Album: Everything Will Be Alright in the End
Released: October 7th, 2014
Highlights: Eulogy for a Rock Band, The British Are Coming, Da Vinci, Cleopatra
From the early days of their career, it was pretty clear that Weezer – more specifically their leader – had one incredibly hard time adjusting to the pressures, trappings, and expectations that come with being a popular rock band. Rivers Cuomo’s demeanor is quiet, introspective, nerdy, and lacking much self-esteem, and all these traits, especially when combined, forge a personality that is not quite equipped to deal with the spotlight; at least not without first going through a whole lot of growing pains. As such, much of the group’s career can be read as a clumsily performed balancing act between two forces: the need to deliver material that the fans will appreciate, a pull maximized by Cuomo’s low confidence; and the artist’s absolutely natural urge to give air to what he feels, which – in the case of Rivers – includes a good amount of awkwardly expressed sentimentality.
It has always been an odd road. Along it, advances and retreats have been common from both parts. “Pinkerton”, Weezer’s second work, was famously dismissed upon release only to slowly rise to the status of masterpiece over the years, with many changing their perception regarding the album. Similarly, the two records that followed it, “Green Album” and “Maladroit”, were initially treated warmly; however, as the band produced one dull shot at mass appeal (“Make Believe”) and two silly attempts to be hip (“Red Album” and “Raditude”), the pair began to be analyzed as part of the band’s classic period, exposing a genuine rock sound that fans claimed to miss and that Weezer – very much aware of those complaints – tried, but not quite succeeded, to revive in “Hurley”.
If there has been one point in this tortuous post-Maladroit journey in which the two sides of the struggle have been satisfied, with Weezer putting together the album that they wanted whilst pleasing folks who longed for the return of their classic sound, then it is “Everything Will Be Alright in the End”. Surely, as an artistic statement, its follow-up, “White Album”, is stronger, since it feels like a revitalizing step forward rather than a return to familiar grounds. But “Everything Will Be Alright in the End” is equally alluring not only because it is a fun listen, but also due to the fact it is a delightful rarity in music: a conscious and successful move by an older band to go back to sounding like they did in their glory days.
Here, it all begins with producer Rick Ocasek. The leader of The Cars, and master of constructing immortal tracks that matched the dangerous attitude of rock with the accessibility of pop, had already lent his talent to two of Weezer’s best works: their untouchable debut and their solid third release. His presence behind the board, therefore, points to the music the boys were aiming to create. And, by all means, they hit it right on target. Like The Cars did in their heyday, Weezer rose to stardom via the combination of rock and pop. But where Ocasek’s group drank from the keyboard gloss of the era, Weezer borrowed their sweetness from power pop as well as from The Beach Boys while getting their heaviness from hard rock, punk, and even the grunge that dominated the scene at the time they got their start. Consequently, like both the “Blue Album” and the “Green Album”, “Everything Will Be Alright in the End” is sustained by two elements: a stream of impossibly catchy melodies and a constant bed of guitars that is relentless like those of the Ramones, heavy like those of Kiss, and towering like those of The Smashing Pumpkins.
The return to the band’s roots as well as the ever-existing tug of war between Weezer and its fans are actually acknowledged by Cuomo himself in some of the lyrics, a move that brings thematic freshness to “Everything Will Be Alright in the End”. In the first single, “Back to the Shack”, not only does he recognize he might have alienated his audience with the musical detours he took in the years that preceded the record, but he also expresses concern over it, declaring Weezer will try to recapture the magic that was lost. As expected, the album also touches on Rivers’ usual topics of preference, including girls and his troubled relationship with his father, but even these tired matters seem to be tackled more charmingly this time around. When it comes to relationships, for example, “Da Vinci” is a likable, funny, and geeky love song, with the singer saying the subject of his affection could be neither captured by the Italian genius nor explained by Stephen Hawking; at the same time, in relation to his progenitor, “Foolish Father” turns the issue on its head when Rivers expresses fear that his daughter might see his own flaws down the line.
The album is not a smooth journey of power pop goodness all the way through. “Ain’t Got Nobody” and “Back to the Shack”, curiously the first two songs, are a tad average. Although they have plenty of guitar punch, with the second recalling the heavy metal flair of “Maladroit”, their melodies are mundane and their hooks feel forced. The opener, in particular, is further damaged by how in it – as its title indicates – Rivers falls victim to his greatest enemy, his self-pity, lamenting the fact he has been abandoned by his girl, his father, and his audience. Fortunately, as soon as “Everything Will Be Alright in the End” reaches its third cut (“Eulogy for a Rock Band”) and the spectacular riff it carries, the record kicks into a sequence of remarkable tunes that the band had not coined in well over a decade.
It is all there. Like it happened in the “Green Album”, the thick distorted wall of guitars joins the tracks at the hip, as if they were part of the same whole. Therefore, it is up to the elements buried in the noise – the searing lead guitar lines, the melodic work, the cutting solos, and the sunny backing vocals – to set them apart. And they do it quite well. “Lonely Girl” bursts out of the gate as immediately and loudly as “Buddy Holly”. “I’ve Had It Up to Here” has the band locking on a dancy groove and Rivers delivering a surprising falsetto. Covering the American Revolutionary War, “The British Are Coming” is the best song Weezer has produced in a while, making one wish Cuomo would take on historical themes more often. “Da Vinci” has verses built on playful whistling and acoustic picking that recall “El Scorcho”. “Go Away” is a sweet duet with Bethany Cosentino that mirrors the slower moments of the group’s classic era. “Cleopatra” pairs up unplugged guitars with electric ones in the same way as “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here”. And “Foolish Father” builds to a choir cathartically singing the album’s title over some hard rock pounding.
“Everything Will Be Alright in the End” is a triumph. And it is, thereby, suiting that it ends on what feels like a victory lap: a three-part suite that contains one song, “Anonymous”, book-ended by two loose and fun instrumental segments. Much like “The End”, which basically closed out The Beatles’ “Abbey Road”, it feels like a well-deserved celebration by a group that has just lifted a huge burden off its shoulders. But where the Fab Four were saying farewell to a career of musical wonder, Weezer is partying for a much simpler reason: getting back on track. On the great scope of musical history, the two occasions hardly compare; however, to Cuomo, to his bandmates, and to their fans, the moment will certainly feel just as big, because not only does “Everything Will Be Alright in the End” create a – temporary – peace treaty between the factions, but it also proves that Weezer is still capable of delivering good music, even if much of their output following “Maladroit” says otherwise.