I listened to the new Weezer album so you don’t have to!
“I’m barely there, I just don’t care” front-man Rivers Cuomo sings in “Grapes Of Wrath” and it perfectly reflects how tuned in I was to new album, OK Human.
The fourteenth output by Californian power-pop veterans may look eccentric from its album artwork, but even the new analog direction cannot prevent Weezer from being Weezer.
Here are some brief facts about OK Human: It’s the second shortest Weezer album clocking in at 30:33 (Only beaten by “The Green Album” at 28:20), it’s the second Weezer album after”Hurley” to not feature the band’s name on the artwork and for first time since “Everything Will Be Alright In The End” the group have released an album with more than ten songs on it.
Now, when I reviewed Weezer’s last output, The Black Album I didn’t think things could get worse. They announced “Van Weezer” in 2020 which looked like an exciting hard rock effort, only for that to be pushed back until May this year. In the world of Weezer there is never time to take a break and something must fill the void. So a couple of weeks ago, the fully analog album “OK Human” was announced and confirmed for 29th January release. The group continues to disappoint this die-hard Weezer fan in new and exciting ways.
Weezer have scrapped their customary distorted guitars and synth effects for pianos and an orchestra with string arrangements recorded at the iconic Abbey Road Studios. The instrumentation is mixed well and the addition of strings sound fresh, but even with this change, it still sounds like any other modern Weezer output. That’s just their style. The record’s name references Radiohead’s “OK Computer” and the point of the album is to stop being absorbed into technology and social media, which front-man Rivers is guilty of.
“OK Human” bounces back instrumentally from popping beats and choruses filled with uplifting rhythms which is expected of the group. In the middle of the album there are sombre moments and slower reflection of the topics discussed by Rivers Cuomo. I think that’s the powerful effect the orchestra addition introduces, but simply the contribution from Weezer themselves in terms of drum patterns and vocal styling make it hard for me to move on from anything I’ve heard previously.
Even with its groovy nature and one track flowing gracefully into the next, we can’t ignore some of these bizarre and laughable lyrical outputs from Rivers Cuomo. I always wonder how much fans listen to the lyrics as I’ve seen a lot of praise for this album already and the same goes for the record Hurley, which after opening track ‘Memories’ I am put off by the lyrics. Is Rivers self-aware of his output? I mean he’s guaranteed to make the big bucks with most Weezer albums so he can do what he likes.
Here are some of the highlights you can expect from OK Human:
“Don’t want to sit next to humans, I’m agoraphobic” (Aloo Gobi) – Whilst agoraphobia is by definition a fear of crowded spaces and generally leaving the house. This song about routine talks about being outside ordering latte’s, walking around Montana and thinking about visiting the cinema. Are you fearing leaving the house or not Rivers?
“Count on me to show support For Winston Smith in 1984. ‘Cause battling Big Brother feels more meaningful than binging zombie hordes.” (Grapes Of Wrath) – So much for fighting against technology when you’re using Audible to listen to audiobooks aye? I love a good book personally, but that line just feels so patronising and the use of “1984” in a world that’s already referenced it to death seems too lackluster. The track goes on to say he’s rocking these headphones whilst listening to Grapes Of Wrath… I mean I hope this is some sweet irony, because that is one depressing novel.
“Kim Jong-un could blow up my city; I’d never know” (Playing My Piano) – In a song about not washing hair for three weeks and ignoring zoom interviews, I firstly question if this is factual or not. We hear that at his piano, Rivers blocks out the rest of the world and if blown up he wouldn’t know. I mean that could be true, but to target the North Korean leader in this song just seems so bizarre to me, are you okay Rivers?
“Young girl, lying flat on her bed streaming images to her head. Homework or memes, slime or Blackpink.” (Screens) – Now this track has lots of highlights moving from a young girl absorbing a daily dose of the internet to an old woman in a cottage playing solitaire and apparently searching for her kids? The chorus asks “Where will we be 21 years from now?” why 21 Rivers? What is going on in this song? The premise of the song is about screen time, but it’s the characters and story that have been created that are confusing me the most.
“I’m just a bird with a broken wing and this beautiful song to sing.” (Bird With A Broken Wing) – If Rivers isn’t writing like he’s a sixteen year old kid, he’s now writing about being a bird. The beauty of Weezer is, even though lyrics can be awful, you’re gonna hear words you won’t hear in a lot of other songs like “mandible” and “warbling.” I feel like I’m having a science lesson on birds.
“A winged beast, with horns upon his cranium slinks away and, grinning, makes his way up.” (Dead Roses) – This is as gothic as it gets for Weezer singing about blackness, crying, dead roses and death. It’s not a phase mom.
“My umbrella makes me look like the Morton girl. Splish-splish-splash, whoa whoa.” (Here Comes The Rain) – Apparently this was written for Rivers’ friend Sam Harris and talks about ignoring internet trolls and the lyrics highlight letting any kind of hate that comes towards you wash away like raindrops on an umbrella. A respectable topic, but goddamn the simplification and pop-driven aspect of this song embarrasses me. Am I becoming ‘old man yells at cloud’?
When I heard the first single “All My Favourite Songs” I thought it would be one to miss, but its catchy chorus made it one of my favourite tracks on “OK Human.” Even though I have to question how much Rivers Cuomo feels he needs to relate to his teenage fans, I admire its pop quality and sing-a-long moments. “Mirror Image” is one one of the shorter tracks (1:17) on the record and its innocence make for anything bad to say, only that I wish there had been more to say here.
In the closing track “La Brea Tar Pits” Rivers puts himself in the place of a neanderthal who is drowning in the ancient pits. Whilst these pits have preserved fossils for tens of thousands of years, I would not want this album to go the same way. I mean I’d love to throw the last few Weezer albums in a pit, but all I can do in respect is not listen to them.
To positively reflect on this record you cannot fault Rivers’ vocal contributions with him hitting a variety of notes from prolonged choruses, to soft piano harmonies. The orchestration is a fascinating direction and you have to respect the intent on analog instrumentation, with the bass guitar feeling so warm on tracks like “Bird With A Broken Wing.” I’d love to see more of Rivers sat down at a piano on a solo album, but I think he’s already going to best fitted shredding solos in Weezer.
In my final point, the album has a warm groove to it and it flows as one solid piece from its choice in instrumentation, but in comparison to Weezer’s vast discography, there’s not too much to take away when considering some of their best efforts such as “Blue” “Pinkerton” and “White.” It’s time to move on to “Van Weezer” in May and forget about this record ever being associated to an iconic album like “OK Computer.”