'The Teal Album' Is the Most Irritatingly Bad Music Weezer Has Recorded in Years
Weezer -- a band whose enduring career has become so infamously divisive it's been parodied on SNL -- just surprise released Weezer (The Teal Album), a record of 10 gratingly bad cover songs originating from 1967 to 1999 that have no tangible thematic cohesion other than Weezer felt like covering them. How silly to assume there'd be an internal logic from Rivers Cuomo, who's admitted to puzzle-piecing songs together since 1999 with the aid of a three-ring binder filled with spreadsheets breaking down the successful songwriting formulas of artists like Nirvana, Green Day, and Oasis.
We should have seen this coming. Seven months after the debut of Pacific Daydream, their 11th studio album, Weezer mechanically released a single cover of Toto's "Africa" in late May 2018, dangling it like a greying piece of meat to gauge if there was even a whiff of enthusiasm. The reception was mostly tepid, but apparently that wasn't enough to deter them from going on to ruin nine more very popular songs. Overproduced to the point of emotional drainage, The Teal Album feels entirely zapped of the sense of fun that even a Spotify playlist with this exact track listing would've brought to a baby shower or birthday party. I can't say there are creative decisions that "improve" any individual track, but they do use Weezer's signature chunky, fuzzy guitar sound liberally, including during a strange halftimed chorus of "Happy Together" by The Turtles. Mostly, these are shitty, zombified versions of competently executed songs that have already lived second or third commercial lives in TV spots or the Detective Pikachu trailer.
The biggest question here is, Why? Weezer is a band so famous that there was hardly a need to fill the space between the spreadsheet rock of 2017's Pacific Daydream and the upcoming The Black Album, set for a March release. Even as a vanity project, The Teal Album is obnoxiously self-indulgent. Did they include A-ha's "Take On Me" to prove that Rivers Cuomo can hit that high note, even though he's clearly been autotuned to meet the pitch? Did they do Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" to prove that, actually, they're still really alt? Was "Mr. Blue Sky" by ELO an exercise in showing off how effortlessly they can pull off bloated instrumentation with just four of them and a studio? Is "No Scrubs" meant to be ironic if, considering the earlier girl-crazy, extra-creepy-in-retrospect lyrics from Pinkerton or The Blue Album, Rivers was exactly the kind of scrub that TLC would have wanted nothing to do with? Did they pick most of the other early-to-mid '80s songs out of a hat just so they could play Fear and Loathing dress-up on the cover?
A band that's made so much money they don't know what to do with it is maybe doomed to make at least one masturbatory record. "One for them" is what we'd call it if it weren't so determined to excise critical voices in favor of overdosing on "creative vision." Weezer is hardly the first mega-famous band to follow in a tradition already codified by the time This Is Spinal Tap came out in 1984. The most egregious example in recent memory is Foo Fighter's Sonic Highways, a display of rock's excesses if there ever was one in the 21st century. From 2013 to 2014, the band traveled to landmark cities in the United States, drawing "inspiration" from each locale and inviting popular musicians who live there to collaborate on a song for the record. They brought along a crew that cut a documentary series for HBO, also called Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways, that shows the lunatic process of recording the album.
Each recording studio they take over turns into an echochamber of bad ideas. The first episode alone is nearly unwatchable; in Steve Albini's legendary Chicago studio Electric Audio, Dave Grohl plunks through a cliched blues rock riff everyone vigorously loves. That becomes the basis for Sonic Highways' opening track, "Something from Nothing." As uninteresting as the end product is, the difference between Sonic Highways and The Teal Album is that the former at least has a modicum of artistic merit. It's not a haphazard collection of good songs swallowed whole and regurgitated with a coating of phlegm; at least Grohl and his band, which -- fun fact -- includes former members of punk bands Sunny Day Real Estate and No Use For A Name, tried.
Anyway, here are some good records you might have missed from last year. I personally guarantee any one of them is better than The Teal Album.