Weezer - Pacific Daydream

by Kyle Kersey Rating:4 Release Date:2017-10-27
Weezer - Pacific Daydream
Weezer - Pacific Daydream

It's not that bad.

Ever since the abomination that was 2009’s Raditude, Weezer has been following a gradual upward trend, culminating with last year’s self-titled White Album. It brought Weezer back to their thematic roots; dorky songs about girls in the California sun. It was a simple concept album, albeit one the band drives home with pop-rock precision. After all, a large part of the allure in Weezer’s debut Blue Album was their dorky qualities; the stereotypical geeky high school boy with the thick-framed glasses who moonlights as a dungeon master and can't catch a break with the ladies personified into an alternative rock band. While Nirvana was ruling as the unambiguous king of the rock world, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo was proposing a radical idea: instead of screaming over incomprehensible distorted guitars about our social anxieties, let’s craft a lovely sweater analogy (I can’t overstress how much I love “Undone-The Sweater Song”). It’s a quality that was lost when the band regrettably transitioned to radio-friendly power-pop during the 2000’s, ditching any semblance of musical complexity for annoyingly catchy singles like “Beverly Hills”, all but tarnishing the goodwill of their die-hard fans in the process.

In a way, this was our fault. Well, not mine. I hadn’t even been conceived when their sophomore release Pinkerton – Cuomo’s underappreciated foray into darker, more abrasive songwriting – commercially flopped in 1996. I mean more along the lines of music listeners as a whole. Even the contemporary critical assessments of the album were lukewarm, only coming around to glorify the album in retrospect.

It would be too little too late. Cuomo, believing there to be no place on the market for his more sophisticated approach to alternative rock, ditched his heavier roots for commercialized pop-rock in order to reach the masses that had rejected some of his best work. With last year’s White Album, I really felt that Weezer had moved past that stage of their career and onto greener pastures.

But old habits die hard I suppose. If the White Album was a return to Weezer’s past glory, then Pacific Daydream is a mid-life crisis; a shameless collection of pop clichés packed into a tightly wound thirty-four-minute package. Cuomo is forty-seven years old after all, well past his youth. You wouldn’t suspect it listening to Pacific Daydream, as in a music culture ruled by teenagers, Cuomo still sounds like...well...a teenager. You can hear the modern pop influence in each of the album’s lead singles, though it’s most noticeable on the album’s lead single “Feels Like Summer”, which unrepentantly rips off Twenty One Pilots. Released in March, it was the first of many red flags.

In a way, Pacific Daydream feels like a glossier extension of the White Album, even though you won’t hear the word “girl” over the course of the tracklisting. Cuomo placed a self-embargo against the usage of the word he dropped with great frequency on the White Album. A majority of the Pacific Daydream still ends up being about girls though, through the apparatus of slightly altered pronouns such as “her” and “she”, making me wonder why he even barred the word’s use in the first place. Hell, “Weekend Woman” has a mature alteration of "girl" in its title.

It’s  backloaded with content, where the deeper cuts contain more substance than the singles.  “Mexican Fender”, the album’s first track and second single, is a cleanly produced piece of inoffensive pop-punk that’s actually grown on me a bit. Yes, the clean distorted guitar hook is a bit “by the numbers”, but I can still appreciate Weezer’s down to earth storytelling of a summer fling with a girl (even if the music video advocates for Pigeon on woman bestiality and his use of the word “insane” at the end of the track’s first verse sounds forced as hell). The same can’t be said for “Happy Hour”, a derivative attempt at dance-pop complete with that annoying EDM squeak-synthesizer effect. Meanwhile, the peachy chorus on “Weekend Woman” brought back repressed memories of my mom playing the All-American Rejects on the way to school as a kid.

“QB Blitz” is a refreshing deviation from the overproduced pop pleasantries on the first half of the album; an endearingly cute love song underlined with acoustic guitar and a jumpy bass line. This is the first time that Cuomo’s inherent nerdiness shines through with lines such as “All of my conversations die a painful death you see/I can't get anyone to do algebra with me” and “Out on the ice fields of Hoth/I'll be missing you like oxygen”. It’s the unmitigated high point of the album; one of the only songs where Weezer sound like Weezer. “Get Right” is one of the other tracks where Weezer’s personality shines through, even if its four-to-the-floor kick drum agitates me in a way I can’t fully explain. By contrast, “Sweet Mary” crosses the line from romantic to sappy with lines like “I don't know what I would do/Without out my Sweet Mary love/To help me to make it through”.

As a whole, Pacific Daydream isn’t as bad as I feared it would be based on the singles. For the most part, the songwriting is competent and Cuomo’s storytelling well refined. That being said, it’s still the band's weakest album since Raditude. There’s a lack of substance outside of the album’s deeper cuts, with Cuomo all too often indulging in the worst elements of modern pop. This was originally supposed to be Weezer’s long-awaited Black Album before Cuomo decided that the upbeat tone of the album’s early sessions didn’t fit the darker title. As a result, we can look forward to that release next year. Let’s hope it proves Pacific Daydream to be but a fluke and not an omen of things to come.

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars