Weezer Goes a Shade Darker but Still Smiles Through 'The Black Album'

The latest self-titled from the alt-rock icons continues to stretch the definition of Weezer
Gregory Paul
Photo credit Lake County sheriff’s office

In a lot of ways, the stakes have rarely been higher for Weezer.

After 25 years, the band that has thrived on a self-depreciating rockstar status with imagined egos might have found the sweet spot. A string of crossover hits got a huge exclamation mark when their version of "Africa" launched them to new levels, and now more eyes anxiously await the next move. An album of covers called The Teal Album furthered the point that the band has become a healthy mix of nostalgia, pop perfection, and a willingness never to take things too seriously or feel contained to a lane.

This has been an unnecessary point of contention between people that need Weezer to be one thing and those that accept the ever-evolving adventure as a fun ride that still yields well-crafted, almost scientifically-curated songs. This new era of output from the band actually stands alongside classics from the first few colors quite nicely. Still, it's the kind of weird division that they write Saturday Night Live skits about.

More people are paying attention today than have been in years, and Rivers Cuomo has returned to the lab to offer up another round of experiments with a strong pop sensibility. The Black Album arrives with a few new tricks that add to this legend.

Cuomo wrote these songs at home on the piano for the first time, and sent them to album producer Dave Sitek of TV On The Radio and the other members of the band to explore and add their own spin. The result is an amazing array of stylistic diversity, dressing up Rivers' often stream of consciousness style songwriting with anything from muscled up mariachi on "Can't Knock The Hustle" to the almost sinister AM Gold of "High As A Kite." The effects are fascinating and often still insanely catchy. Straight dance songs sitting next to baroque pop and space age 60's lounge, all with lyrics about Netflix and getting high on cookies driving the story.

Weezer had teased a darker album for The Black Album, a companion to the sunshine vibes of 2016's The White Album. You can hear it in some of the undertones of howling guitars across the album. However this idea is mostly reserved to the wordplay of Weezer. Lyrics about "hard drugs" and "zombie bastards", or Cuomo singing lines about stopping someone's demo because it sounds like "****." It's darker than your typical set of Weezer words, but it still comes across as playful when it's delivered with a Weezer wink.

Weezer goes bold and finds a lot of room to move on The Black Album, and it ends up being another exciting listen. The truth is no matter how many weird or wonderful ways the band attempts to put together an album, at their core they still can't stop writing great pop songs with a smile.

The Black Album is now available everywhere.