weezer seems to perfectly juggle the goals of glorifying older songs that they love and bringing something new and exciting to the table.
At other points, however, they fall short. “Paranoid,” and the closer, “Billie Jean,” suffer from the same issue, namely, forgettability. In both cases, there’s virtually no change in instrumentation from the original, and in both cases, Rivers is trying and failing to fill the shoes of iconic vocalists with vastly different voices. Because of this, the tracks are left sounding like weak karaoke performances as apposed to genuine recreations of classics.
Still, they’re better than tracks like the closer, “Stand By Me,” and the worst track on the list, “Sweet Dreams.” Here, the instrumentation seems to be slightly changed in the worst ways possible, with the former being doused in misplaced power chords and the latter just played with less interesting arrangement. The latter is especially egregious as it’s one of the more unique choices on the project and it has been robbed of all the intrigue and experimentation that made the original special. These are the only tracks that are genuinely devoid of fun.
Overall, The Teal Album is a success. Weezer is often hailed as a meme before their time, and in that sense, they seem to have finally realized their full potential. Most of these tracks are extremely well performed and each of them exudes the enjoyment that the band clearly felt in recreating some of their favorite songs.
Ultimately, The Teal Album is a fun collection of covers that leads me to believe that Weezer may be back on the right track in time for their upcoming March release.