This is Weezer’s sixth self-titled album. (Photo courtesy of Atlantic Records and Crush Music)
If anyone has ever had a beloved friend make really bad decisions, then Weezer’s “The Black Album” should remind those people of that time.
It is almost impossible to find an album worse than this, except if one were to count Kevin Federline’s atrocity “Playing with Fire” or Limp Bizkit’s “Results May Vary”. Weezer’s thirteenth studio album proved to be an unlucky number for the band, as frontman Rivers Cuomo tried experimenting with different sounds and genres of music to overwhelmingly disastrous results.
“The Black Album,” which was delayed due to Weezer’s viral cover of Toto’s “Africa” and subsequent cover album, “The Teal Album,” leads one to wonder what Weezer tried to perfect in “The Black Album” before it was released to the public. Is there an even worse version that could have been put out for public consumption? Or did Cuomo wreck the album trying to make it better? The world may never know.
Weezer’s career spans across several decades, and their longevity is a testament of how they were able to stay relevant after having fantastic early success with “The Blue Album” and “Pinkerton”. Because of their success — and this is especially the case for longtime listeners — certain expectations are set in terms of quality. Therefore, anything less than what listeners know Weezer can bring to the table feels like a step backward.
Weezer incorporated electronic elements, dabbled in light rap and even devoted an entire song to zombies in the 10-track album. While experimentation is not bad by any means, it can be if it results in an overall loss of quality, which this album suffers from.
This is not to say that the album has absolutely nothing redeemable about it; their song “High as a Kite” has a soft ambiance and an introspective narrative. The track serves as a rich oasis amidst an album that otherwise feels challenging to decipher and digest. It offers lyrics the listener can sink their soul into and a lush soundscape where piano, electric guitar and chimes bleed together almost seamlessly. Cuomo’s voice reminds listeners how well-suited it is for long, conquering melodies. The song is easily the best of the album but still one that would be lost on any other Weezer album.
The melody of the song “I’m Just Being Honest” is lovely too: a propulsive little ’80s-sounding tune with an instantly singable chorus. However, it is with these kinds of songs that detract from the “rock” aspect of Weezer.
What detracts from Cuomo’s vocal performance and even some promising compositions are bizarre lyrical choices that nearly every track falls victim to in one way or another. For example, “Too Many Thoughts in My Head” sandwiches the line, “Fuel up b*#%*, there’s no more slacking,” between name-drops of Mary Poppins and Moses. “California Snow” is perhaps the worst offender of all, containing the lines, “When I play guitar, it’s sick, woo!” and, “If you see a tear fall don’t worry ‘bout me, y’all. This is what it’s like on top.” This lack of substance acts as a letdown across the album, and it is out of character for a band that have proven themselves capable of writing lyrics on a level several echelons beyond wherever it is they have landed with the album.
The fault in the album is not Weezer trying to experiment but with how they executed their experiment. The opener, “California Snow,” sounds too similar to Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere” and other songs like “Living in LA” and “Piece of Cake” are simplistic, half-baked and lacking in variation.
Newer fans of Weezer might still find the album enjoyable, but older fans will question what Weezer was thinking by sending out an album that is so far removed from what the band is and has been successful at.
Overall, the clashing of musical styles and Cuomo’s attempts at rapping are borderline awful. Save for a song or two, “The Black Album” is 38 minutes of hair pulling and ear bleeding. It is sad to see that the best of Weezer is far behind, but at least their next album can not possibly be worse.
Final Grade: F